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Though many types of anxiety disorders exist, research suggests that most are driven by similar underlying processes. People with anxiety disorders tend to become easily overwhelmed by their emotions, and they tend to have particularly negative reactions to those unpleasant feelings and situations.

Often, people try to cope with those negative reactions by avoiding situations or experiences that make them anxious. Unfortunately, avoidance can backfire and actually feed the anxiety.

Psychologists are trained in diagnosing anxiety disorders and teaching patients healthier, more effective ways to cope. A form of psychotherapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective at treating anxiety disorders. Through CBT, psychologists help patients learn to identify and manage the factors that contribute to their anxiety.

Through the cognitive component of therapy, patients learn to understand how their thoughts contribute to their anxiety symptoms. By learning to change those thought patterns, they can reduce the likelihood and intensity of anxiety symptoms.

With the behavioral component, patients learn techniques to reduce undesired behaviors associated with anxiety disorders. Specifically, patients are encouraged to approach activities and situations that provoke anxiety (such as public speaking or being in an enclosed space) to learn that their feared outcomes (such as losing their train of thought or having a panic attack) are unlikely.

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