Using cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT techniques for anxiety can be one of the best ways to overcome an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can vary from person to person but they often include panic attacks, irrational fears, worrying excessively about normal life events or situations that other people might enjoy, and/or a general attitude that the world is a scary place.
Cognitive behavioral therapy involves changing our mental processes, that is, our thought patterns and judgments. This helps us to overcome those excessive fears and worries that can be so overwhelming for people who suffer from anxiety.
So it is important to understand that anxiety has a purpose in our lives. A person who was never afraid or anxious would be unlikely to plan for the future or exercise caution in risky situations. That kind of person would have been unlikely to live long in a primitive society. Even today, a cautious attitude in some situations is not a bad thing. But to be cautious and fearful about every aspect of life is likely to mean that we are living with a lot of unnecessary stress.
CBT for anxiety takes a behavioral approach to reducing unhelpful fears and anxieties. There are three main areas in which a CBT program or therapist is likely to act:
1. Relaxation training. This is likely to include breathing techniques for dealing with hyperventilation to help you come out of a panic attack, and general relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindfulness.
2. Altering your thought patterns. People who suffer from anxiety disorders usually have negative thought patterns. You can learn to become aware of your thoughts so that you can overturn negative thoughts with a positive affirmation and in time, adopt positive ways of thinking that become automatic.
For example, imagine that your boss tells you that he wants you to attend a conference or a social event. Many people who suffer from anxiety would have a rush of negative thoughts and feelings about this. Instead of succumbing to panic, you can learn to look calmly at exactly what aspects of the event are making you fearful, and consider how you might manage these. You can then consider some of the positive aspects of the event, things that you would look forward to if you were not feeling so anxious, and focus your thoughts on those.
3. Altering your behavior. Most people who suffer from anxiety will restrict their lives to avoid certain situations. Therapists or self-help programs can help you to handle those situations again. Usually, that means setting goals and then taking very small steps toward achieving those goals. In this way, CBT techniques for anxiety can help you to get your life back.