Fear and anxiety are a normal part of life, even adaptive in many conditions. Who among us has not studied for a test without some anxiety -- and scored better for it? Who has not walked down a dark street in a high crime district without mounting fear? Normal anxiety keeps us alert: it makes us question whether we really have to walk down that street after all.
Mental health professionals are not concerned with normal anxiety. Rather, they attend to fear and anxiety that has somehow gone awry; that inexplicably reaches overwhelming levels; that dramatically reduces or eliminates productivity and significantly intrudes on an individual's quality of life; and for which friends, family and even the patient can find no obvious cause.
How Can Therapy Help?
Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses negative patterns and distortions in the way we look at the world and ourselves. As the name suggests, this involves two main components:
- Cognitive therapy examines how negative thoughts, or cognitions , contribute to anxiety.
- Behavior therapy examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety.
The basic premise of cognitive behavioral therapy is that our thoughts—not external events—affect the way we feel. In other words, it’s not the situation you’re in that determines how you feel, but your perception of the situation.