June 24, 2019
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and How Can It Help?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. It’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression; nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. There are several accepted therapies for treating anxiety and depression. One such treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. What is cognitive behavioral therapy and how can it help?

The definition of cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT as its often called, is a form of psychotherapy that treats problems and boosts happiness by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. CBT focuses on solutions, inspiring patients to challenge distorted thoughts and change destructive patterns of behavior. It’s based on the cognitive model: the way that individuals perceive a situation is more closely connected to their reaction than the situation itself. An important fact to remember is that cognitive behavioral therapy is not a singular technique. The term is a very general one for a classification of therapies with similarities.  There are several approaches to CBT, including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, Rational Living Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, and Dialectic Behavior Therapy.

What can CBT treat?

As mentioned previously, CBT is an effective treatment for anxiety or depression, but CBT can also help a variety of issues, including:

  • panic disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • insomnia
  • social phobia
  • childhood depression
  • anger
  • marital conflict
  • substance abuse and addiction
  • borderline personality
  • dental phobia
  • eating disorders
  • many other mental and physical conditions

A mental health professional is best suited to handle such therapies once the issue or behavior is identified.

How does CBT work?

Cognitive behavior therapy is typically short-term and focused on helping patients deal with a very specific problem. During treatment, people learn how to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions. One of the main focuses of cognitive-behavioral therapy is on changing the automatic negative thoughts that can contribute to emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety. These negative thoughts arise spontaneously and tend to negatively influence the individual’s mood. Through the CBT process, patients are encouraged to look at evidence from reality that either supports or refutes these thoughts. By doing this, people can take a more objective look at the thoughts that contribute to their feelings of anxiety and depression. By becoming aware of the negative and often unrealistic thoughts that dampen their feelings and moods, people can start engaging in healthier thinking patterns. A therapist will first help a patient see how thoughts can contribute to negative behaviors. From there, the therapist will focus on the actual behaviors contributing to the problem.

How effective is CBT for depression?

CBT is considered a well-established, highly effective, and lasting treatment for depression. Benefits are usually seen in 12 to 16 weeks, depending on the individual. It sometimes works as well as antidepressant drugs for some types of depression. Some research suggests that people who get CBT may be half as likely as those on medication alone to have depression again within a year, according to a WebMD article.

Should you try CBT for your depression and anxiety?

When it comes to mental health, it’s best to leave choices on therapy options to trained mental health professionals who will prescribe the ideal therapy for each patient depending on their individual situation. However, understanding cognitive behavioral therapy and how it can help you will help you have an informed discussion with your therapist.