How to Control Anxiety Using CBT

By Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC

verified by Psychology Today

How to Control Anxiety Using CBT

If you are looking for a way to remain calm under high levels of stress, a way to have deep concentration when everything seems to be turning upside down or a way to get your anger under control – then CBT may be the strategy for you.

CBT simply means ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’ and is basically a group of tools used in psychotherapy when managing anxiety and other psychological disorders. It is also the favorite technique of treatment among many health establishments these days. In this article, we will examine what CBT involves, what makes it’s so effective and why it’s something you need to know.

CBT Basics

CBT is a natural advancement from behaviorism.  Behaviorism is a psychological school of thought that considers every one of our behaviors and values as learned responses that have been established through conditioning.  In this school of thought, rewarded behaviors become supported and we repeat them more frequently, while behaviors which have been punished are reduced.

CBT adopts this behavioral principle and adds a cognitive factor – demonstrating that we can influence behavior through our pattern of thinking.  We don’t need practical experience of something dreadful – our belief and assumptions alone are sufficient to develop the connection!

The same thing can also work in the opposite direction.  If you rationally analyze your fears, educate yourself why you don’t need to be frightened by them then ultimately you can rid yourself of those fears.  Keep reading to find out how 6 CBT strategies including, thought challenging, asking yourself why is this important, hypothesis testing, mindfulness, leaning toward emotions, and fear setting can help solve several common causes of anxiety.

Anxiety Coping Methods

Thought Challenging

Common anxiety that affects many of us is social fear, which may be developed through the dysfunctional or irrational conviction that you’re going to disgrace yourself or that something terrible will happen to you in a social situation. Using the strategies in CBT,  you have the power to rid yourself of negative associations. One such strategy for managing anxiety is  known as a ‘thought challenge.’

Thought challenging teaches you to evaluate exactly how rational your fear is in a practical manner.  How likely is it your irrational thought will come to be? In most cases, you’ll be able to invalidate the personal anxieties you have. You can then develop new, more realistic thoughts making social situations less intimidating. With repeated use, this will help you to get rid of the fear or panic – and it’s one you can practice on your own at home!

Why is it Important?

We are taught by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to analyze our fears into their root thoughts or perceptions. We are frightened of X only because we think Y could occur. In many instances the moment we show our fears in these conditions, we discover that in reality, our fears are groundless and highly unlikely to come to pass.

However, there’s another way we can confront our negative beliefs and gain more understanding and that’s to ask the basic question ‘why is it important?’  Many of us are worried about negative things going on in our lives but truly, if we continue asking why it is important, we will come to the realization that the worst-case circumstances aren’t really that terrible.

Certainly, this is not applicable if you’re trying to conquer your phobia for heights, or phobia for snakes (why is it important? Because I could die!) However it applies to all kinds of situations.

For example, asking ‘why is it important?’ can be used to eliminate social fears.  Let’s consider the general social fear that nearly everybody experiences to some extent. Many of us have grown up with some sort of fear of talking to other folks. You might be wondering to yourself what exactly is going on in their minds and what might happen if they dislike you or think poorly of you.  Unfortunately, your anxiety about this is exactly what causes you to make errors or to have doubts in yourself.

Why does what a stranger thinks make any difference? Will you be seeing them again in the near future? If not, then the type of impression you had on them is inconsequential! Are they your friends? If yes, then they’re certainly not your friends because they think you are a great orator or you are an exceptionally gifted public speaker! Is it someone you want to get into a relationship with? If so, they might just be as nervous as you and hearing some stammering is only going to captivate them. If not, then perhaps they aren’t the right person for you in any case!

You can apply the same process to any other form of fear you might be nursing. Worried about your struggle to pay a debt? Ask yourself why it is important. The worst circumstance is that your home could be reclaimed. Not great, certainly, but so long as you are employed, you’ll be able to stay in a rented apartment. Out of job? Many of us have a relative or friend we can stay with for a short time. Again, not ideal but it’s definitely something you can pull through. Once more, the worst situation circumstance really isn’t a catastrophe, and you shouldn’t allow it to render you helpless!

Hypothesis Testing

Hypothesis testing is a practice obtained from cognitive behavioral therapy which entails testing a bad ‘hypothesis’ so as to refute your anxieties and assist you to conquer unreasonable fear. Controlling fear with this method will assist you completely overcome negative fears and it is totally focused on eliminating social fears.

How it Works

Whenever you’re scared of something or something that makes you become frightened, usually, this is connected to some sort of belief about the action that will accompany the dreaded object. We do not have a phobia for heights – we are only scared of falling. In the same manner, we are tensed in social circumstances because we believe we could falter, we might be screamed at, or we might embarrass ourselves. All these are ‘hypothesis’.

Therefore, Hypothesis testing entails proving how impossible this is to yourself. And with respect to social fear, you can carry this out by just confronting your worst-case situation to see what really happens.

Putting it Into Action

Are you afraid that you will embarrass yourself publicly and get laughed at? The simple truth is that many people are nice and thoughtful. If you really do stammer or make some errors people will generally overlook that and remain kind to you. You most likely are aware of this by now, therefore all you have left to do is to prove this to yourself so that you are totally convinced. This is the point where hypothesis testing becomes important and to achieve this you are going to embarrass yourself intentionally. Managing anxiety by subjecting yourself to the illogical fear will ultimately assist to reduce the intensity of your mental response.

To do this, search for a shop that you don’t go to on a regular basis, approach the clerk and intentionally stammer and act nervous and confused. There is a high possibility that you’ll be totally nervous when doing this, however, if you pull it off it, you’ll discover that in 99% of situations, the assistant doesn’t really focus on your difficulties and is absolutely courteous. You are likely to get this exact reaction each time you make a mistake or misstep.

Surely, you may have to build up to this if you’re too afraid in the first place. Begin by frequently allowing yourself to stutter while having a conversation with your friends and also publicly too. Try to initiate conversation more with strangers with time you will slowly learn on your own that there are significantly worse conditions than not sounding flawlessly eloquent every time! People will not be so harsh on you – therefore ensure you are not too harsh on yourself as well.

How to Overcome Negative Emotions with Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a kind of reflection that has been practiced for hundreds of years but has lately witnessed a rebirth in popularity as a result of cognitive behavioral therapy as well as modern psychotherapeutic techniques.

The fundamental concept is that you’re making use of meditative habits to gain more consciousness of your thoughts and emotions. You’re getting disconnected from your body and soothing the critical areas of your brain but simultaneously you’re not ‘turning off’ those emotions but instead, you are ’monitoring’ them. The concept is that you will be monitoring your thoughts and observe your emotions in an isolated manner to prevent them from hurting you.

This practice contains two advantages. Number one is that it enables you to detach yourself from the sorts of reflections which may otherwise bring you anxiety, sadness, fears, etc. The second is that it enables you to better comprehend how your mind functions. And this second reason is why it is an extremely effective tool for fighting many emotional problems.

Leaning Towards Emotions

The difficulty with powerful emotion is that it can take away our rationality. This is particularly true if we attempt to refute it, if we attempt to subdue it or if we generally refuse to deal with it in the appropriate manner. Many of us when we get angry will respond by attempting to dismiss it, by pretending that we’re okay – or perhaps by being inadvertently totally unaware of it. As you likely have imagined, not one of these strategies is really effective or helpful in fighting those negative emotions.

Therefore, let’s say for example that you’re feeling extremely anxious, stressed and miserable. You might be asking yourself, “how depressed am I,” or “why am I depressed?” Perhaps you had a disagreement with your spouse, perhaps you had a terrible day in the office. Or maybe you wake up on the wrong side of your bed! Whichever way, you’re now at a very low point and therefore you start to see everything through an extremely negative mindset. You have made an effort to stop being miserable, but the only thing that keeps ringing in your head is what a terrible day you’ve had and ask yourself, am I depressed or sad?? Thinking about why the situation will never improve, about how nobody truly understands you, about how your spouse is of no use to you.

However, through the use of CBT and accepting the truth that you’re troubled, you can instead embrace those negative feelings and say yea ‘I am feeling depressed/anxious/stressed’.

And once you do so, you will discover that they become a lot more controllable and that you are far more disconnected from them. More particularly, you can pay attention to the point that your feelings are triggered by your negative feeling (not a representation of the truth as it really is) and you can remind yourself of the temporariness of that pressure.

Fear Setting for Stress Control

The fear setting is a wonderful tool that you can use to conquer just about any type of fear or worry troubling your mind. It is most generally recommended as an approach to conquering fears of taking risks. For example, if you happen to be contemplating branching out and establishing your own business, you might find that fears of failure may hold you back. This is the point where fear setting would is applied to assist you to get over those doubts and take total control of your future and your ambitions.

However, the fear setting can be put to other uses as well. Particularly, it can be an extremely potent tool for conquering fears and doubts that may be causing you anxiety. If you’re scared that you will lose your job, or that your relationship will crash, or your credit rating becoming so poor that you won’t be able to secure a loan… this may cause you major chronic anxiety. The answer? Fear setting, so as to get rid of those worries and concentrate on what is important.

How to Apply Fear Setting

The guiding principle of fear setting is that you will put in writing everything you discover is causing you to feel anxious. After that, you will consider them and evaluate them one after the other if they’re really worth worrying about. Are they really likely to cause you problems, or are you worried over nothing?

Sad Man

For example, if you think about the things causing you to be worried in your relationship, you’ll possibly discover there are some major worries there: the major one usually being that your partner will walk out the relationship. If you’re worried about your work, then it usually about the fear that you might get sacked!

Put down these fears in writing and then evaluate them one after the other on a scale of 1to 10 for their probability. And carefully consider each point. What’s the possibility that you will really

lose your job? Keeping in mind it’s pretty much illegitimate to sack someone without a solid purpose? Would your companion of 6 years truly leave you because of one disagreement?

In the same way, create an eventuality plan for every one of your fears. How would you react in you eventually lost your job?  In the worst-case situation, it may mean going back to live with your parents or so

me of your friends, but most likely you will get another job really fast. The point of this story? We overblow most of our fears in our minds. The moment we understand this, they become significantly more controllable!

There are many ways to control anxiety, the majority of them are CBT strategies used by psychotherapists. These tools are all effective ways to control anxiety. Practice them regularly. Put them in writing. Evaluate them. Make them an integral component of your fear toolbox!

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