Friday, October 21, 2011

Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Anxiety by Michael Logan

Cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety is therapy to break the cycle of wrong thinking. It gives a person back control, educates and changes the way certain patterns or way of life have been lived.

From childhood or through traumatic events, we learn a set of coping skills that can become coping mechanisms. This type of treatment has been shown to be very effecting in treating anxiety and helping patients understand why they do what they do and how to change it.

When a person feels fear, the body will react as if that fear was real. So if you feared that wind whipping through the trees would make them crash down around you, your body would release adrenaline in response to that fear.

Now if you were actually in danger, that adrenaline could give you a burst of energy that could make you flee from the harm in order to protect yourself. That's a healthy response. An unhealthy response is living in anxiety because of what does not take place. For example, you fear getting fired. It hasn't happened, but you worry about it. Not an every now and then worry but an all the time worry.

You fear that you're going to have an accident on the way to work. You fear that something might happen to your children, to your parents, to your spouse. You fear that your house might burn down or you might lose all your savings. Everyone has passing thoughts where a twinge of worry or anxiety will occur.

That's just living life in the world we live in. But when the thoughts don't pass by, when they stick around in our minds and we play them over again like a broken record, that signals a problem. Cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety helps the mind to stop playing that broken record and helps sufferers to move beyond the place they're stuck.

Therapy and education about anxiety and understanding why some thoughts create an action and trigger a response can lead to freedom. The negative self talk can be changed into positive self talk. If you take the time to examine some of the thoughts you have, you might even see how you play the same tracks you were taught growing up or by a traumatic event.

We all have a belief system but not all the things we believe are actually true. We can change what is good and what is right and jumble it up in our minds with beliefs that are harmful and wrong. Let's say that you have a fear of snakes because you stepped on one as a child and it bit you.

You have an opportunity to visit an aquarium but don't go because you're worried that the snakes might get out of their cages and you'll get bitten. Even thinking about getting bitten again makes you feel like you're going to faint. Your heart starts pounding and your head begins to ache.

This is a physical response to the fear of what could have happened but hasn't. Cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety can help people overcome the anxiety that keeps them living in fear.

In this example, I think it is important to remember that I am disputing my thoughts to feel better where I am, since I am not at the zoo, or near any snakes.

And by the way, fear of snakes is a very primal fear for us humans, going way down into the older parts of our brain.

In my anger management counseling, I often ask clients to tell me the story of what happened the night they got arrested, and often many of the emotions associated with that event will come back, and I will interrupt them to ask them how they are feeling, and with a bit of prompting most will be able to identify a feeling (mad, glad, fear, sad) and I will ask them if the person, place, or thing being discussed is in the room with us.

The answer is always 'no", so we have an excellent example of how the thought brings the feeling, in this case a memory, which may be an automatic negative thought (ANT'S).

As one recognizes those ANT's, one can step on them, and the picnic can go on.

Dr. Daniel Amen uses the example of ants at a picnic to illustrate how ANT's can become problematic.

He says one or ten ANTS at a picnic will probably not be a problem, but twenty or thirty can ruin the picnic.

So how do you dispute ANTS?

First, one must learn the early warning signs of ANTS, which will be a feeling, certain kinds of words in your thoughts (should, ought, must, have to, for example), or a behavior, and change the thinking or cognition or take a time out.

ANTS can appear in 1/18th second, and the physiology of fear or anger is right with the ANT.

If cognitive behavioral therapy for ANTS seems impossible because of the speed at which your Central Nervous System works, remember you have been successful at your own version of this thousands of times.

But breakdowns can be serious, so learn to substitute thoughts like "Gratitude is the Attitude" for ANTS, and you will begin the process of getting more potato salad at the picnic rather than throwing verbal or physical punches.

If you are looking for an industrial strength tool for cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety, you should look into heart rate variability biofeedback.

Heart rate variability biofeedback is a computerized program that will give you real time feedback about your thinking and how it impacts your body. You can see what thoughts of gratitude and thoughts of victimization do to your heart rate variability coherence and how fast that happens, and train the cognitive antidote to anxiety, by asking the brain in your heart to learn a new skill.

Heart rate variability biofeedback is actually a very quick process to learn, but check out the videos in the following link to get a sense of it.