Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Anxiety Disorders

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is one of the major impairing problems that affect children as well as adolescents diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the approaches used to treat anxiety among children and adolescents. CBT is composed of interventions that share the basic assumption that psychological distress and mental disorders are maintained by cognitive factors. Emerging evidence proves that the application of CBT could minimize anxiety among children who are diagnosed with high-functioning ASD (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer, & Fang, 2012). The purpose of this paper is to discuss how is CBT used to treat anxiety in children and adolescents and to determine if it works for everyone.

The CBT approach to anxiety is a method formed on the assumption that both behavioral and cognitive processes cause and maintain anxiety (Hofmann et al., 2012).  In regard to how CBT is used, to treat children with anxiety, Sukhodolsky, Bloch, Panza, and Reichow  (2013) pointed out that the approach is used to teach the child as well as an adolescent on new approaches behaviors and strategies that can be used to deal with unrealistic anxious beliefs and thoughts. For example, CBT is applied to teach children and adolescents how to cope with the environment and disruptions. Subsequently, concrete problem-solving skills are imparted to them. For example, behavioral avoidance is one way that allows children and adolescents to avoid distressing events in order to reduce anxiety.  Cognitive restructuring is achieved via CBT and it assists children and adolescents in identifying and replacing distorted cognitions in their brains with beliefs that are more adaptive (Hofmann et al., 2012). For instance, CBT is applied to identify and reduce negative self-talk, generate positive and strong self-statements, create a plan for feared situations, and stop negative thoughts and beliefs. The aim of CBT is to change maladaptive thought processes by cultivating new problem-solving skills, and it can be achieved via the use of anxious fliers and combating unhelpful thoughts.

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The fact that whether CBT works for everyone, there are past studies that show that this approach has been effective in treating anxiety (Hofmann et al., 2012; Seligman, & Ollendick, 2011; Sukhodolsky et al., 2013). When used, CBT could be effective in treating anxiety disorders.  Nonetheless, the magnitude of anxiety disorders has different effects on persons and for this reason, CBT may not work for some people. For instance, the CT is based on the premise that irrational thought cognitions and patterns are responsible for mental health problems and maladaptive behaviors. However, changing one’s thinking patterns could not always be effective, especially when the patient is not willing to cooperate.

CBT can be applied to treat anxiety among children and adolescents. For instance, it is applied to change the thought and cognition processes of children by instilling new strategies to improve coping skills. For example, anxiety fliers or avoiding unhelpful thoughts could help children with CBT. The effectiveness of CBT varies from one person to another, and it may always work for everyone.


Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Cognitive Therapy and Research36(5), 427–440. doi.org/10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1.

Seligman, L. D., & Ollendick, T. H. (2011). Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders in youth. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America20(2), 217–238. doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2011.01.003

Sukhodolsky, D. G., Bloch, M. H., Panza, K. E., & Reichow, B. (2013). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety in children with high-functioning autism: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics132(5), e1341–e1350. doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-1193

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