How CBT Can Treat Anxiety and Panic

As a psychotherapist located in Hoboken, NJ I specialize in helping clients with their anxiety and panic/anxiety attacks. There are different treatment modalities that therapists use to treat anxiety and panic. One old school way in which therapists were trained to treat anxiety was through Freudian thinking in which you use psychodynamic therapy to analyze and treat what happened in your past. However there is a lot of research that shows CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is the most effective form of treatment for anxiety. I specialize in using CBT as I have seen the firsthand effects of this treatment. While it may be helpful for you to examine past patterns, relationships, trauma, and so on, you are usually looking to decrease your current anxious symptoms. If your anxiety and/or panic attacks are preventing you from living your best life NOW then you have to work on the present and future in therapy. CBT is a forward way of thinking in which we examine your recent and current thoughts so that in turn you will be able to lift your mood and your behaviors will get better.

Anchor Therapy is a counseling center in Hoboken, NJ with psychotherapists specialized to help teens and adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions.

What is CBT?

CBT stands for cognitive-behavioral therapy. In short, CBT is a therapy treatment that mental health counselors use to treat multiple mental health issues including (but not limited to) anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. CBT is action oriented in which you will actively be doing work and practicing techniques both within and outside of your therapy sessions. CBT will help you focus on the automatic thoughts that are popping into your head and refocus, reframe, and challenge them. Once you are able to do this, you will then feel better and you will act in a better way as well. To learn more about what exactly CBT is read this article.

  • Anxious thoughts:

First, we want to work on your automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts can be really any thought that pops into your mind. If you are experiencing anxiety or panic then an automatic thought might be, “What if my partner wants to break up with me?” This thought may have come from nowhere and your anxious brain automatically placed it into your mind. As an anxious person, you will grasp hold of this random thought and let it escalate and snowball in your mind. You may next analyze every little thing you may have done wrong in your relationship and then create all these future imaginary scenarios of how your partner will end your relationship.

To take a step back from letting your mind snowball into these anxious worries. You want to slowly pick apart your automatic thoughts. Try to identify the first worried thought that you had. Once you can pinpoint this, then you can focus on that one specific thought. This may be hard to do at first since your thoughts may feel like they run a mile a minute. A therapist can help you slow things down and find these automatic thoughts. Once you figure out what the thought was, then you can challenge it. You may ask yourself, “How realistic is it that my partner will break up with me? Is there a specific reason that something recently happened that makes me believe our relationship isn’t going well?” If you can’t come up with a realistic answer and/or current problem then that means this random thought was just that- random. It has no meaning and your relationship is not on the rocks. You can then dismiss future worries about this specific topic because you have worked through the process of identifying this as an anxious thought and it has no real meaning to your life.

  • Anxious feelings:

Your anxious automatic thoughts want you to feel anxious. Once you are able to identify your automatic thoughts, pull them apart, and challenge the reality of them then you can start to focus on how these thoughts are making you feel. If you are able to identify these thoughts as just being anxious thoughts and not having any merit or truth to them then you can dismiss them. Once you give less weight to these thoughts, then you can allow yourself to feel less worried and on edge. You may experience less feelings of panic and you may feel less anxious overall.

  • Anxious behaviors:

When you experience an anxious thought or feeling, your brain goes into danger mode. There’s something in your head telling you to beware of something wrong. When we feel that way, we go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. You either want to act on these anxious thoughts by either becoming angry with your partner, starting to avoid your partner, or feeling stuck and unsure of what to do so you bottle all of these emotions and feelings inside until you feel like you’re going to EXPLODE. The goal of CBT is to decrease your anxious feelings so that you can express yourself in a better way. You won’t feel as agitated, you won’t want to flee your relationship, and you won’t need to feel you are keeping everything boiling inside. The goal here would be to openly communicate any valid worries that you do have in your relationship. Everyone needs some assurance sometimes that things are going well. If you come to the conclusion that everything is good in your relationship and it is only an automatic anxious thought that had popped into your head then you will not need to act on this thought at all. It will be able to pass more easily through your mind and you will most likely forget about it and enjoy your relationship with your partner.

The CBT course of treatment:

Research shows that CBT will work most effectively if you give it 12 sessions, which would usually equate to 3 months of weekly sessions or 6 months of biweekly sessions. Not everyone is the same so it may take a shorter amount of time or longer depending on the severity of the anxious symptoms and everyday stressors. In my experience, I usually find clients start to implement these CBT techniques within the first 3 months and then they want to continue to address specific stressors and examples that come up to keep them accountable while continuing their work so that they continue to make progress. There also may be more stressful episodes that come up as some people feel more anxious in the winter months than the summer months. Anxiety symptoms can come in waves for whatever reasons. The most important thing is that you continue to practice the tools learned in therapy sessions when you are outside of the sessions. So then you can make note of whatever struggles you are experiencing and can bring it in to your therapist when you see them next. They are trained to help you get past any roadblocks.

If you’re interested in learning more about CBT feel free to contact me directly by filling out the form below. I help clients in-person at my downtown Hoboken, NJ office as well as NY and NJ residents through phone and video sessions.

Psychotherapist Hoboken Courtney Glashow

Courtney Glashow, LCSW

is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in helping teens and adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions through counseling. Courtney can help NY or NJ residents through telehealth (video/phone) therapy sessions as well.

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