Research shows that therapy is typically the most effective option for treating anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), in particular, is one of the most widely used interventions. CBT targets negative thought patterns and distortions in how we view the world and ourselves. The two main components are cognitions and behavior. The cognitive aspect of the intervention examines now one’s negative thoughts trigger anxiety. Behavior therapy will assess how you react or behave in situations where anxiety is triggered.
Basic foundation of CBT is that it is our thoughts not the external world or events affect the way we feel. It is more about your perception of the situation vs. the actual situation that creates the anxiety.
Thought challenging or cognitive restructuring is a technique where you challenge your negative thinking patterns that are contributing to your anxiety. The idea is that you replace those thoughts with more positive or realistic thoughts. There are three steps to this process:
- Identify the negative thoughts. Usually our perception of a situation is perceived as more scary than it really is. Ask yourself: what was I thinking when I started feeling anxious?
- Challenge negative thoughts. Assess those thoughts that are producing anxiety. Look for evidence for the scary thoughts, test reality of the negative predictions.
- Replace negative thoughts with realistic thoughts. After you identify the irrational predictions and negative distortions you can replace them with thoughts that are more positive and accurate.
The therapist will work with you on all steps, guiding you to identify the negative thoughts and helping you come up with calming phrases that you can say to yourself when faced with a situation that typically causes anxiety for you.