How effective is CBT for anxiety?


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that combines classical behavioral therapy with modern cognitive therapy. It is a form of therapy based on research and theory formation in learning psychology, cognitive psychology and social psychology.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, we focus on the interaction between the individual and his environment, here and now. Characteristic of CBT is also that we are more interested in problem solving than in causes, and that we are interested in how our behavior is affected by our thoughts (cognitions).

The working method is distinguished, among other things, by an initial behavioral analysis, an active psychotherapist, structured treatment sessions, concretely formulated goals and so-called homework.

CBT is used successfully for many different types of mental problems such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders and stress management and cohabitation problems with treatment both individually and in groups.

Since the depressed person’s emotional life is characterized by gloom and emptiness, this results in a reduced interest in everyday activities and in an increasingly increasing passivity. When the depressed person reflects on the present, the future and himself, it is mainly in negative ways of thinking.

The treatment aims to break the depressed person’s inactivity and to change the depressive and negative thought content.

With the intention of bringing in some stimulation and thereby breaking the passivity in the depressed person’s life, various activities are scheduled together with the therapist so that the depressed person can gradually get started with their previous chores.

After the depressed person succeeds in carrying out simple activities such as getting up at a certain time every morning, one therefore moves on to more difficult activities such as, for example, going for a walk or inviting someone over for dinner.

The therapist contributes actively by motivating the depressed person to carry out planned activities and to lower the unreasonable demands that the depressed person usually places on himself, such as “I should be able to go to work every day, you can expect that from a boss! “

By activating the depressed person, self-esteem is also positively affected.

All individuals have more or less thoughts with negative content, but in the depressed person they are particularly intrusive and extensive.

With the therapist’s help, it becomes clear how these negative thoughts about events, about the individual himself and the future affect the depressed person’s perception of reality.

By questioning and behaviorally testing the thoughts, the depressed person gains knowledge about which problems are realistic against the background of the depressed person’s life circumstances and which are a result of the negative thoughts.

With the help of “Socratic questions” (“what evidence is there for this claim?”), the depressed person is supported to change his thoughts and interpretations so that they better correspond to reality and makes him better prepared for eventualities

Problems with anxiety and fears are characterized by an emotional and physical discomfort that usually occurs in connection with certain situations. Another characteristic is that anxiety-provoking situations are handled in a problematic way, endured or avoided. For it to be an anxiety disorder, the reaction patterns described above must be exaggerated in relation to real danger or risk. Having problems with anxiety means both suffering and a reduced ability to function in everyday life. Many people with anxiety problems experience a lower quality of life than others. A little more hopeful then is that problems with anxiety and fears can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is recommended nationally and internationally for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Most people who undergo treatment have clearly improved.
Anxiety and fears are emotional experiences characterized by bodily symptoms, frightening thoughts and urges to seek safety, escape or avoid. We feel stressed, tense, energized, become alert and find it difficult to focus and think. It is common that we then do various things to dampen the feeling of anxiety or reduce the experience of threat.

That we can feel anxiety and fear is something fundamentally helpful, as it signals to avoid and escape from dangerous situations. Some of our fear reactions are innate, but most are malleable and influenced by our experiences, people around us and our thinking abilities. All this has given us humans the ability to adapt and survive in a changing world.

The downside of being able to feel anxiety and fear is that we can learn to react with these feelings to basically anything. Even things that in reality are harmless or associated with low risk we can feel anxiety about. We can become afraid of thoughts, things or objects, animals, memories, bodily reactions or different types of commonly occurring situations. When the anxiety is dealt with through escape and avoidance, it can become entrenched and intensified over time. It is easy to get stuck in vicious circles where the anxiety and the way we deal with it create costs that in turn make us even more stressed, anxious, depressed or worried.

Common treatment elements:

  • To learn more about anxiety and emotions
  • To practice noticing situations and triggers, what happens in the body, thoughts that appear, what one does and what short- and long-term consequences it has
  • To challenge different thoughts in different ways or to practice being controlled less by thoughts
  • To practice directing your attention to different things
  • Skills linked to breathing, relaxation or conscious presence
  • Exposure. That is to say, gradually exposing oneself to what arouses fear or anxiety in order to reduce fear and increase the quality of life in the longer term.
  • Dealing with anxious situations and unpleasant feelings with lower and lower degrees of escape behaviors, neutralizations or avoidances.

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