What is CBT, and how can it help mental health problems?
CBT stands for Cognitive (thoughts and images) BehavioursTherapy. This kind of therapy focuses on thinking and behaviour patterns and how you can learn to change these to help overcome challenges in your life. It involves a collaborative approach, with an individual working closely with a qualified CBT therapist.
Also called ‘talking therapy’, CBT is a different way of looking at your mental health. With any mental health issue, certain ingrained feelings can lock you into a cycle where your condition gets worse rather than better over time. CBT works to help you overcome these challenges.
While other therapies take a more detailed look at your past and what has caused your problem, CBT is more focused on the here and now and how to handle your feelings. Things are not necessarily considered negative or positive, and the focus is on how thoughts and behaviour patterns can influence our feelings and how these can be changed.
Feelings, thoughts, behaviours and physical sensation are treated as a whole and not individual events. For example, you are taught to observe your thoughts and behaviour and how these impact on your life at any given time.
CBT is a viable, evidence-based treatment option that has been shown to work for a variety of mental health issues, particularly anxiety and depression. By stopping the cycle of negative thoughts, it helps break down the barriers to recovery and gives an individual control over their mental health.
How Does CBT Work?
CBT works by looking at five parameters:
● The situation you are in (a social gathering, alone at home).
● The thoughts you have about it (negative or disruptive thoughts).
● The emotions you experience (e.g., fear, self-loathing).
● The physical feelings you may have (e.g., sweating, increased heartbeat, high levels of anxiety).
● The actions you take (e.g., avoiding certain situations)
Let’s say you have anxiety and feel very uncomfortable in social settings. Your thought process may mean you are scared of making a fool of yourself or perhaps you are introverted and don’t know what to say when in a group. Your emotions can be ones of fear, and this might manifest in getting short of breath, a heightened heart rate and a tightening of the throat when presented with a social event. Your action would be to avoid such situations.
CBT is about turning this cycle around and changing, for example, the way you think about social situations and putting a different, more positive spin on them. While CBT is a gradual process, it’s also a highly pragmatic one that addresses the issue at hand and focuses on the current problem rather than what went before (although looking to the past may also be a part of the therapy).
1. Stress (Work-related stress)
Stress is a part of life, and in small doses, it is a positive biological response that releases cortisol and adrenaline to help us perform better. If stress is continuous and unending, however, it can have a detrimental impact on our health, affecting short-term memory, causing a low mood and reducing productivity.
CBT allows us to change our thought process relating to stress. For example, when we’re stuck in traffic, we’re not stressing about getting to that all-important meeting but using the time to be calm and maybe listen to some relaxing music.
2. Low Mood
This can affect us all. We don’t feel that we can be bothered, have low energy levels and are less active than usual. This type of problem can have numerous causes, including hormonal changes.
If your low mood continues, however, it could be the sign that something else is wrong. Turning to more positive thoughts with CBT will help overcome periods when you are not feeling at your best.
3. Low Self-Esteem
Many people don’t think they are good enough. Low self-esteem stops you reaching your goals and often becomes a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. CBT is ideally suited to helping with this kind of problem by encouraging you to look at the positives rather than the negatives.
According to the World Health Organisation, around 246 million people suffer from depression across the globe. A study in Oxford in 2016 highlighted the effectiveness of CBT:
“The study found when CBT was given; in addition to usual care that included antidepressants, it was effective in reducing depressive symptoms and improving quality of life over the long term – on average 46 months – for patients whose depression had not responded to medication. These benefits were found, on average, 40 months after the end of therapy.”
We often think of anxiety as bad but it’s a natural, biological response. Understanding and learning to cope with situations via CBT that cause you to be nervous and which elicit a heightened response can greatly reduce the impact that anxiety has on your life.
Controlling anger is something that is not uncommon in modern society. You may feel that your identity is being attacked or that your expectations have not been met. CBT is highly suited to helping anger management issues by changing the way we see the world and our interpretation of it.
7. Sleep Disorders
While sleep disorders also occur because of medical issues, many people are affected by psychological problems that hamper their ability to sleep. Even the act of worrying about getting enough sleep can have an impact on our nighttime rest. CBT allows you to find solutions that improve sleep and create a healthier bedtime cycle.
8. Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are quite common and can be very debilitating when they occur. You heart races and your breath becomes shortened, and it’s difficult to speak. You are generally putting catastrophic thoughts onto something that is not necessarily out of the ordinary, for example, socialising in public or going for an interview.
CBT involves learning how to replace anxiety-inducing thoughts with more positive ones and using techniques such as meditation and mindfulness.
Addiction takes many forms and usually have a; in impact on someone’s life. With CBT, it’s about looking at negative or dysfunctional thought patterns. For example, you may believe that taking a drink in the morning gives you confidence. Taking a particular drug might relieve you of the anxiety you feel concerning a past episode in your life. CBT is about replacing dysfunctional and damaging beliefs with better-suited ones.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has a wide range of applications and works by altering how we perceive and think about the negative things in our lives. By interrupting ingrained cycles, individuals can move away from damaging behaviour and lead fuller and healthier lives.
If you feel yourself or someone you know can benefit from CBT (which we uniquely and with great success combine with Mindfulness and EMDR) then please contact us on 020 3951 7285 or via our contact page.