CBT for Depression and Anxiety and How it Works?

Depression and anxiety are those creatures of darkness that creeps in silently through cracks and fissures and turns the whole life upside down. More than 264 million people of all ages are suffering from depression all over the world. In this fast-paced world, depression is also not lacking at any speed. Depression though is the most common mental disorder; it still can be fought with using psychotherapy. And Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is just what the therapists are using globally for the treatment. Let us find out all about CBT for Depression and Anxiety and How it Works?

The human mind is a mystery, all twisted with a plethora of wires and neurons. What it builds reflects in our life one way or another. There is a reason why mental disorders are more worrisome than any other thing. The thoughts conjured by an individual can affect their life in ways unimaginable. This is the reason why most of the therapies focus on thought processes and rebuilding them. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one such popular therapy which not just works on renewing the whole thought process but also aims to educate the person about their own thoughts and feelings.

CBT for Depression and Anxiety and How it Works?


What is CBT?

Unlike other therapies which work by analyzing past incidents and trauma, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy focuses on current thinking and feeling patterns and helps a person to alter their thought process. Before an individual starts with psychotherapy, it is important for them to learn about their psychological problem. And CBT does exactly that. It helps people to understand their core problem by making them aware of their own thoughts, emotions and feelings and how their thought patterns affect their behavior.

Inspired by Alfred Adler’s notion of basic mistakes and their role in unhealthy emotions, an American psychologist, Albert Ellis developed one of the earliest forms of cognitive psychotherapy which we know as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

Based on the two different concepts of cognitive and behavioral therapy, CBT was pioneered by Dr. Aaron T. Beck who formed the therapy after noticing that his patients had internal dialogues, in other words, they appeared to be almost talking to themselves, and he also observed that their thoughts affected their feelings.

After coming to the conclusion that there is a strong link between thoughts and feelings which influence people’s emotions, Beck discovered that though people are unaware of their thoughts, they can learn to identify them. And thus with the contribution of Beck and Ellis, CBT was developed.

The main motive of CBT is identifying and modifying thinking and behavior patterns. Your perception towards yourself as well as towards others and the effect of your actions on your feelings and thoughts, by taking these things into consideration, CBT works in helping you to identify the cognitive distortions such as:

  • focusing only on negative things
  • blaming yourself or others
  • aggressive negative reactions
  • overgeneralization
  • personalization
  • all-or-nothing thinking
  • jumping quickly to conclusions, etc.

It then helps to develop a strategy to cope with stressors as well as to improve your state of mind.


How CBT Works?

As compared to other therapies, CBT is considered to be a short term approach. So it is possible that you might need only 5-6 weekly sessions or in some cases, it might even take 20 weekly or biweekly sessions for benefits to be seen. Therapies can be overwhelming, so prepare yourself and make up your mind to walk down a memory lane. Because though CBT focuses on the present, reflecting on your past will give your therapist a better idea about your current situation.

Once your therapist is certain that you are fit for the CBT treatment, you and your therapist will meet regularly and together will identify your current patterns of thinking, what you feel and believe and what kind of issues and challenges that you are dealing with. In the case of depression and anxiety, you and your therapist will work on finding the factors causing these issues. When the negative thoughts that contribute to depression and anxiety are identified, you are then taught how to replace them with the healthier ones.

In each session, your counselor will dissect your problems meticulously into different parts and might ask you to keep a track of your emotions, feelings, thoughts, and behavior in a journal. Your therapist will then make you aware of your thoughts and feelings which you had no idea of and will help you to learn how to alter them.

In CBT treatment, you will learn about the negative and unpleasant thoughts that you weren’t aware of and the way they badly affect your actions and then it will teach you to swap these thoughts with positive and helpful ones. The treatment also involves homework assignments and some tasks that you would be asked to do and then during the session, you can discuss your progress and task. This way you will be able to change your attitude which in turn will change your behavior and prevent depression and anxiety from coming back.

Both depression and anxiety are some serious issues arising out of nothing but negative and uncertain emotions and feelings. CBT helps you to manage your negative emotions and replace them with realistic and balanced thoughts. The benefits of CBT are:

  • It enables you to control and balance your thoughts.
  • Teaches you to tolerate uncertainty, which is a key factor in depression and anxiety.
  • Deals with chronic pain.
  • It helps you to embrace yourself with all your imperfections.
  • Teaches how to cope with grief and stressors which are the main causes of depression.
  • It is one of the best alternatives for people who are unable to use medications.

Besides depression and anxiety, CBT is also used to treat mental disorders like:

  • Panic Disorder
  • Antisocial Behaviors (including lying, stealing, and hurting animals or other people)
  • Anger
  • Phobias
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Insomnia
  • Social Phobia
  • Personality Disorders
  • Sexual Disorders
  • Childhood Depression
  • Substance Abuse And Addiction
  • Eating Disorders such as Binge Eating, Anorexia, and Bulimia
  • Many other mental and physical conditions

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques and Tools

1.     Journaling

In this technique of CBT, a person is asked to keep a journal and maintain an in-depth record of their moods, thoughts, and behavior. It is one of the best methods of self-reflecting. This way one is able to identify their thought patterns, emotional responses and then change or cope with them.

2.     Identifying Cognitive Distortions

There are cognitive distortions that are nothing but negative thoughts that disrupt the thinking patterns in the worst way possible. Some of these distortions are: black-and-white thinking, jumping to conclusions, blaming, mislabeling or thinking of being always right. In this technique of CBT, these distortions are identified and then using the technique of ‘Cognitive Restructuring’ they are challenged.

3.     Exposure and Response Prevention

This technique is used mostly for people who are suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In this technique, an individual is exposed to a stimulus which would draw out their compulsive behavior. The person is then supposed to suppress their urge to act on it and control their behavior instead.

4.     Interoceptive Exposure

Specifically designed to treat panic and anxiety, this CBT technique involves exposure to feared bodily sensations. This helps the individual to learn new sensations associated with the feared ones and assists in identifying the beliefs that led to panic and anxiety. The individual is then made to see beyond the fear and realize that there is no danger ahead. This technique though is hugely effective, can prove to be quite intense and uncomfortable for the sufferer.

5.     Progressive Muscle Reaction

Focusing on one part of the body at a time, one is supposed to relax the muscles of the whole body in this type of CBT technique. To soothe your nerves and calm your mind, this is the best technique that you can practice either with your therapist or with the aid of audio or video guidance.

6.     Relaxed Breathing

Practitioners of mindfulness will find this CBT technique quite familiar. In relaxed breathing technique, the individual is supposed to control and regulate their breathing. Once a peaceful state of mind is achieved, one can reflect on their problems and issues and then form rational thoughts and beliefs.

Using these techniques of CBT, one can learn to identify problems more clearly, challenge the negative and irrational thoughts and stop fearing the worst. They can become more aware of themselves and stop blaming themselves or judging others. It will help them to have a different perspective of a situation and develop a positive attitude. These techniques also assist them to establish a real goal and accept the things as they are.


It’s Not A Cakewalk

As we mentioned earlier, therapies can be overwhelming. And CBT can be even more so since it involves making you face situations or issues that you would rather avoid. So it is obvious for you to feel sick with apprehension at the beginning of CBT treatment. And though the treatment is of short duration, the sessions of therapy can take a toll on you and make it seem like climbing Mount Everest.

Sometimes you would not even find the motivation to keep going or the will to continue. You might even dread the sessions in fear of facing your fear head-on. But that is the whole point of this treatment. CBT is going to help you control your emotions, thoughts, and actions and in turn, will give you the control of your life. And without confronting your issues, you wouldn’t be able to get rid of them.

So prepare yourself for the CBT and always remember that only you will be the one in control of the pace of your sessions. Once you have developed your CBT skills, practice them often to keep away from depression and anxiety.