Dear Counsellor

What is Anxiety and can it be treated with CBT?

Anxiety is a feeling of intense discomfort. This results in a person being afraid of something and try their best to avoid it. Although we use avoidance as a method of release; it is important to understand that every time we avoid an anxiety-producing situation. The next time the anxiety will be even worse. This is how our brain views it: “When I avoid this situation, I feel better. I guess I should try to avoid it next time too.” The graph below provides a visual imagery of how this works.

(A person is confronted with an anxiety-producing situation which leads to uncomfortable sense of worry and agitation.)

(The anxiety-producing situation is avoided and the person receives a feeling of relief. However, next time the anxiety will be worse.)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has become the leading treatment for anxiety. Research have found that CBT can be an effective treatment for anxiety after as few as 8 sessions, with or without any form of medication.  

It works by identifying and addressing how a person’s thoughts and behaviours interact to create anxiety. Therapists work with clients to recognize how negative thought patterns influence a person’s feelings and behaviours. Below is an example ofhow two different people can react to a situation differently based upon their thoughts:

Situation: You are required to give a presentation in front of a large group.
I’ll practice and do great!confident, anticipatoryPractices and completes the presentation without problem
I bet I make a fool of myself in front of everyone.anxious, worried, scaredPuts off practicing, attempts to get out of doing the presentation.

With CBT, a therapist attempts to intervene by changing negative thought patterns, teaching relaxation skills, and changing behaviours that lead to the problem worsening. To help provide motivation for treatment and get a client on board, providing psychoeducation about anxiety is the first step of treatment.


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