Annually, more than 43 million adults in the US experience some kind of mental health issue, accounting for 5% of the total population. A deeper look into the statistic reveals that around twelve percent of those with mental health issues have one or more than one mental disorder. These disorders can cause multiple problems – emotional, physical health and behavioral problems. Individuals diagnosed with the condition experience lesser happiness in life, and fulfillment in life. Various interventional methods are in use to manage the condition, including cognitive behavioral therapy which is classified as a psycho-social intervention aimed to improve the mental health of the patient. This comprises a holistic approach and a result oriented strategy that is based on techniques that have proven results. Here is a granular look at the therapy to know how it benefits individuals with mental health illnesses.
What is cognitive behavioral therapy and how does it help individuals with mental disorders?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a holistic approach to treat mental health disorders, and is distinct from other approaches such as psychoanalysis. Commonly known by its abbreviation of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy is on the basis of a combination of two related areas of therapy – behavior and cognitive psychology. This is different from other methods that involve a search for the reasons behind the behavior, based on which treatments are suggested. This is more about diagnosis of the unconscious meaning that is responsible for the behavior. CBT is different from this approach, as it involves a direct look at the problems associated with the condition and therapy that is intended to set right the identified problems. The identification of the problems helps in zeroing in on the mental health issue. The whole purpose of CBT is to help individuals diagnosed with the condition to chalk out strategies that will work on the symptoms associated with the condition. The therapy is based on the premise that the acquisition of new skills in cognition will help patients to cope better with the distorted thought processes and behavior that is generally classified as maladaptive. By introducing a mechanism that helps to cope with the flawed cognition, the symptoms and behavior associated with the condition are bound to reduce considerably. This helps in attaining near normalcy, which permits individuals to lead a life that is indistinct from those without the problems.
Types of disorders that can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is regarded as effective in treating multiple conditions that are generally classified as less severe. It is the first line of treatment for multiple disorders, including disorders that are commonly seen in children. Other borderline conditions are also suitable for managing with CBT. For instance, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and other conditions that are typically considered as borderline can be easily managed with CBT.
Conditions such as anxiety, substance abuse, personality disorder and tics are other conditions that can be effectively managed with CBT. Additionally, there are evidence backed suggestions that CBT delivers impressive results in managing major depressive disorders, when it is deployed in combination with medication. Depending on the condition, CBT is used for managing disorders, either all by itself, or in combination with medication and/or other therapeutic interventions. Interpersonal psychotherapy is another intervention that is often used alongside CBT to manage conditions. This explains why psychiatry training in the US involves both the therapeutic interventions as the only psychosocial aspects of training.
What are the different types of mental health disorders?
Among the many known disorders, the following are the broad categories that have been diagnosed as requiring suitable interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
#1 Anxiety – This is one of the most common mental disorders, with individuals feeling some form of anxiety, over routine issues. This condition, by virtue of being mild as a condition, can be managed effectively through therapeutic measures.
#2 Eating related disorders – This is a mental health condition wherein the individual has excessive fear about gaining weight, or binge eating. Patients with anorexia nervosa are more likely to indulge in habits intended to lose weight, despite being underweight. Individuals are more likely to feel that they do not have any control when around food. Cognitive behavioral therapy is regarded as effective in managing the condition as it is possible to help individuals use new information processing techniques to overcome the condition.
#3 Substance abuse – This is rampant globally, and associated with multiple risks from addiction. This is an intense form of mental health disorder and requires sustained efforts to help weed out the addiction, and resolve the underlying reasons behind the urge for intoxication. Therapy includes de-addiction and rehabilitation efforts that involve multi-disciplinary efforts that include cognitive behavioral therapy.
#4 Psychotic – This is perhaps one of the most stigmatic conditions, with individuals suffering from a totally different perception of reality. This altered experience causes individuals to behave differently, with adversely impacts routine and interaction with others. The most common example of this condition is schizophrenia and individuals with the condition are known to have extremely high suicidal tendencies. In a limited number of cases, patients are known to turn violent, while most patients are not violent despite differences in behavior and perception.
#5 Disorders from trauma – This condition can be classified as a more severe form of anxiety disorder and can be managed effectively with cognitive behavioral therapy. This mental condition is typically experienced when the individual is unable to get over anxiety or memories of events that are traumatic in nature. Events such as witnessing or being a victim of violence, sexual assault, natural disasters, or witnessing violent death can trigger post traumatic stress disorder.
#6 Mood related disorders – Common examples of mood related disorders include depression, mania and bipolar disorders. Individuals with this condition are known to exhibit extreme mood swings. For instance, individuals with bipolar disorder are known to experience episodes of depression which involves an extremely lethargic feeling. Similarly, individuals with the disorder are known to have extremely high feelings, including overly active periods. Bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression is of two types – longer sessions of depressive episodes and shorter sessions of depression. The first type is regarded as sever, while the second type is relatively less severe. Another condition associated with mood related disorders includes depression, which is effectively a milder form of bipolar disorder. Individuals experiencing depression are most likely to feel worthless with a strong urge to commit suicide. The last category in mood related disorders is mania. This phase of bipolar disorder makes the patient feel euphoric for no reason, and as a result the individual is most likely to go on a spending spree, with grandiose plans. During this phase, there are possibilities of individuals getting annoyed quickly, with dislike for food and rest. Cognitive behavioral therapy is part of the holistic approach to manage mood related disorders and is extremely effective in conditions that are less severe.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – This neurodevelopmental disorder is more common during childhood and is one of the more common mental health issues. Children with this condition are known to have low self-esteem and face challenges in school or growing up, which may also possibly result in troubled relationships as adults. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one among the different methods used for managing the condition and as therapy to help children come out of the disorder.
Main principles that govern the techniques methods of cognitive behavioral therapy
#1. One of the reasons for problems faced by individuals with mental health disorders include the manner in which the individual thinks. This can be set right when the individual learns to change the manner in which he or she processes information.
#2. Patients suffering from the condition are known to follow certain patterns of behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves creation of thought patterns that will help individuals to recognize the distortions in thinking and behavior that are responsible for their conduct.
#3. Imparting different problem solving skills that help individuals to handle different situations.
#4. Build self esteem in individuals which helps develop confidence in abilities. This gives a more positive attitude, which helps individuals to stop withdrawing into themselves. Greater confidence in oneself helps individuals to face problems and fears, rather than running away from the issues.
#5. Methods that help individuals to relax and get over anxiety which triggers behavioral changes. Attaining a state of complete relaxation helps individuals approach problems smoothly, rather than react strangely to the situation.
Positive impact of CBT on individuals with mental health issues
Practitioners of cognitive behavioral therapy help individuals cope with mental health issues through short term therapy. The psychotherapy is designed to support individuals with the right kind of counseling which equips individuals to handle situations normally. Most cases of mental health disorders are those of individuals who react differently and often take pre-emptive action, due to apprehensions of events and circumstances. The therapy is designed to help individuals overcome these apprehensions and react in the same manner as every individual would normally do.
The whole concept of CBT is based on helping individuals be grounded to reality, rather than see it from an alarming perspective. Many individuals are known to wallow in self-pity and take the blame for events that are unrelated to the individual. CBT helps individuals to break out of irrational thoughts and focus on positive actions that help in identifying issues clearly, thereby bringing thoughts, behavior and conduct back to normalcy.
Different phases of therapy in CBT
Cognitive behavioral therapy typically has different phases that are designed to assist the individual to overcome the challenges. This includes an assessment phase, reconceptualization, new skills acquisition, maintenance and post therapy assessment. The purpose of these different phases is to identify the behaviors that need to be changed, help individuals look at new concepts to replace past responses, and acquire skills that will help them to deal with the situation. This is then followed up with an assessment of the therapy and its effectiveness, to determine if changes are required to accomplish the goals.
CBT involves the use of different protocols for delivering the therapy and its benefits to patients. One on one counseling, group counseling and self-instructions are all part of the therapy. Individuals are assisted with information, and techniques that are self-help in nature and this is intended to make individuals change within. Awareness and changes among patients are the goals of cognitive behavioral therapy. The focus of the therapy is to restructure and adjust the behavioral responses of patients to situations, circumstances and events. This is through a structured process of identification, re-skilling and behavior oriented therapy that changes the perspective of patients. The manner in which inputs are processed make the difference between behavior that is considered as normal and behavior that requires change.