By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated June 22, 2012)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is designed to challenge maladaptive thinking processes and replace them with more realistic beliefs, and to stop behaviours that reinforce anxiety. Specifically, the goals of CBT for panic disorder and anxiety are to:
- Change distorted thought processes that cause an overreaction to stressors.
- Increase empowerment and reduce the sense of helplessness caused by panic attacks and anxiety.
- Manage stress more effectively and learn how to relax.
- Desensitize the mind and body to anxiety-provoking situations.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Techniques
CBT helps people learn how to relax via proven anxiety reduction techniques, conquer irrational beliefs, and express emotions. Highly effective techniques used in CBT therapy include:
- Breathing retraining
- Cognitive restructuring
- Systematic desensitization
The Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Anxiety and Panic
CBT therapy is has a high success rate. According to Ham et al. (2005), various studies have shown that nearly three-quarters of CBT patients are panic-free 3-4 months after therapy, compared to just over one-quarter of patients who don’t receive CBT therapy. However, the authors note that we don’t know what additional therapies CBT patients may have used; perhaps those who seek CBT are more motivated to recover, so they do many of the right things to increase the likelihood that they will.
Peter Norton, Director of the Anxiety Disorder Clinic, University of Houston, notes that CBT programs typically comprise 8-15 weekly sessions, with the greatest improvement occurring sometime between weeks 5 and 7, though there are certainly exceptions (cited in Tartakovsky, 2009).
Other Natural Anxiety Therapies
If you’re unable or unwilling to see a CBT therapist, there are many things you can do on your own to change faulty beliefs, destructive thought processes, and behaviours that cause anxiety. See Realistic Thinking, Systematic Desensitization, Visualization, Breathing Techniques, and Progressive Muscle Relaxation for more information.
For a full list of natural anxiety therapies, see the main Panic and Anxiety Treatments page.
- American Psychological Association. (2012). “Answers to Your Questions About Panic Disorder.” APA.org.
- Boone, S. (Reviewed by J.M. Grohol, Psy.D., 2005, December 27). “Psychotherapy for Anxiety Disorders.” PsychCentral.com.
- Dryden-Edwards, R., MD (Author), Conrad Stoppler, M., MD (Editor). (2010, March 25). “Panic Attacks.” EMedicineHealth.com.
- Ham, P., MD; Waters, D.B., PhD; & Oliver, M.N., MD. (2005). “Treatment of Panic Disorder.” American Family Physician, 71(4), 733-739.
- Smith, M., MA; Segal, R., MA; & Segal, J., PhD. (2012, January). “Therapy for Anxiety Disorders.” HelpGuide.org.
- Tartakovski, M., MS. (Reviewed by J.M. Grohol, Psy.D., 2009, June 26). “Living with an Anxiety Disorder.” PsychCentral.com.
- Wilson, R., Dr. (n.d.). “Panic Attacks.” Anxieties.com.