Count against depression

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is among the best treatments to beat anxiety, and it helps solve a wide range of problems by averting ‘cognitive distortions’

Count against depression

I have been recently diagnosed with depression & anxiety. My psychiatrist recommended that I begin CBT. I was curious to know more before I began. What is it? Is it something that can help me?

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and is considered a gold standard for standalone or add-on treatment of anxiety and depression. It is a psychotherapeutic treatment that enables one to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on behaviour and emotions.

It was pioneered by Aron Beck — considered as the father of CBT — who passed away recently and was an American psychiatrist and professor.

CBT is the most effective form of treatment for those coping with depression and anxiety. It is in itself 50-75 per cent effective for overcoming depression and anxiety after 5-15 modules. When combined with medication and proper lifestyle, it has the best treatment outcome.

What is CBT?

CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. We are always thinking, always feeling and always behaving. This forms the basis of CBT. By changing our thoughts, identifying our feelings and working on our behaviours, we can approach our problems in a more balanced way.

Cognitive errors or distortions

Cognitive distortions are habitual ways of thinking that are often inaccurate and negatively biased. Cognitive distortions usually develop over time in response to adverse events and experiences. Identifying one's cognitive distortions form a big chunk of CBT. We all have patterns that we get hooked to in our thought process. Identifying, labelling, catching, challenging and finally changing them forms an interesting part of the CBT therapeutic framework.

Engaging in catastrophic thinking: you expect the worst outcome in any situation;

Discounting the positive: you overlook any positives;

Emotional reasoning: you don't look at the rational, and only focus on emotional causes;


❋ Mental filtering;

Jumping to conclusions: instantly making up a theory and sticking to it;

Overgeneralization: stereotyping 'similar' experiences as 'same';

Personalisation: making it all about yourself;

Polarised or black & white thinking: no room for grey zone or middle ground;

Should statements: pressurising self and others with should expectations.

Types of issues where CBT can help

❋ Anxiety

❋ Addiction

❋ Anger issue

❋ Bipolar disorder

❋ Depression

❋ Eating disorders


❋ Panic attacks and PTSD

❋ Phobias

❋ Personality disorders

❋ Relationship issues

❋ Stress management

How to get started?

Keep an open mind: Trust the process. It is like slow and steady wins the race.

Be informed: Read up, find a good book and learn the basics.

Keep a diary / journal: A thought diary forms the basis of CBT.

Find a therapist: finding a therapist with experience in CBT can help you progress faster. Show up regularly to therapy, discuss your entries and observe yourself identifying the negative thought patterns and maladaptive behaviors.

Mindfulness: A new wave of CBT is mindfulness-based CBT, which combines mindfulness methods along with the CBT practice to help tap into feelings and emotions better.

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