What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)? How does it work and will it help you? Learn all about whether it will help you with your anxiety, and don’t forget the FREE PDF copy of this article!
**Hushed voice** So I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve started seeing a therapist as it was recommended by my doctor.
The specialist I’m seeing is helping me deal with my anxious thoughts and the sort of vicious circle of those thoughts. It’s called CBT.
It’s basically going to help me remove some of the anxious thoughts I have daily, to improve my mental health.
You know what? It’s working too. I’m starting to analyse my own thought processes (just like I do when it comes to any life situation haha). It’s helping me see that my thoughts are typical of anxiety sufferers, but that they can be changed.
That, my friend, is called CBT. Never heard of it? This post is for you!
I thought I’d share some useful information with you on CBT. The thing about mental health is that it is as unique as a thumbprint. Your anxiety will be different to how mine affects me.
So I just want you to bear in mind that although it might work for me, it might not work for you. Plus, if you need urgent help I would highly recommend calling your doctor. Unfortunately, I am not one, I am sharing my experiences with you.
Oh, and if you’re in the market for a mental health therapist, make sure to read this post by Patient.info. It explains that you should do your research first when looking for one, which I completely agree with.
Finally, make sure to grab the free PDF that comes with today’s post! Keep it somewhere safe 🙂
What is CBT?
CBT is all about your inner thoughts. The thoughts that you wouldn’t necessarily share with anyone. It encompasses your beliefs, how you deal with certain situations, mental images and (to some extent) how you deal with situations.
Cognitive therapy is based on the principle that certain ways of thinking can trigger, or fuel, certain health problems.
With anxiety/depression/other mental health problems, these thoughts come about from specific ‘triggers’. These are the result of an unpleasant situation/activity or thought.
Although avoidance of certain situations is a natural response to something that is scary, such thoughts can become irrational.
In fact, this can actually cause further health problems.
CBT aims at changing your perception of certain situations and works at replacing unhelpful thoughts with more helpful ones.
According to Bupa.co.uk, it can be used to treat the below conditions:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Anger issues
- Sleep problems
- Persistent pain
- Sexual or relationship issues
- Bipolar affective disorder
Rcpsych also explains that is covers:
- how you think about yourself, the world and other people
- how what you do affects your thoughts and feelings.
My doctor actually said to me (when she recommended CBT) that everyone should have a little CBT once in a while.
After thinking about her statement this actually makes a lot of sense. How often do you have negative thoughts? I know I have a lot of them. The key is changing these negative thoughts into positive ones.
P.S. if you’re interested, I wrote a post about positive reinforcement here which supports today’s post. Plus, you might be interested in learning how to have a more positive outcome on life too. Don’t forget the FREE workbook included with the second post! It’ll help guide you through the post.
How does it work?
“So how exactly does CBT work, Jess?”
Well, you came to the right place! I’ve done a tonne of research on various ways of dealing with anxiety. I’ve looked at medication as well as natural remedies. I’ve read lots of accounts from different people.
I find it fascinating actually. I’m rather sad! Mental health runs through my family history so I’ve picked up a great deal about other medical conditions.
Back on track now. Gosh, I do waffle sometimes!
CBT works on various sections of your thought processes. It helps you to make sense of your thoughts and works out ways to change them.
I found this really useful diagram which shows how we process situations on the BBC website:
It works by challenging your thoughts at each stage of the diagram.
So let’s say you have difficult thoughts during certain situations. You will then consider what feelings this conjures up as well as what actions this leads you to. Breaking that cycle allows less anxious feelings and more realistic thoughts.
For example one, let’s say that someone at work seemed a little off to you. Maybe they looked like they down for some reason.
Your natural response might be to think that they are annoyed at you for some reason. Maybe you think that you’ve done something wrong a result of this.
You go home worried about the fact that they might be angry at you and avoid them the next day.
This is a very unhelpful way of thinking. It leads to more anxiety and stress on your end and it can be hard to get out of it. You might end up worried all evening, not get much sleep and feel worse in the morning.
CBT works to change this perceived situation into a more realistic and positive one.
Let’s use the same example for number two. Let’s say this same colleague looked down one day. You noticed this and immediately thought the worst.
Rather than assuming the worst, another way of thinking about this is that they are just busy. They might just have a lot of work on at the moment and doesn’t have time to chat.
You can understand their situation and can empathise. You go home without any feeling at all about this situation.
Oh and don’t forget your PDF printable! Click the button below to get it:
What a difference that makes!
Had you gone down the route of number one, you would probably have avoided your colleague and resolved nothing. This leads to further avoidance and further anxious feelings.
It’s almost like a self-sabotaging system.
I fall under this category by the way. What I wrote above – I used to be like that.
This cycle is a habit formed over longer periods of time. You may have had situations in the past where someone was actually upset with you and you didn’t know why.
As human beings, we naturally focus on the more negative situations as this is a sign of danger. Had this situation occurred hundreds of years ago, we probably would have needed to take action. It’s a primitive response to something which we no longer need.
Hence the anxiety.
Will it benefit me?
The dying question you’re probably wanting to know!
Well, CBT has actually been said to work just as well as medication for some people. Isn’t that fantastic? There have been numerous studies showing the positive benefits of CBT.
I suppose for you, trying it out would be the only way. If this is something you’re interested in, do a search for local CBT-trained therapists in your area. No doubt lots of results will pop up.
If you know anyone who has gone through it themselves, you could ask them for a recommendation as well. I don’t know about you but I would rather go with someone who was recommended than not.
Something that is important to remember that it is only as useful as you allow it to be.
If you’re considering CBT then you know that your thoughts are your issue. Holding a negative opinion on CBT before you’ve even begun will make things much harder in the long run.
Keep an open mind with it
Here is a great perspective by Dr David Purves (2014):
To make CBT for anxiety helpful you will need to work on the acceptance that your body does not always obey you. The fear of fear that is so often the hallmark of anxiety needs to be cut through in therapy and the more you recognise that physical symptoms are consequences not causes the quicker the process will proceed.
Some useful resources on CBT for you:
Mind – Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) information and resources
NHS – Self-help therapies
Psychology Tools – CBT Worksheets, handouts and self-help resources
LivingCBT – Free Self-help
Don’t forget your free PDF to go with this post!