Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that can help you change unhelpful or unhealthy ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, depression, and other psychological problems. CBT can be effective for children and adolescents as well as adults.
CBT may be used to treat a wide range of health conditions. One of the best studied uses of CBT is for anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD experience frequent and persistent thoughts (obsessions) that cause them intense distress or interfere with their daily activities. Often they perform ritual-like behaviors (compulsions) in an attempt to relieve their distress. Some common obsessions include fear of germs or contamination, worry about accidentally harming another person, feelings of sexual urges that are considered taboo, or unwanted thoughts about religious subjects. Examples of compulsions include repeatedly washing hands until they’re raw, repeated checking to see whether a door is locked or an appliance is turned off, or counting items in a systematic way.
The goal of treatment is to help you understand your condition and become your own therapist. CBT requires commitment and perseverance both on the part of the patient and therapist.
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you skills to help you better cope with your OCD symptoms. In CBT for OCD, you learn to identify the false beliefs or misinterpretations in your thinking that contribute to anxiety and panic attacks. You also learn to replace these false beliefs with positive and realistic thoughts.
During CBT you learn to change behaviors or thoughts that hurt your ability to function. You may do this by evaluating the relationship between your thoughts, feelings and actions. For example, if your thought is “Everyone at work hates me,” you may feel depressed. This could lead you to stay home from work and avoid others.
In CBT, you and your therapist will discuss what these types of negative thoughts might be for you. Then you can try to replace them with more balanced thoughts that are based on facts rather than emotions. For example, the balanced thought for the above example might be “Most people at work like me.” When you think more realistic thoughts, it can help change how you feel and behave.
Like all psychological treatments, the goals of CBT are to eliminate or control troubling symptoms; improve the individual’s ability to function in social or work situations; and help the individual adapt or cope better with various life stresses. The basic idea underlying CBT is that thoughts determine feelings and behaviors. Furthermore, certain types of thinking can lead to emotional distress and dysfunctional behavior. In other words, people who think in extreme or irrational ways are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, guilt and anger. These thoughts may reflect distortions in the way individuals perceive themselves and their experiences (these distortions are called cognitive errors).
For example, someone suffering from an anxiety disorder may have thoughts like: “I must not make any mistakes at work” or “I can’t stand being in a room if I’m not in control.” In turn these thoughts cause intense anxiety which is relieved only by avoiding situations where mistakes might be made or where the individual feels out of control. If a person suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder has thoughts such as “.
OCD is a disorder that causes people to have unwanted thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).
Many people try to help themselves by using “safety behaviors,” such as avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, seeking reassurance from others, or silently repeating a word or phrase to reduce anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective and widely accepted treatments for OCD. CBT is an active treatment that uses techniques to change behavior, not just talk about it. In cognitive behavioral therapy, you will learn skills and strategies to manage your symptoms.
Therapy for OCD includes both cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on helping you identify the automatic thoughts that cause you to engage in compulsive behavior. Once these harmful thought patterns are identified, it becomes easier to challenge them and replace them with more helpful thought patterns.
Exposure therapy for OCD involves slowly exposing yourself to whatever triggers your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, allowing yourself to experience anxiety without performing the ritualized behavior of compulsions. In this way, CBT can help you approach obsessions without giving into compulsions that only make the problem worse.