Published by The Anxiety Disorders Foundation of Western Australia

Version 1.0 August 2001

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There are a diverse range of therapies available in the world today and it is beyond the scope of this publication to discuss the merits or pitfalls of them all. However, CBT is worthy of a special mention because most health professionals agree that this type of therapy should be included in a treatment program for people experiencing anxiety disorders.

The word cognitive means to perceive. Rarely do two people perceive (or think) about an object or situation in identical ways. Our current perceptions of objects and situations are based upon previous perceptions of similar objects and situations. Often, our early perceptions are distorted but we believe them to be true. For example, if a parent or teacher constantly tells you that you are stupid, there is a good possibility that you will perceive yourself as stupid. As the years go by, the seed of stupidity flourishes within your thought system. As a consequence, many of your everyday decisions and related behaviour will be based on the underlying belief that you are stupid.

It is highly unlikely that you realise that your thinking may be governed by beliefs that are actually untrue. This is because your perceptions appear to be true within your framework of reference. The problems resulting from distorted thinking are compounded when you come into conflict with another whose perception of the situation is also distorted. In such incidents, a satisfactory outcome is unlikely

Unhealthy anxiety builds up over a number of years as a person endeavours to lead a life dictated by unrealistic perceptions. This anxiety may often manifest itself in an anxiety disorder.

While it is fairly easy to understand the concept of distorted perceptions, the ability to change the thought system requires a great deal of monitoring and persistence. It is very difficult to initially become your own therapist because misconceptions generally cannot be corrected by those whose condition is a result of those misperceptions. Basically, it is essential that you consult with someone who has been trained in CBT techniques and who engenders trust. Competent CBT facilitators will be aware that their belief systems are also based on perceptions. This understanding will prevent them forcing their own beliefs onto their clients.

The role of CBT therapists is to assist their clients to become aware of their thought processes and consequently adjust their thinking wherever appropriate. A change in perception will automatically lead to a change in behaviour.

So, with a lot of practice and perseverance, the person who, for example, is convinced that he/ she is stupid will be able to understand that this condition resulted from a fundamental misperception in the mind. This contact with reality will change attitude, behaviour and significantly reduce the intensity of anxiety.


The following table shows the more commonly prescribed medication for anxiety disorders There are many more different types which may be prescribed if the problem is not of anxiety alone or if the person has an unfavourable reaction to those mentioned. Patients are advised that most medications can have some form of reversible side effect, details of which should be given to you by a GP or Psychiatrist.

It is strongly recommended that the information leaflet supplied with the medication is scrutinised and understood. Further information concerning side effects may also be obtained from your local chemist. When initially taking medication, particularly antidepressants, the anxiety symptoms may actually increase. It is for this reason that the initial daily dosage is small and slowly escalated, as the body adapts. Similarly, when medication is no longer required it is essential that the daily dosages are reduced in small stages.

People have distinctively different reactions to the effects of medication. It is therefore sometimes necessary to trial different types until a suitable one is found. Some medications may have a reaction with other medications. In view of this, patients should advise their health professional of any other medication they are taking, be it natural or otherwise. It is again strongly emphasised that medication is most beneficial if used in conjunction with other therapies involving psychological dialogue.

Remember, do not alter the dosage or stop your medication without consulting your medical practitioner and advise him/ her immediately if you are experiencing adverse effects from the medication.

Type Description Some brand names Possible side effects
Antidepressants Selective Serotonin Re- uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s). Designed to correct the imbalance of chemical messages between the brain’s nerve cells. Aropax, Cipramil, Prozac, Lovan, Zactin, Luvox, Zoloft Nausea, headache, insomnia, agitation, irritability, sexual dysfunction, weight loss
Benzodiazepines Increases sensitivity to intrinsic controls chemical GABA: this decreases anxiety fairly quickly for a number of hours. Xanax, Lexotan, Valium, Rohypnol, Serapax, Mogadon. Addiction and dependence. Should be used for short periods only, eg; 2 weeks.

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