Frequently Asked Questions About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Anxiety

For a person struggling with anxiety, each day can be exhausting. The constant battle being waged in their mind can take a toll on their mental and physical well-being. Left untreated, anxiety can become all-consuming and affect their quality of life. 

Helping someone cope with anxiety may come in many forms. It can be through reassurances, understanding, and empathy. Still, the best form of help you could offer is supporting them to seek therapy. 

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Various approaches exist that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms, when left untreated, usually trigger individuals to spiral constant anxiety attacks. 

Over the years, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) became one of the leading treatments for anxiety disorders – and a good reason.  

Pioneered by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s, CBT relied on the restructuring of thought processes.  . Instead of viewing mental health disorders as a product of chemical imbalances, it focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns. These cognitive distortions are reinforced over time until they become automatic thoughts associated with a situation.   

CBT compartmentalizes a situation into distinct sections – thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and behavior.  As a result, negative thought loops are disrupted, which prevents people from spiraling. 

The first step in CBT requires a patient to recognize a distorted thought. Common cognitive distortions include fortune-telling and jumping to conclusions. These might come in the form of, “I am going to mess up in my upcoming presentation” or, “All my friends hate me.” These thoughts may create negative feelings and result in maladaptive behaviors. 

A cognitive behavioral therapist will work with you to bring these thoughts to the surface. You can evaluate these thoughts to determine if they are irrational or harmful. Upon evaluation, you will be guided in reframing your thoughts. For example, your previous thoughts of failure in your upcoming presentation will be transformed into positive affirmations of your effort to prepare for it. 

CBT does not rely on drugs or mood stabilizers. Instead,  it focuses on the close relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior to achieve therapeutic goals. By reframing cognitive distortions, it’s possible to improve a person’s emotional state and influence their behavior for the better. To learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy, read the frequently asked questions below. 

What is cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety?

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that breaks down a problem into thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and actions. It is based on the assumption that these components are closely connected and influence how we react to a situation. For a person with anxiety, it helps to identify these specific thought patterns, bring them under scrutiny, and replace them with more helpful ways of looking at a situation. Your therapist will guide you under structured sessions that can be done individually or with a group.

How long does it take for CBT to work for anxiety?

The effects of CBT are not immediate and vary on a per-person basis. As a rough guide, however, three to 12 weekly CBT sessions may be sufficient to help an individual with mild anxiety. Six to 24 sessions may be useful for someone with moderate anxiety, while an individual with severe anxiety may require a minimum of 24 sessions. In the end, the success of the treatment will depend on your receptiveness to the treatment and commitment to practicing what you’ve learned.

What are some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques?

Exposure therapy is one CBT technique where an individual is exposed to situations that they fear the most. Through controlled exposure to their triggers, patients can gain a better handle on their fears or phobias. Another CBT technique is cognitive restructuring, which focuses on helping you identify irrational thoughts. Once you’re aware of the unproductive thought, you can question and replace it with a more helpful way of thinking about a situation.

What gets rid of anxiety?

There is no surefire way to get rid of anxiety, but getting enough sleep and exercise improves your overall mood and well-being. Eat healthy and balanced meals that will keep your energy up. When you get overwhelmed, take a step back and assess the situation objectively. Break down the problem into distinct components until it feels achievable. Reach out to friends or family or consider professional help.  

How can I calm my anxiety fast?

If you’re experiencing anxiety attacks, it helps to do the 5-5-5 activity, which involves looking at five different things, listing five sounds, and running your hands over five textures. This sensory-based exercise can be used to break your negative thought loop and bring you back to the present moment. You can also perform calming breathing techniques. Breathe in slowly through the nose for five counts and exhale through the mouth for another five. Repeat the exercise for three to five minutes.

Does CBD help anxiety?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of nearly 200 compounds in the marijuana plant. Once ingested, CBD interacts with the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, neural pathways by which the endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates mood and pain. CBD also interacts with the 5-HT1A, the receptor for serotonin. Some studies suggest that CBD interaction with the brain’s receptors can help relieve anxiety and produce a relaxing effect. Still, more research is required to confirm its viability as a treatment method. 

How can I kill anxiety naturally?

Exercise is one of the most effective non-drug anxiety treatments. Getting your heart rate up through physical activity increases anxiety-soothing neurochemicals like serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and endocannabinoids. Consider enrolling in yoga and meditation classes to clear your mind. Keeping a daily journal is also helpful. Writing your thoughts or feelings on paper can help you identify triggers that you may not have otherwise noticed. It is an excellent way to challenge these seemingly endless train of thought.  

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What foods trigger anxiety?

High-sugar foods like candies, ice cream, soda, and cakes may contribute to anxiety and irritability by causing irregular spikes in your energy. Pasta products, white bread, and condiments also contain high levels of added sugar, so make sure to get your fill of sweets through fruits and naturally sweet vegetables instead. Once the body breaks them down, cultured foods like steak and cheese produce proteins that may interfere with digestion and disrupt the nervous system.

Are bananas good for anxiety?

Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can be converted into serotonin, commonly known as the happiness hormone. Although the serotonin found in bananas cannot directly pass into the brain, it helps support hormone production by supplying essential vitamins and nutrients like vitamin B6. Bananas are also rich in potassium and vitamin C, which can help support the nerve cells and the immune system. 

How much CBD should I take for panic attacks?

In a study, a small number of patients that took 300-600 mg of CBD experienced marked improvements in anxiety symptoms. CBD is a cannabis compound administered through oil, spray, capsules, edibles, and vaporized oil. Despite its purported therapeutic benefits, there are still no standard dosing recommendations for CBD therapy.

What supplements help with anxiety?

Studies show that vitamins D and B complex can help individuals manage anxiety and depression. If the body does not produce sufficient vitamins, it’s possible to get them through supplements. Magnesium may also help lift the mood, although it’s best to take mineral supplements in moderation since high dosages may cause diarrhea. L-theanine, an amino acid found in green and black tea, and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseed, are also good for the brain.   

What foods are bad for anxiety?

If you’re anxious and craving a quick treat, it’s best to steer away from sugary and processed foods. Trans-fat, which is found in most snacks and baked goods, may also increase the risk of affective mood disorders. In terms of beverages, avoid alcohol since it numbs the central nervous system and affects how you regulate emotions. Consume caffeine in moderation since it might make you more anxious and negatively affect your sleep cycle.

What can I eat to calm my nerves?

Instead of snacking on sugar-rich foods, stock up on dark chocolate and yogurt instead. These foods can sharpen brain functions and help you respond to stress better. Salmon is another healthy food rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and promote relaxation. Almonds, blueberries, and chia seeds are also useful in anxiety relief and prevention. 

Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy effectively reduces the symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). According to a study, CBT is comparable or superior to relaxation training for GAD patients. Similarly, individual CBT combined with exposure therapy may be effective among those with SAD.  

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CBT may also be used in treating depression, eating disorders, anger management, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. CBT is not only limited to psychological disorders. Any person looking for a more constructive way of handling day-to-day stressors can try therapy. 

Despite its wide clinical applications, it’s important to note that CBT does not eliminate the risk of relapse. Like most mental health disorders, there is no permanent cure for anxiety. However, positive lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet and staying active increases the effectiveness of therapy. Doctors are also studying cannabidiol for its mood regulation and pain management properties. 

Ultimately, the goal of CBT is to equip you with the tools and skills to respond to life’s setbacks outside therapy sessions. . The therapy enables you to harness your inner strength. Stress is unavoidable, but the way you engage with it can be reformed. Take strength from the fact that you can draw on resources deep within yourself to handle problems, resolve conflict, and build meaningful connections.

The premise of CBT emphasizes that your thoughts do not define you in any way. When the voices in your head are at their loudest, learn to take a step back and assess the situation. Pick at the thoughts you have come to associate with a problem and the emotional consequences of these beliefs. More often than not, you’ll discover that they don’t reflect the on-ground reality or fail to capture your inherent resilience. You are far stronger than you know.