Because most anxiety disorders do not respond quickly to psychological therapies that focus on a person’s emotional past, they are generally thought of as difficult to overcome. For the most part, this reputation is not deserved. Psychological therapies that desensitize a person to feared situations or that teach a person how to recognize and cope with anxious thoughts and feelings have proven effective against most anxiety disorders. Many people find that their anxiety symptoms are significantly eased without extensive talk therapy Read more.
However, unlike the other anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder typically does require treatment focusing on a person’s emotional past. This is not to say that therapies that simply desensitize a person or that teach a person how to defuse anxious thoughts have no place in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. They do. In fact, they usually are important parts of such therapy. Learning to quell intense anxiety generally makes people with post-traumatic stress disorder better able to handle talking with their therapists about trauma in their pasts.
Behavior therapies help people modify their behavior. Whatever benefits accrue — one example would be an overall easing of anxiety; another could be a new way of interpreting formerly anxiety-provoking situations — are understood to be a direct or indirect result of the behavior modification. Today, the most commonly practiced behavior therapies are exposure therapy and relaxation training.
The theory behind cognitive therapy is that highly anxious people have cognitive habits that may be hidden to them but that are causing their pathological anxiety. An example would be an anxious person who constantly assumes that the worst is about to happen. This basic assumption can become so pervasive that it is accepted as normal by the person and not easily identified as the source of anxiety.