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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? How Does It Work?

I'm so lonely. I feel down about it, but I'm afraid to meet new people because of what they'll think of me. Been having panic attacks that come out of nowhere, and now I'm getting more anxious about having them. Visiting my family is so stressful. I get angry, and then I just crash when I get home. Everyone else has everything together. Why am I the only one that struggles? I'm just so stupid.

These are the voices of depression and anxiety. I know, I struggle with both and it affected my husband as well as me. I know, I have anxiety. I know, I've had depression. About one of every five people experiences a mental health problem at least once each year and depression and anxiety are the most common. Many people are familiar with what it feels like to be sad or blue or very worried about something. (thump and crackling) For some people, those feelings are big enough that they become hard to manage without some help. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems can be treated and most of the time, they can be treated very well.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an evidence-based treatment, which means it's been proven to be effective more often than most other types of therapy. It's pretty simple really, what we think and what we do can influence how we feel, for instance, if you have a relationship breakup and think, nobody will ever love me again, you might be less likely to go out and meet new people and over time, you may get isolated and lonely, that pattern can lead to depression and hopelessness.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? How Does It Work?
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In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we can practice new ways of thinking, trained therapists teach us to change our thoughts, and we would work to say something like, I'm really sad that relationship didn't work out, but I still have friends and may meet someone else in time. This kind of thinking can lead to taking simple steps, like inviting a friend out for coffee, getting involved in a group that shares a hobby or activity you enjoy, or starting a conversation with someone new. After a while, with enough practice, both thinking and doing, people can start to feel better and worry less. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps people with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, hard relationships, and many other problems. It's typically used by mental health professionals in therapy, individually, or with groups of people. There are also lots of books, online programs, and smartphone apps available to help people work on their thinking and the thing to do that help them start to feel better, no matter what the problem.

Sometimes relationships are hard, but we learn better ways to talk to each other and we're having fun again. Sometimes I still feel stressed and I get worried, but it makes much more sense to me now. I know what to do to get through it. My depression is a lot better, I still have to practice some things, but I feel like myself again. Depression, anxiety, and other problems don't have to last a lifetime. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help someone work through a problem pretty quickly. People can change their thinking, change their actions and change their lives.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

You just broke up with your partner. You had an argument with your best friend. You got to let go of your job. A loved one gets sick. At some point in everyone's life, they may feel sad or gloomy. For most people, it's a fleeting feeling like a passing storm. Eventually, the rainclouds clear, and the sadness fades away. For me, though, the sadness didn't go away. It went on for weeks. I felt awful, and I didn't know what to do. (bright music) Well, these symptoms felt like I was being knocked down over and over again. I felt hopeless. I lost interest in things I normally enjoyed, and I really didn't have much of an appetite anymore. I finally talked to my doctor, and he encouraged me to see a mental health professional.

You know, like a psychiatrist? The psychiatrist talked to me about my symptoms, how long they had been going on, and how they are impacting my life. She ended up prescribing me medication to help with my symptoms and talked about the potential side effects. She also explained that it's important to approach treatment for mental illness using a wide variety of tools and resources. So in addition to my medication treatment, I also started meeting with a therapist. My therapist introduced me to cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is another treatment option for people with mental illness. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an evidence-based treatment, which means it is based on scientific research and clinical expertise. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. Negative or inaccurate thoughts are challenged and restated in logical, positive terms. When my psychiatrist explained my diagnosis, I felt hopeless, like I couldn't find a solution to help put the pieces of my life back together.

As I continue to learn about cognitive behavioral therapy, it became clear that I was having a lot of negative and irrational thoughts that did not match up with facts. I would say things such as, "My boss hates me. "She's always giving me more work. "I'll never get that raise. "I'd like to hang out with my friends, "but I'll just bum everyone out. "I don't want them to get mad at me." I used to see things as one big mess. I'd look at my house and get overwhelmed. I'd say to myself, "I'm such a slob, I can't handle this." I was quick to call myself names, believed the worst of myself and downplayed any positive parts of my life. I'd get discouraged and avoid dealing with my problems. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helped me learn how to rethink and reevaluate how I saw the world.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy taught me how my negative thoughts would team up with strong emotions and shut me down to further depress me. I can see clearly now that I was regularly interpreting most things in my life in a very negative manner.

By learning to recognize extreme negative thinking, I was able to change my thoughts into positive statements, such as my boss giving me the important tasks, because she believes in me. I know I can handle things. Taking this approach gave me the confidence to talk to my boss about getting a raise. We had a great discussion, and she told me the steps I could take to advance my career. Little by little, my therapist helped me realize the unproductive thoughts and behaviors I was creating.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also refocused me toward problem-solving techniques. I began facing my fears using positive reinforcement techniques, and in time, I started to calm myself on my own. They're my friends, they love me. Being myself is all they've ever wanted.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helped me learn how to stop attacking myself and instead think more productively. By changing my thoughts and setting logical goals, things started to get easier to manage. I learned to see things as individual parts that I dealt with one at a time, just start with the clothes, and when that's done, move on to the dishes. Just a little at a time, and you'll get it done.

By taking ownership of my feelings and thoughts, my behaviors changed for the better. At times, I didn't think my symptoms would get better, but I kept going. I fought back. I stopped allowing myself to use negative thinking about myself to go unchecked. I've taken a fearless inventory of myself and through hard work, I've been clearer in my thoughts and feelings. I'm proud to say that I am on the road to taking my life back.

The cognitive behavior therapy skills I learned along with my medication have helped me to put the pieces together. It's not always easy, but I now know that I can take the steps to handle problems when they come along.

By learning more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how it can help me, I feel more put together and healthy. That's something to feel good about.