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Key Takeaways

1
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you recognize unhelpful/inaccurate thoughts, beliefs and behaviors and replace them with more effective ones
2
CBT is especially effective in treating anxiety and depression, but also helps with general stress management
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You want to find a therapist with training and experience specifically geared toward CBT

Everybody experiences anxiety, fear or sadness at one time or another. You may be reacting to something specific that has happened, or you may carry excess feelings of being unlovable, unworthy or helpless. 

When these feelings persist, they can represent a serious condition, such as an anxiety disorder or depression. Such conditions tend to adversely affect daily living and take a toll on relationship dynamics in various areas of your life. But learning to observe thought and behavior patterns can help.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Works

CBT is a problem-focused, skills-based treatment that teaches you how to identify and modify unhelpful behavior and thinking patterns that may cause or increase anxiety and distress. CBT typically focuses on difficulties in the moment, and relies on you and your therapist developing a shared view of the problem.

At its core, anyone can benefit from CBT because it teaches you how to be aware of how you're thinking. You will learn to question the evidence for your thought, to think about how it is affecting you and whether it is helping you be the person you want to be.

Conditions CBT Can Treat in Individuals

  • Agoraphobia: persistent avoidance of situations that could trigger panic attacks.
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder: a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance, such as weight. Although others don't notice these perceived flaws, you feel driven to perform excessive, repetitive behaviors or mental acts in response to appearance concerns.
  • Depression: persistent depression can interfere significantly with your ability to function.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: excessive worrying. Other symptoms include muscle tension, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating and the feeling of being keyed up or on edge.
  • Hair-pulling/Trichotillomania: recurrent pulling out of hair, resulting in noticeable bald patches.
  • Health Anxiety: excessive preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness. Although somatic symptoms are not present or are mild, you experience anxiety about health and repeatedly check for signs of illness, or exhibits maladaptive avoidance.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: recurrent, distressing thoughts or ritualized behavior, such as excessive hand washing.
  • Panic Attack: a sudden rush of intense fear or anxiety. Physical symptoms include rapid heartbeat, dizziness, difficulty breathing and/or sweating.
  • Panic Disorder: frequent occurrence of unexpected panic attacks and excessive worry about having panic attacks.
  • Specific Phobia: the exaggerated fear of a specific situation or objects. Even if you recognize that a fear is excessive, you still avoid the situation or object.
  • Social Phobia: excessive fear of being observed by, criticized or embarrassed in front of others. You may exhibit excessive dread and try to avoid situations such as public speaking, eating in front of others and going to parties.
  • Skin-picking/Excoriation: recurrent skin picking that results in skin lesions

How Long CBT Takes 

Effective CBT treatment requires that you have a highly individualized plan for treatment, follow-up and aftercare. Because everyone differs, the number of treatment sessions varies. However, many problems can be treated in 12- to 20-week therapy sessions.

How to Get Started with CBT 

First, we will need a complete assessment of whatever challenges you may be facing. You will participate in a detailed, comprehensive interview about past and present problems with depression, anxiety, panic and related conditions. We also ask you to fill out questionnaires to determine exactly what triggers any problems and identify the severity of symptoms. 

This results in an explicit, understandable and flexible treatment plan that accurately reflects your needs as an individual. We also encourage you to undergo a physical examination with your primary care doctor.