Cognitive Behavior Therapy

We have all heard the piece of advice, “Just imagine everyone in their underwear!” For many of us, the idea of stepping in front of a crowd to speak is terrifying, and many other unpleasant tasks rank far above this daunting prospect.

But what is it exactly that causes this irrational fear of public speaking? Is it that you will forget everything you want to say and be embarrassed? Are you afraid the audience will hear your voice shaking or find you boring? Or, maybe, they will take nothing away from the presentation and believe you to be incompetent.

All of these feelings are very real; however, they are just feelings. Your fears are not based on actual events – they are based on your thoughts. You think the audience will laugh at you or find you uninteresting or incompetent, and these thoughts create your anxiety. Change your thoughts, and your mood improves. Simple, right?

Cognitive behavior therapy teaches you to change the way you think, the way you behave and the way you feel, and helps you recognize that your negative thinking patterns cause you to feel depressed and anxious. It teaches you how to consider what is causing your current mood and turn your distorted thoughts (they will think my presentation and personality are boring) into reflections of actual situations (it’s ok to be nervous; my pubic speaking ability is not reflective of my expertise on this topic.) If you can view a situation without focusing on negative – and sometimes totally false – ideas, depression or anxiety caused by those feelings will diminish or even be eliminated.

Ronald Hougen, PhD, psychologist with Mayo Clinic Health System at Winneshiek Medical Center says, “Our thoughts, or cognitions, can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety. We convince ourselves of something – it is my fault, he/she doesn’t care about me, I am not worthwhile – and then dwell on those thoughts, leading to mood swings and increased anxiety.” Hougen adds, “Cognitive behavior therapy has been scientifically proven to be just as effective, if not more effective, than medication therapy for people with mild to severe depression and anxiety.”

Cognitive behavior therapy is available at Winneshiek Medical Center. Call for an appointment – 563-382-2911.

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