Can CBT Help My Anxiety?

cbt anxiety chicago

CBT Therapist for Anxiety in Chicago

We have rightfully heard a great deal about the COVID-19 pandemic, but the epidemic of anxiety also continues to grow.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country, impacting over 40 million people.  The Washington Post reported that anxiety disorders tripled in the second quarter of 2020 when compared to the same time in 2019.  Changes to our work environments, threats to our physical health, social isolation, grief, and ever-present demands of our society contribute to the epidemic.

The problem is growing even more severe among youth.  The Centers for Disease Control report that 75% of people who will experience mental illness in their lifetime will meet diagnostic criteria before age 24; of those, 30% will battle anxiety in childhood or adolescence.

Anxiety in Chicago aligns with national trends.  Our practice has seen an unbelievable surge in those seeking care for anxiety.  Researchers at Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois Chicago are all engaged in studies to better understand the increase and improve care for people suffering from anxiety.

It’s worth asking – Do you experience constant worry? Have sweaty palms? Get tired easily? Have problems falling asleep or staying asleep? Feel your heart or thoughts racing? Notice shortness of breath? Avoid social settings? Worry about what others think of you?

These symptoms of anxiety may represent an appropriate response to your environment or may be exaggerated and indicative of a more problematic anxiety disorder.  Anxiety is a normal experience, but anxiety disorders can greatly interfere with life.  Differentiating between feelings of anxiety and anxiety disorders (such as OCD, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobia, etc) can best be done with the help of an anxiety therapist.  Your Chicago anxiety therapist can help identify ways that your anxiety gets in the way of your life.

Unfortunately, the most natural response to anxiety is to avoid it – including avoiding anxiety therapy!  This works in the short-term, but also doesn’t address the underlying maladaptive perceptions and assumptions, leading to even greater anxiety in the future.  If you experience anxiety regularly or have been called anxious by others in your life, consider engaging with a anxiety therapist.

Fortunately, billions of dollars have been spent on scientific research to understand anxiety and the most effective ways of treating it.  The results – not all treatments for anxiety are created equal.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is well-regarded as an effective, evidence-based treatment for anxiety.

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy that is focused on creating change by focusing on thoughts and actions.  CBT asserts that people with anxiety can learn better ways of coping, both relieving worry and becoming more effective in their lives.

Your therapist will help you identify inaccurate or negative thinking patterns so that you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond skillfully.  You will learn problem-solving and coping skills, better understand others motivations and behaviors, gain confidence, and change behaviors that maintain your anxiety. For example, you may work with your therapist to engage in activities that were scary to you and you avoided; learn to relax your body and calm your mind; or even role-play interactions that you expect to be difficult. The focus of CBT is on goals and experiences in the present day.  This work will likely take place in sessions, but also in “homework” assigned to give you an opportunity to make changes in your thoughts and actions between sessions.

Can CBT help with anxiety?

Because of the large body of research demonstrating its effectiveness, CBT is often considered the preferred treatment for anxiety – either alone or in combination with other types of therapies.

Well-established bodies of research demonstrate the effectiveness of CBT treatment for:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Phobias

Nonetheless, the goal remains the same – help you lessen your anxiety, feel more empowered, and live a life that isn’t governed by your fears.

You may have also heard of other CBT-based therapies.  ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) focuses on creating a more meaningful life, despite inevitable pain.  DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) focuses on balancing acceptance and change.  CBT-I is simply CBT specifically geared toward treating insomnia, whether insomnia is due to anxiety or another condition. And, mindfulness-based CBT incorporates present moment focus and principles of mindfulness with principles of CBT.  While each of these approaches vary slightly, all have merits and may be incorporated into your work with your anxiety therapist.

Although rates of anxiety continue to increase and the real world presents difficulties, you don’t have to continue to suffer. Make an appointment with an expert anxiety therapist and begin making changes in your life today!