How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Lower Stress and Improve Your Mood

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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a technique that psychologists use to help change your mood and reduce stress, and the technique has helped people recover from depression and anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy is not new, but the information about this treatment has grown and the uses for the therapy have increased since its development in the 1980’s. Prior to CBT, treatments focused either on thoughts or the cognitive processes of the mind, or behavioral therapy focused on changing the behavior of the individual.

Here’s How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Change Your Mood And Reduce Stress says ‘CBT works by changing people’s attitudes and their behavior by focusing on the thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes that are held (a person’s cognitive processes) and how these processes relate to the way a person behaves, as a way of dealing with emotional problems.’

CBT combines thoughts, behavior, and emotions or feelings into a single therapy to work to reframe thoughts about emotional states and influence behavior as a result of these changes in thought.

The mind-body connection and cognitive-behavioral therapy

When researchers looked at using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat physical pain in the body, they discovered that the technique was useful in connection with meditation and light exercise or movement therapy. This is unique because most therapy techniques focus on the mind only, without finding that by changing the mind, we can change our experience of pain in the body.

The research study done by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland found ‘a mind-body approach (cognitive-behavioral therapy) was tested that has been successful in treating chronic back pain patients to determine whether it would improve function, decrease perceived pain, and improve mood state for fibromyalgia patients.’ The results were surprising and they show that CBT can help patients to think differently about their physical pain, which leads to less reported pain at the end of the treatment.

Research review of cognitive-behavioral therapy for mood and stress disorders

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, the Medical University of South Carolina, and Drexel University looked at 325 studies on the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and reviewed the results. They found that CBT was better than antidepressant pharmaceutical drug treatment for depression in adult patients seeking treatment for their depression. They also found that CBT as a therapy was equally effective as behavioral therapy alone in the treatment of adult depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The researchers concluded that CBT is effective for many disorders.

‘We also aimed to provide answers regarding the degree to which the effects of CT persist following the termination of treatment. The meta-analyses reviewed strongly suggest that across many disorders the effects of CT are maintained for substantial periods beyond the cessation of treatment. More specifically, significant evidence for long-term effectiveness was found for depression, generalized anxiety, panic, social phobia, OCD, sexual offending, schizophrenia, and childhood internalizing disorders.

In the cases of depression and panic, there appears to be robust and convergent meta-analytic evidence that CT produces vastly superior long-term persistence of effects, with relapse rates half those of pharmacotherapy. In addition, CT appears to show greater long-term effects in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder as compared to applied relaxation. ‘

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In the review of the research, CBT has also been used in the treatment of substance abuse, anger, marital problems, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and anorexia nervosa. It is possible that cognitive behavioral therapy will be as effective as drug therapies for these psychological disorders as well, but this study did not evaluate treatment for these conditions.

How cognitive behavior therapy works to change your mood

We sometimes have thoughts about ourselves that are false, distorted, or negative about ourselves and CBT works by first helping us to identify these incorrect thoughts. For example, if you accidentally spilled your coffee this morning and immediately thought to yourself ‘There I go again, being clumsy,’ this negative thought about yourself can put you in a negative mood. If you choose to believe that you are clumsy, you may be more likely to do it again. The first step of CBT is to identify these incorrect statements and thoughts in your mind.

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The second step is to question the thoughts. You might say ‘Why do I believe that I am clumsy?’ or ‘Haven’t I had more days of not spilling my coffee than days that I did spill it?’ The third step is to replace the negative thought with a positive. For example, you might say ‘Even though I spilled my coffee, it was just an accident. I am normally very careful’ or ‘That was a one-time mistake that is not likely to happen again.’ Give yourself some positive self-talk and reject the negative.

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