Here is how Therapy or Counseling can help control your anxiety, stop worrying about thoughts, and conquer your fears.
Whether you are suffering from a panic attack, obsessed with thoughts, relentless worries, or terrifying phobias, it is important to know that you do not have to live with anxiety and fear. Treatment can help, and for many anxiety disorders, therapy is often the most effective option. This is because, unlike anxiety medications, the impact of anxiety therapy on treatment is not just the symptoms of the problem. Therapy can help you uncover the root causes of worry and fear; learn to relax; look at situations in new and less scary ways; develop better coping and problem-solving skills. Therapy provides you with tools to overcome anxiety and teaches you how to use them.
Although many different types of therapies are used to treat anxiety disorders, the main methods are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. Each anxiety therapy can be used alone or in combination with other types of therapy. Anxiety therapy can be done alone or in a group of people with similar anxiety disorders. But the goal is the same: reduce your anxiety level, calm your mind, and overcome fear.
The length of treatment also depends on the type and severity of the anxiety disorder. However, many treatments for anxiety are relatively short-term. According to the American Psychological Association, many people experience significant improvement in 8 to 10 treatment sessions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Anxiety
Studies have shown that Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively treat panic disorder, phobia, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, and many other diseases. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most widely used therapy for anxiety disorders. CBT addresses negative patterns and distortions in the way we view the world and ourselves. As the name suggests, this involves two main parts:
- Cognitive therapy – examines how negative thoughts or cognition can cause anxiety.
- Behavior therapy – examines your behavior and reactions in situations that cause you anxiety.
The basic premise of CBT is that our thoughts, not external events, affect our feelings. In other words, it is not your environment that determines how you feel, but your perception of the situation. For individuals with anxiety disorders, a negative mindset will exacerbate the negative emotions of anxiety and fear. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety is to identify and correct these negative thoughts and beliefs. The idea is that if you change the way you think, you can change how you feel.
Anxiety Thought Challenging with CBT
Once aware of our own ideas, we can challenge those ideas. Or “cognitive restructuring”, which challenging thinking is identifying our negative thoughts and then replacing those thoughts with more positive and rational thoughts.
When you suffer from anxiety, you usually perceive external events in a distorted way. For those feeling anxious, events are often interpreted as more personal, dangerous, and negative than the actual situation. For example, for people with social anxiety disorder, attending parties can seem scary. Thoughts like “they don’t like me,” “everyone is looking at me,” and “someone thinks I’m stupid” can cause anxiety.
For people without social anxiety, these thoughts can easily be considered irrational. However, for people with social anxiety, these thoughts are so automatic and real that it is difficult to see that they are irrational in the first place, which is why it is so important to realize the importance of your irrational thoughts in the first place.
After being aware of our automatic thoughts, we can evaluate these thoughts and challenge them. This is usually done in a meeting with a CBT-trained therapist. This process seems like “evidence” that challenges these ideas. This can take some time, especially for deep-rooted and automatic ideas. But in the end, people can see that these thoughts are irrational and then they can replace these irrational thoughts with more rational and precise thoughts.
Thought Challenging Example
Take, for example, Fred (a fictional character), who experiences test anxiety and therefore avoids studying for the test. At the meeting, we were able to determine that Fred’s irrational thinking was “I will fail”, and then he jumped to “I will never graduate” (By the way, these common types of thoughts are also called “predictions.” Worst case scenario, “Lo I will present in detail in a future blog post):
Negative thought #1: “I’m going to fail”
More realistic thinking: “I passed almost every exam, so it is highly unlikely that I will pass.”
Negative thought #2: “I will never graduate”
More realistic thinking: “I work hard and have all grades A, B, and C in the class. I will graduate from college and graduate.”
Do you see how Fred finds evidence in these examples to prove why his thinking is unreasonable? He almost never fails exams, even if he works hard in college, he can still pass all courses and is a hard worker. By identifying irrational thoughts, challenging these thoughts, and replacing them with more rational and positive thoughts, Fred is less anxious before the test, so in addition to avoiding learning, he can learn to be more calm and self-confident.
Complementary Therapy for Anxiety Symptoms
As you explore anxiety in therapy, you may also want to try some complementary therapies designed to reduce overall stress levels and help you achieve greater emotional regulation.
Exercise – is a natural pain reliever for stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that at least 30 minutes of exercise (three to five times) a week can significantly relieve anxiety. To get the most benefit, in most cases, at least one hour of aerobic exercise is required.
Regular practice of relaxation techniques – such as mindfulness meditation and progressive muscle relaxation, can reduce anxiety and increase emotional well-being.
Hypnotherapy – is sometimes used in combination with CBT to treat anxiety. When you are in a state of deep relaxation, hypnotherapists will use different treatment techniques to help you deal with your fears and see them in new ways.
Interested in Therapy for Anxiety?
Anxiety is very treatable in Therapy with the necessary motivation, dedication, and techniques. Working with a professional that you can trust and has the proper training is a key factor in treatment outcomes. If you live in Minnesota and want help with anxiety reach out to one of our therapists at Mindfully Healing, We are happy to help you In-Person or via Telehealth.