How does online cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety work and what should you know? We explore how online CBT works for anxiety, and how effective both face-to-face CBT and online CBT really are if you struggle with an anxiety disorder.
Should You Consider Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety?
If you struggle with anxiety, you likely know how debilitating it can be. There are medicines for anxiety, but there may be reasons you don’t want to take anxiety medication. For example, anxiety medication could cause unwanted side effects, or you could be pregnant. Some people don’t see many benefits with anxiety medication either, so they want to consider something else.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is widely considered one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. People who are time-crunched or perhaps unwilling or unable to go to see a therapist each week to work on their anxiety also have a new option—online cognitive behavioral therapy also known as online CBT or computerized CBT.
What Is Anxiety?
Before exploring the role of online cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, what exactly is anxiety?
All of us feel anxiety from time-to-time, and it’s considered a normal emotion. However, if you feel a significant amount of anxiety or it’s impacting your life, you may have a diagnosable medical disorder.
Anxiety disorders are actually a group of mental health conditions with primary symptoms of excessive fear, worry, and nervousness. When you struggle with anxiety, it affects your thoughts and emotions as well as your behavior. Many people with anxiety also have physical symptoms. An estimated 40 million people in the U.S have an anxiety disorder, but of those less than 37% receive treatment.
When Do You Need Treatment for Your Anxiety?
If you regularly experience feelings of fear or worry that are not proportionate with the situation you’re facing, you may need anxiety treatment. Symptoms of anxiety can include:
- Restlessness or an ongoing feeling of being edgy
- Uncontrollable worry
- Problems concentration
- Sleep disturbances
What Are the Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders?
There are several types of anxiety disorders, as categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders: Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
These anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A chronic disorder characterized by long-term worry about nonspecific situations and events. With generalized anxiety disorder or GAD, a person will often be unable to pinpoint the source of their anxiety.
- Panic Disorder: With panic disorder, a person will often experience sudden and severe terror and fear. Physical symptoms can include confusion, nausea, problems breathing and shaking. Panic attacks that occur as part of panic disorder can be debilitating and often lead a person to have to make drastic changes in their lifestyle to try and avoid triggering a panic attack.
- Phobias: A phobia is different from other types of anxiety disorders because there is a specific and identifiable cause. People with phobias tend to know it’s not logical, but they can’t stop the feelings.
- Social Anxiety: Social Anxiety is also known as having a social phobia. Someone with social anxiety will often get to the point where they avoid social situations because of a fear of embarrassment or rejection.
What Are the Treatments for Anxiety?
There are a few main treatments for anxiety available. Most people find their best outcomes stem from a combination of medication and behavioral therapy, as well as psychotherapy in some cases. There are some coping techniques people with anxiety can practice as well, usually in addition to medical treatment. Coping techniques for anxiety can include stress management, relaxation techniques like mindfulness, and learning to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is one of the best forms of behavioral therapy for people who struggle with anxiety. With CBT, you work to recognize your negative, damaging thought patterns that lead to feelings of anxiety and distress. Then, you can start working with your CBT practitioner to limit distorted thinking and ultimately change how you react to the situations that trigger your anxiety.
The Benefits of CBT for Anxiety
CBT tends to bring together components of both cognitive and behavioral therapy in an ideal way for many people struggling with anxiety. An example of CBT in action would look like this—someone with social anxiety dreads social interactions to the point that he or she drinks excessively to ease their anxiety. Then, following a night of heavy drinking, the person feels even worse.
The goal of CBT would be to help that person learn to challenge the negative thoughts leading to social anxiety and ultimately the heavy drinking. Along with recognizing negative thought patterns, the person engaging in CBT would learn how to develop different ways to cope with social situations outside of the use of alcohol.
One reason CBT for anxiety is a preferred treatment route is that research shows it works very well. There have been many studies, including large-scale studies looking at the effects of CBT for anxiety and it’s been shown to be highly effective in treating anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Along with the effectiveness, CBT for anxiety is safe for people who can’t or don’t want to take medications.
The goal of CBT for anxiety is to help someone not only recognize harmful or negative ways of thinking and gain coping skills, but it also gives the participant general problem-solving skills.
Most forms of CBT for anxiety are fairly short-term—that’s another benefit of cognitive behavioral therapy in general. It tends to have a set period that you engage in it, so it’s not something you necessarily have to do for the rest of your life.
According to the American Psychological Association, most people start to see significant improvements with 8 to 10 therapy sessions.
What About Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety?
In the past, despite the reported effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, many people didn’t receive treatment. Some of the barriers to receiving anxiety treatment include cost, lack of insurance, embarrassment or fear of shame, and time constraints.
Online cognitive-behavioral therapy seeks to eliminate many of those barriers and make treatment more affordable and convenient for more people.
So, does online cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety work as well as in-person therapy?
According to research available now, the answer appears to be yes.
A study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal in November 2017 showed just how effective online CBT and computer programs for anxiety might be.
The study looked at the effectiveness of computer-based CBT along with an internet support group. Patients who participated showed improvements in mood and quality of life as well as reduced anxiety as compared to people who received only care from their primary care physician.
The study went on to show that the more online therapy sessions a participant completed, the better their improvements in mental health. Their recovery also tended to be long-term, and they were still showing improvements six months after they received online CBT.
The study included more than 700 participants with anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic or depression.
The online CBT the participants received was broken into eight interactive sessions with online homework (in the form of worksheets) that helped them with basic techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy.
The study summed up by highlighting the benefits of online CBT as helping participants avoid the stigma of seeing a therapist, 24/7 access, and more consistency and scalability than was found with traditional therapy.
The Best Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety
There are different online CBT programs for anxiety, but here at My Addiction Info, we’ve partnered with Online-Therapy.com so that our readers can receive a 20% discount on their first month. An Online-Therapy membership includes:
- An assigned personal therapist who will guide you through your CBT for anxiety
- Sections of assignments that include both reading material and hands-on tools so you can identify and overcome your anxiety symptoms and problems
- CBT worksheets come with a membership and then as you answer the questions on the worksheet or if you need help, you can connect directly through with your therapist
- Each week, as a member of Online-Therapy you have 30 minutes of live chat time with your therapist for guidance and support
- There’s a personal journal so that you can see how your attitude changes over time with ongoing CBT
- Online-Therapy offers an activity plan so you can hold yourself accountable
- There’s a “happiness toolbox” as part of this platform that includes videos to manage anxiety and stress and boost mood quickly
- There are flexible subscription plans
If you’d like to learn more about Online-Therapy and online CBT for anxiety, visit their site for access to our exclusive 20% discount.
Catreine, James Ph.D. “Online cognitive behavioral therapy: The latest trend in mental health care.” Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School. November 4, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019.
Kaczkurkin, Antonia N, and Edna B Foa. “Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience vol. 17,3 (2015): 337-46.
Hunley, Samuel. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Effective Anxiety Treatment.” Anxiety.org. May 24, 2017. Accessed April 29, 2019.
Richmond, Linda M. “Guided Online CBT Benefits Patients with Depression, Anxiety.”: Psychiatric News American Psychiatric Association. February 1, 2018.