7 CBT techniques for Anxiety

In this article we provide an answer to an essential query of “What are the best CBT techniques for anxiety?” and also understand more about the issues arising due to anxiety.

What are the best CBT techniques for anxiety?”

  • Cognitive restructuring, 
  • Exposure or desensitization of fear, 
  • Role play
  • Relaxation and visual imagery, etc.

These are just a few of the many techniques utilized in CBT to combat anxiety. They are explained in detail further in the article. 


Anxiety is an overwhelmingly intense feeling of fear, dread, worry, and uneasiness. It can make a person perspire, feel uneasy and tensed and they can also experience a racing heart when they are anxious. While being anxious is a normal physiological reaction to stressful or triggering situations but when it starts becoming a nuisance in your daily life then it can be classified as a disorder. Anxiety is good when it aids in accelerating your performance or helps you activate your fight or flight responses. But people with anxiety experience a very serious form of anxiety that negatively hampers their performance and growth. This can have serious implications in their personal and social life as well. Therefore it is advisable to get anxiety-related issues treated with the help of an experienced professional.  

Types Of Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety Disorders are categorized into different types. Following are a few examples of anxiety disorders. 

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

People with GAD  experience excessive and irrational worry and anxiety about even normal things and occurrences such as health, career, family, or even anything random occurring in their daily lives. 

7 CBT techniques for Anxiety

Panic disorder. 

Panic attacks are sudden and repeated periods of intense and severe fear even in absence of any real danger. In this disorder, these attacks can occur suddenly without any warning and can last for several minutes. It is one of the worst and serious cases of anxiety. 


Phobias are categorized as fear of particular objects or events. For example, claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces, hydrophobia is a fear of water bodies, social phobia is a fear of social situations. Some people may have fear of heights, spiders, or even larger crowds. 

Causes of Anxiety

There are many causes for anxiety but some commonly found causes are as follows. 

  • Genetic
  • Stress
  • Traumatic Events
  • Environmental Conditions and childhood experience

Symptoms of Anxiety

Everybody experiences anxiety in their way but there are a few common patterns and symptoms generally found in people suffering from anxiety disorders. The commonly found symptoms are as follows.

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach ache
  • Body pain
  • Changes in behavior
  • Mood changes
  • Excessive sweating
  • A constant state of fear


 7 Useful Techniques Of CBT For Reducing Anxiety

Anxiety is part of life and even necessary for optimum human functioning to some extent. Without anxiety or perception of fear our fight or flight responses might not be activated which is an essential aspect of our survival instincts. Following are some techniques utilized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to counter anxiety.

Cognitive Restructuring

One of the most crucial aspects of CBT treatment is cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring refers to the process of eliminating harmful, negative thought processes and replacing them with positive and helpful thoughts. Maladaptive cognitions have an adverse impact on our behavior and emotions hence it is necessary to identify and modify them. By doing so we can achieve positive effects on our feelings, emotions, and behaviors, thereby alleviating our anxiety in the process. 

Thoughts such as “I can never be good enough” or “The world is a scary place”

Can be replaced with “I am worthy and can do well if I tried hard” or “The world has both positive and negative aspects and I can choose to focus on the positives”. By trying to change our way of thinking and perception we can change the way we perceive our fears and conquer them.

Exposure Technique

By facing our fears we can become immune to their negative influence on us over time. But the exposure has to be systematic and consistent. Confronting our fears without taking proper measures can lead to harmful consequences. In this technique a person is gradually eased into the situation they are afraid of or detest. Constant exposure decreases the impact as the person comes to terms with the fact that the situation or the object of their fear might be scary but they can still survive after facing it. For example, a person with a social anxiety disorder is exposed to events or situations where they have to interact with people. Though the amount of interaction and number of people will be controlled and minimum, at least initially. 

Role Play

In role technique, a hypothetical situation, that might generate fear within the person, is enacted. Through this method, the client gets used to the situation and has a chance to understand what their possible reaction could be if such an event were to occur in real life. It also prepares them to face such situations in the future by simulating them in a controlled environment. For example, a person with acrophobia (fear of heights) the client could be asked to role-play and enact a situation where they have gone on trekking. By enacting and imagining the situation it provides the client with a rough idea as to how their reaction would be to the situation and how prepared they are if such a situation were to happen in real life.


Breathing Exercises and PMR (Progressive muscle relaxation) are some of the best ways to combat the physical symptoms of anxiety. Also once we have calmed our physical symptoms it helps in relaxing our emotions and moods as our feelings, behavior, and physical symptoms are all interconnected according to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Breathing exercises could be simple exercises wherein we are required to take in and release deep breaths. In PMR all the muscles in our body from the top of our head to the tip of our toe are contracted and relaxed to release the tension accumulated in our body. 

Visual Imagery

Visual imagery technique is a very innovative method of not only relaxing one’s mind but also exposing oneself to perceived threats through imagination. Through this technique, we can expose ourselves to our fears without putting ourselves at real risk. But we can feel the emotions or feelings that would be generated in the real-life scenario.

Suppose a person is afraid of enclosed spaces and is wary of facing this fear in reality. They can imagine themselves being in a closed room or space. By using this method they will undergo the emotions they normally experience while being in their feared situation. Through consistent use, they might become used to that scenario or at least be able to think about it without being paralyzed into shock. 

Thought stopping technique

In this technique, the unwanted or fear-inducing thoughts are either suppressed or pushed away.  With this technique, the negative thought patterns are disrupted so that they can be modified into positive thought patterns and also redirected into a way that helps alleviate stress. Often our worrisome thoughts pop into our mind automatically but create havoc in our minds that lead to distressing behavior. By preventing such thoughts from being formulated we can secure our mental calm and stability and prevent anxiety. But it is important to note that this technique is highly controversial and is generally not recommended by therapists. It is proposed that attempting to stop thoughts from formulating or running away from them can do more harm than good. Also, the effect of this technique is temporary and it cannot be recommended as a reliable method to treat anxiety.


Decentering is a process and strategy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Decentering is a process of stepping outside of one’s mental events to achieve an objective, non-judgmental and unbiased perspective towards the self. 

It is also considered as a process that changes the nature of an experience by changing one’s t point of view. Through this technique people are made to realize that the mental events are not permanent or unchangeable, they are a manifestation of their thoughts and ideas, a constructed reality by them. When a person understands this concept it becomes easier for them to accept their mentally constructed events, fears, or worries for what they are. Once they have non judgementally accepted this it opens up a path of cognitive reorientation and restructuring. Therefore by distancing ourselves from the situation we can observe that our fears and worries are just a thought or experiences that have manifested due to our own beliefs and thought processes. 


We answered the query of the best techniques in CBT to combat anxiety and also learned more about anxiety and its implications on behavior. 

Frequently asked Questions

What assessment tools are used in CBT?

Following are some of the assessments tools utilized in testing anxiety

  • Beck Youth Inventories of Emotional and Social Impairment (Recommended for adolescents and children in the group of 7-13)
  • Beck Anxiety Inventory
  • Beck Depression Inventory
  • Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation
  • Beck Hopelessness Scale

What are the most common negative thoughts?

Negative thoughts are often disparaging and harmful to a person’s mental health. They stem from poor cognitive belief and can cause irreversible damage.  Following are just some of the examples of negative thoughts.

  • I am unlovable
  • Everybody else is better than me
  • I can never succeed at anything I attempt to do
  • I am a failure and good for nothing
  • Everyone hates me
  • I can never be happy
  • Life is too difficult and I cannot handle it.
  • People are bad and selfish

What is the 3 3 3 rule for anxiety?

The 333 rule of anxiety is a helpful mental exercise to alleviate anxiety. It is a very simple technique and can be done using the following steps

Observe your surroundings and name three things 

Focus on the sounds in your vicinity and name three among them

Now move any three parts of your body, (For example, blink your eyes, curl your fingers and turn your head to the side.)

Can you lose your mind from anxiety?

While a person won’t lose their mind due to anxiety it can certainly make your life and sustenance of mental health a lot harder. Also, anxiety is often a symptom of many severe mental health issues such as depression, personality disorders, mood disorders, etc. Thus by ignoring anxiety we further exacerbate those conditions. 

Can anxiety be cured?

Unfortunately, anxiety is not completely curable. But it is not a very big issue as its problematic aspects can be kept under control with the help of proper treatment. There are many techniques and exercises available that can be utilized to keep the anxiety in check. 


Raypole, C. (2020, August 31). Thought-stopping: Outdated or helpful? Healthline. Retrieved December 19, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/thought-stopping

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, September 20). Anxiety. MedlinePlus. Retrieved December 19, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html