CBT is an evidence-based therapy for many mental health concerns, including anxiety disorders. Here’s a quick break down of some of the basic principles:

Thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are separate and interconnected. This means we don’t have to fall into mood-dependent behavior patterns; we can feel a certain way and act in a different way because emotions and actions are two different things. With this being said, thoughts, emotions, and actions are also interconnected. Thoughts have the power to impact emotions and behaviors. Emotions have the power to impact thoughts and behaviors. Behaviors have the power to impact thoughts and emotions.

A change in any of these (thoughts, emotions, or behaviors) can, therefore, change the others. Here’s an example:

Thought: I am a failure

Impact on Emotions: Feel sad, angry, hopeless, ashamed, envious of others who are “perfect”

Impact on Behaviors: Act like a failure, stop trying new/challenging things, give up on goals or excessively work to the point of exhaustion and neglect basic self-care

Option 1: Change the thought (cognitive restructuring)

Thought: I am a failure

Reframe: I made a mistake and mistakes are part of being human. I’m learning (self-compassion)

Impact on Emotions: Still might feel sad or angry or ashamed but not hopeless because mistakes are to be expected, emotions aren’t as intense and don’t last as long, still might feel envious of others who didn’t make that mistake but able to recognize everyone is human, feel less alone

Impact on Behaviors: Potential ability to learn from mistake and keep working on goal with this new knowledge (resilience), potential to repair mistake if necessary, continue self-care because it’s only human to make mistakes, take a break to take care of emotions and continue on

Changing the thought has the ability to change emotions and behaviors, which then gives us the ability to change future thoughts, emotions, and behaviors because they are all interacting with each other on an ongoing basis. And that’s changing just one thought.

There’s a lot more that goes into CBT that will not fit into this newsletter. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) fits under the CBT umbrella in that we are working on changing behavioral responses (actions) to obsessions (thoughts) and fear (emotions), which then changes the frequency, intensity, and duration of obsessions and the distressing emotions that are prompted by obsessive thoughts. In ERP, we do not try to change the thoughts, we focus on changing our reaction to the thoughts.

Stay Brave! -The OCD MN Team