What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological therapy aimed to improve the symptoms of various mental health conditions such as Anxiety and Depression. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts influence our feelings which influence our behavior. If we can restructure our maladaptive thinking patterns or cognitive distortions, we can improve our mental condition. There are many different types of CBT and different therapists may suggest different approaches.
What are cognitive distortions?
Cognitive distortions are patterns of thinking that result in a negative and inaccurate view of ones self, the environment, and the future, according to Beck’s Cognitive Triad. For example, someone with depression may believe that he or she is never going to be successful after a minor fallback which is an example of exaggeration or catastrophizing. By recognizing these distortions and restructuring them you can develop healthier thought patterns which improve feelings and behavior.
What are some examples of cognitive distortions?
Often these distortions are not isolated but in combination in mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
Catastrophizing/Magnification is when people believe that a problem is larger or more significant than it really is. For example, if someone got a bad grade on a test then they might believe that they’re a terrible student and they’re never going to be successful in school.
Minimizing the positive is when people discount or ignore the positive aspects of a situation. It’s common for people to focus on the negatives which can create a distorted view of the situation and may lead to depression or decreased motivation.
Arbitrary Inference is when people make assumptions without any evidence or concrete reasoning behind their beliefs. This is often seen in mind reading, where someone makes incorrect assumptions about what someone else is thinking based on their behavior.
Overgeneralization is when people believe in sweeping conclusions from a single event. This can be similar to magnification where one believes that everybody hates them because of a single embarrassing or even neutral event.
Personalization is when people believe that an ambiguous event is related to them specifically. This is a common source of guilt, as people may believe they’re solely to blame for an accident or failure of a team. Taking things personally can increase anxiety and depression symptoms.
What conditions can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy improve?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a first-line treatment for many mental health disorders. It’s shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, personality disorders, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
How can I practice CBT?
If you’re seeing a therapist, they will guide you through exercises to improve your coping skills and wellbeing. Alternatively, you can try writing your thoughts and feelings into a journal and detect where you might have cognitive distortions and replace them with healthier thinking patterns. Mind Sanctuary provides a mood tracker and journal to be able to work through your symptoms while keeping track of your moods on a calendar. If you need to take an assessment to determine if you might have a specific mental disorder, Mind Sanctuary also offers depression, and anxiety self-tests. You can sign up at Mind Sanctuary