Managing Anxiety and Stress with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Dr Alister Baird
13 Nov 2023
Understanding Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and stress, while often used interchangeably, are distinct. Anxiety is a reaction to stress and can manifest as persistent, excessive worries. Stress is a response to a threat in a situation, leading to a sense of being overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Principles of CBT for Anxiety and Stress
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors. It's based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, and changing negative thoughts and behaviors can lead to changes in our emotions.
The first step in CBT is to identify the triggers of anxiety and stress. These can be external, like a stressful job, or internal, like a tendency to assume the worst. Recognising these triggers is crucial for the next steps of treatment.
Challenging Negative Thoughts
CBT involves challenging and restructuring negative thoughts. For instance, if someone believes they will perform poorly in a presentation, CBT encourages examining this belief's evidence and considering alternative, more balanced thoughts.
Developing Coping Strategies
CBT teaches various coping strategies, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and problem-solving skills, to manage anxiety and stress effectively.
In traditional face-to-face CBT sessions, therapists work closely with individuals to tailor strategies to their specific needs.
Example Case: John's Story
John, a 30-year-old with social anxiety, feared public speaking. His therapist used role-playing in sessions to practice speaking skills and gradually exposed John to public speaking scenarios, reducing his anxiety over time.
Digital Mental Health Technologies
Advancements in technology have made CBT more accessible. Digital platforms like mental health apps and teletherapy sessions provide flexible and personalized therapy options.
Online CBT Programs
Online CBT programs, offer structured therapy modules for anxiety and stress management. These platforms often include interactive tools like thought diaries and relaxation exercises.
Teletherapy involves remote sessions with therapists via video calls. It offers the benefits of traditional therapy with added convenience and can be particularly beneficial for individuals with mobility issues or living in remote areas.
Example Case: Sarah's Experience
Sarah, dealing with work-related stress, found relief through an online CBT program. The program's flexibility allowed her to engage in therapy exercises at her pace, leading to significant improvements in her stress levels.
Innovative CBT App for Social Anxiety
We are developing our well-being platform Uvia which provides guided lessons and psycho-education tailored for social anxiety treatment.
Example Case: Emily's Journey
Emily struggled with social anxiety, particularly in group settings. Emily could use guided well-being lessons within Uvia to focus on reducing stress in social interactions. The app's interactive scenarios allowed Emily to practice responses in simulated social situations, reducing her anxiety. Its psycho-educational content helped her understand her anxiety patterns and triggers.
Integrating Face-to-Face and Digital CBT
For many, a combination of face-to-face and digital CBT can offer the best results. Face-to-face sessions provide personalised guidance, while digital tools offer ongoing support and practice opportunities.
Example Case: Combining Approaches
David, suffering from generalised anxiety disorder, benefitted from both in-person therapy and a digital CBT app. The app provided daily exercises and reminders, complementing his bi-weekly therapy sessions.
CBT offers effective strategies for managing anxiety and stress, with options for both traditional face-to-face therapy and digital mental health technologies. By identifying triggers, challenging negative thoughts, and developing coping strategies, individuals can significantly improve their mental health and well-being.