Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a therapeutic technique used to alleviate many mental conditions including pathological gambling, depression, and of course, social anxiety. Cognitive behavior therapy is based on the premise that thoughts lead to beliefs, which lead to our actions.
Cognitive behavior therapy is not a complicated technique to follow, and anxiety-sufferers can even perform this therapy on themselves if they want to. However, as with anything, it is most effective when performed by a professional who has demonstrated success using this method in his or her actual work. The basic process is that the therapist, or if the person wants, him or herself, talks about the thoughts surrounding a particular situation.
For example, say the anxiety-sufferer is having particular trouble going to family gatherings. His or her mind is so clouded by irrational thoughts that he or she cannot even attempt to go without severe distress and anxiety. Some of the thoughts that go through his or her mind include, “People in my family think I am an idiot.” “People in my family think that I don’t do anything good.” “People in my family like to pick on me because they know I’m anxious and I am an easy target.”
In cognitive behavioral therapy, what the mental health professional will do is pick a particular thought, such as people in this person’s family thinking that person is an idiot, and challenge it with a more rational thought. So, the professional will ask the person, “What makes you think that they think you are an idiot?” And the client will go into detail about how people look at him or in a funny manner, and he or she believes this look makes him or out to be an idiot in his or her family’s eyes. What the professional might do is he or she might say that, “Sometimes, I think about things that I thought were stupid, like a certain situation or event, and then I happen to realize that I am looking at another person at the same time. I don’t find that person to be an idiot; it just happens that I am looking in their direction when I am thinking about something else.”
This thought challenges the notion, in the client’s eyes, that other people think that he or she is in fact an idiot. The professional’s skill comes in when he or she tries to probe the client and find different thoughts that pass the client’s defenses. So, if the client does not tend to buy in to the thought the professional just demonstrated, then the professionalmight try an angle such as, “Sometimes, people are just in a bad mood. Could it be possible that they are looking funny at you because they are simply having a bad day?”
The professional using cognitive behavior therapy will continue on and on with this process, challenging the different thoughts of the client. What happens in this process, ideally speaking, is that the client buys into different thoughts, and when thoughts are repeated over and over for a certain amount of time, eventually they become instinctual and the person in question now thinks that people are simply having a bad day, and this is a new belief. In response to the belief that people are having a bad day instead of other people thinking that person is an idiot, the client’s action is to react to such looks as just looks that people give, rather than ones that think the client is an idiot. This means that the client will react to these goofy looks with less, or ideally, no anxiety.
This in essence, is how cognitive behavior therapy works, and it is both a simple and common method used to treat anxiety, with a fair degree of success. It is a method that people can use on their own, but as noted before, it is probably most effective with the help of a professional. Good luck to the socially anxious who choose to use this method to recover from anxiety!