Depression and anxiety disorders are psychosomatic conditions, meaning a combination of psychological and physical factors. While the physical (or somatic) component of the condition is treated through antidepressants, the psychological component is treated through psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy involves talking to a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or counselor who first identifies the cause of the anxiety disorder and how to alleviate the effect of the cause on the patient’s psyche. The particular type of psychotherapy that has been found to be very useful in treating anxiety disorders is: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). As its name implies, CBT is made up of two elements: the cognitive element and the behavioral element.
Cognitive element: The cognitive foundation of CBT helps people correct the thought structure that creates the fears and anxieties that caused the anxiety disorder.
Behavioral element: The behavioral element of CBT encourages people to change the nature of their response to anxiety-causing situations.
Illustrations of CBT behavior: Suppose a psychiatrist treats a patient with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in which he is afraid of contracting bacteria, and therefore continues to wash his hands repeatedly. A psychiatrist or mental health professional will allow the patient to get dirty and wait longer before allowing him to wash them. When this exercise is repeated several times, and the patient finds that no infection has been caused despite the dirty hands remaining not washed for so long, his apprehension or infection through bacteria will diminish.
Another example of how CBT works is, for example, in the treatment of social phobia. The patient is encouraged to be present in social situations that he fears and he may make social mistakes or manners. It will then be noted that no one really noticed – or perhaps noticed but did not give it importance, or, moreover, some others also made the same mistakes and are still very socially comfortable – the patient will become more receptive to the social framework they once feared.
CBT usually lasts about three months and is administered individually or in groups. It can start directly with the patient or perhaps start with videos and pictures that describe the situation the patient fears and how he overcomes the fears.
Finally, CBT can only work in the patient’s cooperation. The patient must recognize that an anxiety disorder is affecting him / her and therefore he or she must want to take this treatment. Backed by a dose of antidepressants, CBT can enable people with anxiety disorders to live a normal and full life.