What problems can CBT help with?

Mental distress causes the brain to work faster and harder than when calm and settled. This is responsible for many of the unpleasant symptoms of depression and anxiety. CBT helps to ultimately calm the brain down through changing some of the thoughts and behaviours that are maintaining the distress.

Worry and rumination (getting stuck on thoughts) are processes that we all engage in. It is the whirring thoughts and concerns that tick away in our heads. When depressed and/or anxious this ‘background noise’ becomes louder, more negative and threat focused. We find it hard to ignore so get caught up literally inside our own heads. Problems that CBT can help with include the following list, as all the conditions cause excess worry, fear and/or rumination:

  • Depression – either acute, chronic or recurrent 
  • Generalised Anxiety (often referred to as GAD) – characterized by excessive worry
  • Social Anxiety (also known as Social Phobia)
  • Health Anxiety
  • Panic attacks or other distressing symptoms of intense acute anxiety
  • Phobias – fears of specific objects or activities 
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Sleep problems and insomnia (if no medical cause)
  • Eating Disorders
  • Emotional dysregulation, including:
    • Habit behaviours such as skin picking and hair pulling
    • Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUS) including non-epileptic seizures
    • Some addictive behaviours
    • Anger issues
    • Self-harm

CBT is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the psychological treatment of choice for a number of the problems listed. This is based on clinical research. It is important to acknowledge that the research is not conclusive regarding effectiveness for every condition and everybody who uses the approach. There are many factors which impact on therapy success, mainly motivation, good therapeutic relationship and skill level and experience of the therapist. 

See page 6 of the Mind Guide to CBT: