Treating Anxiety and Depression

When it comes to treating anxiety disorders and/or depression, research shows that therapy is usually the most effective option. That's because anxiety or depressive therapy, unlike medication, treats more than just the symptoms of the problem. Therapy can help you uncover the underlying causes of your worries, fears, or sadness. You can learn how to relax or reprogram your automated thinking. You can begin to look at situations in new, less frightening ways; and develop better coping and problem-solving skills. Therapy gives you the tools to overcome anxiety or depression and teaches you how to use them.

The anxiety disorders or mood disorders can differ considerably, so therapy should be tailored to your specific symptoms and concerns. If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, your treatment will be different from someone who's getting help for anxiety attacks. The length of therapy will also depend on the type and severity of your anxiety or depressive disorder. However, many therapies are relatively short-term. According to the American Psychological Association, many people improve significantly within 8 to 10 therapy sessions.

Many different types of therapy are used to treat anxiety or depression, but the leading approaches are cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Each therapy may be used alone, or combined with other types of therapy. .

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most widely-used therapy for anxiety or mood disorders. Research has shown it to be effective in the treatment of panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, depression, biploar, among many other conditions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses negative patterns and distortions in the way we look at the world and ourselves. As the name suggests, this involves two main components:

  • Cognitive therapy examines how negative thoughts, or cognitions, contribute to anxiety or depression..
  • Behavior therapy examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety or depression.

The basic premise of cognitive behavioral therapy is that our thoughts not external events affect the way we feel. In other words, it's not the situation you're in that determines how you feel, but your perception of the situation. For example, imagine that you've just been invited to a big party. Consider three different ways of thinking about the invitation, and how those thoughts would affect your emotions.

Thought challenging also known as cognitive restructuring is a process in which you challenge the negative thinking patterns that contributes to your anxiety or depression, replacing them with more positive, realistic thoughts. This involves three steps:

  1. Identifying your negative thoughts. With anxiety disorders, situations are perceived as more dangerous than they really are. To someone with a germ phobia, for example, shaking another person's hand can seem life threatening. Although you may easily see that this is an irrational fear, identifying your own irrational, scary thoughts can be very difficult. One strategy is to ask yourself what you were thinking when you started feeling anxious. Your therapist will help you with this step.
  2. Challenging your negative thoughts. In the second step, your therapist will teach you how to evaluate your negative-provoking thoughts. This involves questioning the evidence for your paralyzing thoughts, analyzing unhelpful beliefs, and testing out the reality of negative predictions. Strategies for challenging negative thoughts include conducting experiments, weighing the pros and cons of worrying or avoiding the thing you fear, and determining the realistic chances that what you're anxious about will actually happen.
  3. Replacing negative thoughts with realistic thoughts. Once you've identified the irrational predictions and negative distortions of your thoughts, you can replace them with new thoughts that are more accurate and positive. Your therapist may also help you come up with realistic, calming statements you can say to yourself when you're facing or anticipating a situation that normally sends your anxiety levels soaring.