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How does cognitive behavioral therapy treat anxiety and depression?


Cognitive behavioral therapy is a kind of psychotherapy. This therapy changes thought patterns to assist in changing behaviors and moods. It is built on ideas that any negative feelings arise because of existing misleading beliefs and not unconscious forces from the past.

If you are wondering which principle underlies cognitive therapy, you should know that cognitive behavioral therapy is a mix of behavioral and cognitive therapy. While cognitive therapy emphasizes thoughts and moods, behavioral therapy targets your behaviors and activities. A therapist who practices the mixed approach of CBT treats you in an agreed location, providing directions and good guidance. 

You, along with your therapists, can work to recognize specified negative thought patterns and behavior responses for challenging or any kind of stressful situations. This kind of therapy is mainly utilized for various mental health issues and diagnoses, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia, eating disorders, phobias, chronic pain, bipolar disorder, etc.

How does cognitive behavioral therapy work?

CBT is a short-term approach when compared with psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies. Similarly, another kind of therapy might need many years of treatment and discovery. CBT often needs 20 sessions, but after that, you can also see your therapist as per your requirement. Every condition is unique, therefore the duration of your treatment depends on your condition.

CBT sessions offer opportunities to recognize existing life situations that might be causing mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. CBT facilitates you and also your therapist in recognizing thinking patterns or any distorted insights that no longer serve you. It is different from psychoanalysis as it involves working with your past life to discover any insensible source of issues that you are facing.

You might be asked to maintain a journal as a part of your CBT treatment. This journal offers a place for recording your reactions and events. The therapist can assist you in breaking down reactions and thinking patterns into various categories of cognitive distortions.

Common CBT methods for depression

Cognitive restructuring: By challenging your thought patterns, self-talking, and tone, you will learn about important cognitive distortions and unnatural thought patterns that can enhance depressing emotions or suicidal thoughts. Cognitive restructuring assists in forming healthy patterns, decreasing cognitive errors, and practicing ways for rationalizing distortions and any untrue beliefs.

  • Activity scheduling: This involves pleasing yourself by scheduling activities that encourage positive regard and care for oneself. By setting up these activities, you can learn how to motivate yourself to complete of important tasks even if you have a low feeling. It also enhances the chance of enduring to complete those tasks post your formal therapy sessions.
  • Mindful meditation: By remaining engaged in meditation for anxiety and depression, you can learn how to reduce focusing on your negative thoughts and enhance your ability to stay in the present. Meditation assists you in identifying and learning to accept all your negative thought patterns and get detached from them rather than letting them take over.
  • Thought journaling: When you journal for your mental health, you explore things such as your emotions, behaviors, and thoughts, thus creating a space for processing and recognizing all potential triggers and how your thoughts influence your behavior. This enhances self-awareness and assists you in learning coping methods for use in the future. You can also make use of specified journal prompts for anxiety to know more about where your moods and beliefs are coming from. 
  • ABC analysis: Same as journaling, this skill also focuses on breaking down your behaviors about anxiety and depression, such as sleeping more or shouting at people. By analyzing your triggers and results, you can explore substantial behaviors and look for common causes for depressive triggers. The ABC model works by making use of the below-given structure:
  • The activating event
  • Your beliefs about the event
  • The consequences of the event
  • Fact-checking: This method helps encourage you to evaluate your thoughts and understand them while you are stuck in a depression or any harmful thought. All those thoughts are not facts in real but opinions depending on your emotions. Fact-checking assists in identifying what behaviors you are engaged in because of your opinions or emotions rather than the real facts.

Kind of cognitive behavioral therapy for depression and anxiety

Cognitive behavioral therapy is not only a type of treatment but the primary branch of various therapy styles. While CBT can be the basis of those styles, it is not the sole one that is effective for the treatment of depressive symptoms and incidents. In addition to standard CBT, here are some other common kinds of CBT for the treatment of depression and anxiety.

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT: It engages various techniques for enhancing somebody’s mental flexibility. While treating depression, ACT can assist you in decreasing the difficulties of self-talk and negative thoughts, judgment, depression, and anxiety and enhance the ability of an individual to focus. Different techniques used here are acceptance, mindfulness, and commitment to behavioral changes.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy: Like ACT, DBT assists people in learning to accept tough feelings and thoughts. Other than that, it also teaches us to keep a balance between the capability to accept and mention irrational thoughts. You gain the ability to make some healthy and sustainable changes in your ability to cope with stressors. DBT is mostly used for the treatment of those having borderline personality disorder. Initially, it was developed for treating people having suicidal thoughts. 
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: This type of CBT was made with the idea that individuals make choices in their lives to meet the requirements that allow them to survive and feel fulfilled. It teaches individuals how to address irrational and unhealthy behaviors so that they can change for a functional life. For treating depression and anxiety, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy approaches utilize several CBT methods for assisting people in changing their thought patterns, thereby assisting them to move out of their depressive behaviors.


If you have an interest in trying cognitive behavioral therapy for treating anxiety and depression, you can talk to your physician. Your doctor can refer you to a therapist, or you can use an online directory and look for a therapist online. You should keep in mind that not every therapist will use cognitive behavioral therapy and you need to ask the kind of therapy they utilize before setting up the first appointment.

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