DEPRESSION and anxiety disorders are psychosomatic conditions, i.e., a combination of psychological and physical factors. While the physical (or somatic) component of the condition is treated with anti-depressants, the psychologcal component is treated through psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy involves talking to a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or a counselor who first identify the reason for an anxiety disorder and how to alleviate the impact of the reason on the patient’s psyche. The particular type of psychotherapy that has been found very useful in treating anxiety disorders is: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). As its name suggests, CBT comrpises two elements: the cognitive element, and the behavioral element.
Cognitive element: The cognitive element of CBT helps people amend the thought structure that generates the fears and anxieties that have caused the anxiety disorder.
Behavioral element: The behavioral element of CBT encourages people to change the nature of their reaction to anxiety-causing situations.
Illustrations of how CBT works: Suppose a psychiatrist is treating a patient suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in which he or she is afraid of being infected by germs, so keeps washing hands repeatedly. A psychiatrist or a trained professional in mental health will allow this patient’s hands to get dirty and wait for increasing lengths of time before allowing him or her to washing them. When this exercise has been repeated several times, and the patient find that no infection has been caused despite the dirty hands that remained unwashd for so long, his or her fears of infection through germs will decrease.
Another example of how CBT works is, say, in the treatment of social phobia. The patient is encouraged to be present in social situations he or she fears and is allowed to commit social errors or inetiquettes. It will then be pointed out to him that nobody has really noticed – or might have noticed but did not give it any importance, or, better still, some others too have committed the same errors and are yet socially very comfortable – the patient will become more receptive to the social setting he or she once feared.
CBT usually lasts around three months and is administered individually or in groups. It may begin directly with the patient or may begin with videos and pictures depicting the situation the patient fears and how he overcomes the fears.
Finally, CBT can only work with the patient’s cooperation. The patient must acknowledge that an anxiety disorder afflicts him/her and must therefore want to take this therapy. Backed with administration of anti-depressant drugs, CBT can enable people with anxiety disorders live a normal and full life.