How CBT Treats Anxiety – Avoidance Isn’t The Answer!
As Anxiety therapists in Orlando, we are often asked how to best manage anxiety symptoms. An anxiety disorder (Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Phobias and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) consists of clinical levels of anxiety which cause impairment and/or distress severe enough that professional treatment is necessary. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five adults meet criteria for anxiety disorders in the United States each year, making anxiety disorders the most common of all mental disorders.
First and foremost, anxiety is not alleviated by using techniques that attempt to make it go away. Avoiding situations, things and people that make us anxious is a common response to anxiety and it is a technique often recommended by uninformed therapists who do not understand how to treat anxiety disorders with evidence-based practices. It makes intuitive sense to avoid the anxiety producing situation because avoiding the situation helps us to feel calmer in the short term. However, in the long term, we strengthen our anxiety and make it more long lasting by avoiding the situation. When we avoid, we never get a chance to challenge our negative predictions. For example, a person with Social Anxiety may avoid leading weekly team meetings at work. He may worry he will not be able to concentrate and that he will look awkward. He may predict that people will think he is weird and that he is incompetent. If he continues to avoid leading the team meeting, he will never learn that he may have more leadership skills than he realized. He will never learn that with practice he can become a better leader. He will never learn that he can tolerate high levels of anxiety without anything terrible happening. He will never learn that anxiety is a relentless liar and that following its directions will only prolong anxiety and make it even worse the next time he is asked to lead his team.
The general rule is to lean into anxiety, not avoid it. It is doing the opposite of what anxiety is telling you to do, and move into the direction that anxiety is telling you not to go.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is the gold standard for anxiety disorder treatment. CBT works by teaching people to identify their anxiety producing worries, view things in a more helpful and rational way and face anxiety-producing situations head-on. Experiencing anxiety is the only way to learn how to better manage anxiety.
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we are experienced therapists who specialize in the comprehensive, evidence-based treatment of the full spectrum of Anxiety Disorders including, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Phobias and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as well as Depressive Disorders in children, teens and adults. Therapists at GroundWork Counseling have received extensive training in the application of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which has been shown to be the most effective method of treatment for anxiety disorders and depression. Our goal is to help our clients get better quickly by reducing symptoms thus making improvements in day-to-day living. We teach our clients tangible skills, firmly grounded in evidence-based practices.
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