Psychotherapy can be a life-altering treatment option for people suffering from anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy involves meeting regularly with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist. During these meetings, patient and doctor seek to discover what caused the anxiety disorder, and how to deal with its symptoms. The most common forms of psychotherapy are behavioral and cognitive therapy. During behavioral psychotherapy, a patient learns to change undesirable thought patterns that may be leading to the behavioral manifestation of his anxiety. For example, an individual with panic disorder may learn calming phrases to repeat at the onset of a panic attack. Or a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, might explore the ways in which his anxieties are disproportionate to reality, in an effort to offset the physical expression of the anxiety. cognitive psychotherapy focuses more on a patient exploring his past, in the hopes of finding the source of anxiety. Once a source of anxious feelings is found, an individual can then learn to rationalize and control them. During behavioral psychotherapy, meanwhile, a patient seeks to change reactions to anxiety-inducing situations. So a patient with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, may be slowly asked to cease the rituals that help them deal with anxiety. For an OCD-sufferer obsessed with germs, this means going several hours between hand washings or it could mean repeat exposure to an oven for someone accustomed to checking it repeatedly. In contrast, in cognitive therapy, the focus is on the ideation and thought patterns that lead to the behavior. Behavioral psychotherapy can also be as simple as teaching a person with ANY anxiety disorder to engage in deep breathing or meditation. Often, these cognitive and behavioral approaches are combined into a therapy technique called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. During CBT, physical and mental reactions are given equal consideration by a therapist. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, the benefits of CBT may have a greater impact on anxiety than even medication. But for CBT to be effective, it must be tailored to an individual's specific anxiety disorder, and should be continued for an adequate period of time. This period can range from as few sessions as 12, to a lifetime of them, although three months of therapy is considered the base minimum in order to achieve results. If you or someone you love is experiencing problems with anxiety, discuss psychotherapy with a mental health professional!
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012