Struggling with anxiety can be overwhelming, leaving you feeling hopeless. Left unmanaged, you may find that anxiety interferes with daily functioning. Going to work or engaging with friends is difficult. You find that you spend a lot of time making excuses to avoid situations that could trigger anxiety.
When we feel anxious, we tend to seek immediately relief. Many have tried medications in hopes that symptoms will disappear. However, they often cease these psychotropic medications due to side effects and ineffectiveness. Additionally, the thought of relying on external substances can paradoxically exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
Common medications to treat anxiety are benzodiazepines (i.e. Xanax), Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), and Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Supplements, such as theanine and valierian root, have been helpful for some, but they, too, can have side effects or be ineffective. When medications fail to manage your anxiety, you may be desperate to find alternative solutions.
Fortunately, psychologists have been researching anxiety treatments for many years and have identified some very effective therapies. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy in which you learn to positively change your thoughts, behaviors and emotions. CBT actually refers to a variety of therapies. This is one of the reasons why it is so effective; there are multiple therapies that can be integrated into an anxiety treatment plan.
How Do I Become Anxious?
A core tenant of CBT with anxiety is that your negative thought patterns actually cause anxiety symptoms. For example, you may frequently think, “I will never get this done”, “I will fail”, or “No one will like me”. These thoughts are typically triggered in certain situations, such as giving a speech, meeting with your boss, going out in public, or starting a busy day at work. When you think negative thoughts, this causes you to feel anxiety symptoms, which can be mental and physical. Some common ones are worry, racing thoughts, rumination, fixation, rapid breathing and heartrate, or sweating.
Feeling anxious, you tend to behave in certain ways. A common behavior of anxiety is avoidance of anxiety by drinking alcohol, oversleeping, or avoiding certain people or situations. We call these behaviors “maladaptive” because they do not help control your anxiety and often make it worse.
SITUATION –> NEGATIVE THOUGHT –> ANXIETY EMOTIONS AND BODILY SENSATIONS –> MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIORS
Below is a worksheet that you can use to identify your reactions and see how they are connected. Once you do this, you may want to consider engaging in CBT with a professional trained in this treatment so you can work on changing these patterns.
How CBT Helps with Anxiety Treatment
Working with a psychologist who specializes in CBT, you will learn 1) how to identify your negative thoughts, emotions and behavioral patterns, 2) how to respond in a more effective manner to your inner experience and 3) how to make positive lifestyle changes to improve your life. CBT can help with a variety of anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, agoraphobia, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).