When you have an anxiety disorder, your life revolves around your fears and worries. Whether you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychotherapy can be incredibly beneficial for easing your unrelenting worried thoughts. Research shows that therapy is generally the best option for treating anxiety. This is probably because, while medication treats the symptoms of anxiety, therapy enables you to address the underlying causes of your anxiety, and endows you with the coping skills to deal with your anxiety long term. Additionally, anxiety disorders vary from person to person, manifesting in different ways for each individual, which makes therapy an advantageous treatment because it can be specifically tailored to your needs. If you find that you have intrusive anxious thoughts, panic attacks, or a crippling phobia, therapy may be able to help you lower your anxiety levels and conquer your fear.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The most prevalent therapy for the treatment of anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Research into this type of therapy shows that it can be effective for the treatment of panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and other disorders. The premise of CBT is that our negative thought patterns and beliefs color the way we view the world around us and ourselves. The “cognitive” aspect addresses how negative thoughts trigger anxiety, while the “behavioral” part refers to the way you react to anxiety. In CBT, external events to do not make us feel a certain way; it is our perception that determines how we feel. The goal of CBT is to identify the negative thoughts and beliefs that impact how you think and change them in order to change the way you feel.
In CBT, thought-challenging, or cognitive restructuring, in the process of challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with positive/realistic thoughts. It is a three-step process.
STEP ONE: Identify negative thoughts. People who suffer from anxiety disorders have the perception that situations are more dire or dangerous than they are in reality. The first step is to identify the irrational fears that dominate your thoughts, such as by tracing your thoughts back to when you started feeling anxious.
STEP TWO: Challenge negative thoughts. Next, your therapist will help you to evaluate these thoughts. You might work to analyze unhelpful beliefs, evaluate any evidence for your negative thoughts, or test the likelihood of your anxious predictions coming true.
STEP THREE: Replace negative thoughts. Once you have challenged these negative thoughts, you can replace them with more realistic and positive thoughts. You may come up with a calming thought that you can repeat to yourself in the face of anxiety.
As part of your treatment, your therapist may also help you learn to recognize how anxiety manifests physically in your body, relaxation techniques to help you cope in day-to-day life, and how to confront your fears. Of course, this process isn’t as simple as it sounds, which is why CBT usually involves some therapy homework as well so you can bring the skills you learn in therapy into real-world situations.
While there is no quick fix for anxiety, CBT has proven to be effective both in the short term and the long term for treating anxiety disorders, and can often significantly improve your anxiety symptoms in just a few sessions. If you are willing to commit to treatment, you can achieve better emotional balance and reduce your stress levels. If you’re interested in psychotherapy on Long Island, contact Long Island Counseling and we will respond promptly during regular business hours. We would love to help you cope with anxiety. Fill out the form on our Contact page, or call 516-882-1434.