Traditional psychology has a long and rich tradition working with different aspects of anxiety disorders. Psychological methods are a distillation of techniques and approaches that have been proven to work and be effective with treating anxiety and panic problems.
Any treatment of anxiety disorders starts from acknowledging the fact that something is wrong and what you are experiencing is much more than normal daily worries. Knowledge and understanding of the details and causes of your condition, that there is a reason for your symptoms, is the first step in psychological treatment and itself brings hope and helps lighten the burden.
Getting more knowledge and information about anxiety disorders, trying self-help approaches, and finding your way in applying them will by itself have a positive psychological impact on your attitude and will encourage you to find solution rather than continue suffering.
However, it is important to understand that successful treatment of anxiety disorders frequently incorporates several types of therapy and different approaches.
Psychological methods are the main tool in dealing with anxiety and panic. Other methods, such as diet, supplements, yoga, and meditation, help build solid foundation for successful treatment, and will restore the biochemical balance in your brain, but psychological methods deliver the decisive blow to anxiety and panic by training the mind to first break the anxiety loop, and then not only avoid it in the future, but build a positive reinforcement loop instead, ensuring healthy, resilient, and confident mind.
There are two major methods that have proven very effective in dealing with Anxiety Disorders:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and
- Operant Conditioning
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This well accepted, proven, and effective program for treatment of anxiety disorders, is based on the concept that one’s feelings and actions are a direct result of our thinking about or attitude towards or reaction to particular situation.
This is actually a very old idea explored in depth by philosophers from antiquity to our days. Everything that we this we feel is actually a model of the external world built by our mind. If our attitudes get skewed towards the negative, that affects this mental model that our mind is building all the time. After a while, and given some specific triggers or circumstances, this negativity may selectively increase and result in the negative thought loop, which deteriorates into a disorder. In other words the way we think affects the way we feel and assess the external events. In turn, the way we feel affects the way we think. If we feel threatened or worried by something, that will cause us to look at the world more negatively, which in turn will make us feel worth. Feeling bad will affect the behavior, which may itself lead to more negative situations, which we acknowledge as even more negativity, which makes us feel worth and worth.
On the other hand, but using our mind in a specific manner, analyzing reasons for specific thought patterns that we can associate with overwhelming anxiety or panic attacks, we can train our mind to change our thinking, attitude and feeling patterns.
This is in essence the core of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – first of all we analyze and find specific patterns of our thinking that negatively affect our feelings and attitudes, and then we change our behavior to eliminate or minimize conditions for such negative thinking.
All of Anxiety Disorders were shown to respond to this type of psychological treatment. Especially good results Cognitive Behavioral Therapy brings with general and social anxiety disorders, as well as panic attacks and disorders.
CBT is, however, not a miracle cure and will require work, discipline, and regularity in application. There are multiple methods that create simple and easy to learn procedures and mental tricks that could be incorporated in a daily routine and practice. That’s why work books and formalized methods are the best way to get started.
One of the proven and popular self-help methods based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the PanicAway method and workbook.
Operant conditioning is a psychological approach directed at enhancing positive behaviors (e.g. those that do not bring a feeling of worry or anxiety), and demoting or removing altogether behaviors that will increase negative feelings leading to anxiety. By repeating a specific behavior (e.g. constantly finding reasons for anxiety in otherwise trivial everyday matters), our brain learns and reinforces negative anxious response (feelings and thoughts) to everyday events. It becomes habitual and results in anxiety disorders.
By applying the reverse logic with Operant Conditioning, it becomes possible to dissolve previous learned negative mental responses, and replace them with new positive reactions and behaviors, eliminating reasons for anxiety disorders.
Operant Conditioning is one of the methods of behavioral therapies, widely used in modern psychology to treat wide range of disorders.
In methods using operant conditioning, you work on:
- Positive Reinforcement of behaviors (including daily habits, attitudes, thoughts and mental states) that result in positive feelings and mental states that are unconductive for worry and anxiety
- Negative Reinforcement of behaviors that are feeding anxiety and worry conditions
One of the most widely known programs using combination of Operant Conditioning and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is The Linden Method
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