Irrational beliefs often support anxiety and/or depression.
The first step to dealing with anxiety is to determine if it is a signal or noise. If you have determined that your irrational beliefs are supporting anxiety or depression, there are different systems to address this. Today, let’s review Albert Ellis’s ABC system of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to help you or your child change those irrational beliefs.
- Activating Event
A stands for activating event or What happened? Often when someone is anxious they notice the feeling of anxiety first. Sometimes they notice something that happened that they believe caused the anxiety. This is the activating event. But what happened is not the cause of anxiety. The cause of the anxiety is the belief.
B stands for belief. What is your belief or self-talk about what happened? The same activating event can lead to different feelings depending on what we tell ourselves about the event.
C stands for consequence. What is the consequence of your belief or What are you feeling? In this case we are talking about anxiety as the consequence.
Change Thoughts to Change Feelings
The theory behind this is that in order to change your feeling you must change your thinking or what you say to yourself. Sometimes when children or adults are anxious they know their self-talk is supporting their anxiety or depression. Other times it is just below consciousness. The self-talk gives the person clues to the beliefs that support anxiety.
Beliefs that Support Anxiety
There are common beliefs that support anxiety in teenagers and adults. Once you have determined the self-talk that is supporting the anxiety, the next step is to come up with counter-thoughts. Here are some examples of counter-thoughts:
- Everyone must like me or I am a failure.
Counter-thoughts: Some people will like me and some will not, that is ok.
I connect with some people better than others and some people connect with me and some do not.
- I need to be perfect.
Counter-thoughts: No one is perfect. I will do my best and that is enough.
- If I make a mistake, no one will like me and I will go through life alone and lonely.
Counter-thoughts: It is human to make mistakes. Often vulnerabilities help us connect to other people.
If your child has anxiety, first help him or her determine if it is a signal of a problem to solve or noise to disregard. Second, help your child determine which self-talk and beliefs that are supporting anxiety. Third, help the child identify counter-thoughts. There are multiple books that may help you conquer this. Other times a professional mental health counselor is needed or, in more severe cases, medication.
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