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Anxiety Disorders Overview

Do these Thoughts, Physical Symptoms, Behaviours or Emotions look familiar?

CBT Anxiety Formulation
How anxiety might look in a simple CBT formulation

Different types of Anxiety

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

This is a chronic condition characterised by excessive and uncontrollable worry and anxiety about everyday events and activities.

CBT can help individuals with GAD by helping them identify and challenge negative and anxious thoughts that contribute to their worry. This can involve teaching individual skills such as relaxation techniques, cognitive restructuring, and problem-solving skills.

Panic Disorder

This is characterised by sudden and unexpected panic attacks, which involve intense physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath. A person with panic disorder may believe they are having a heart attack or dying.


CBT can be effective in treating panic disorder by helping individuals learn to identify and manage physical symptoms of panic attacks, such as rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. This can involve exposure therapy, where individuals gradually confront and desensitise themselves to situations that trigger panic attacks, as well as cognitive restructuring to address underlying beliefs and thoughts that contribute to panic.

Social Anxiety

This is an intense fear of social situations or situations in which the person may be scrutinised or judged by others. This can lead to avoidance of social situations and difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships.


CBT can help individuals with social anxiety by addressing negative and distorted thoughts about social situations and building social skills and confidence. This can involve exposure therapy to gradually confront and desensitize individuals to social situations, as well as cognitive restructuring to address negative beliefs and self-talk.

Specific Phobia

This involves an intense and irrational fear of a specific object or situation, such as spiders, heights, or flying.


CBT can help individuals with specific phobias by gradually exposing them to the feared object or situation in a safe and controlled environment. This can help individuals learn that the feared object or situation is not as dangerous as they had previously believed, leading to a reduction in anxiety.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This is characterized by persistent and intrusive thoughts or obsessions, which cause anxiety, and repetitive behaviours or compulsions, which are performed to reduce the anxiety.


CBT can be effective in treating OCD by helping individuals learn to resist compulsive behaviours and thoughts. This can involve exposure and response prevention, where individuals are gradually exposed to feared situations or objects while resisting the urge to engage in compulsive behaviours.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, and can involve symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event. It can also be caused by seeing or hearing details of an event that happened to someone else.

CBT can help individuals with PTSD by addressing negative thoughts and beliefs about the traumatic event and teaching coping skills to manage symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares. This can involve cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy.


This disorder is characterised by a fear of being in situations or places where escape might be difficult or where help may not be readily available in case of a panic attack or other similar symptoms. People with agoraphobia may avoid situations such as crowds, public transportation, open spaces, enclosed spaces, or being outside of their home alone. 

CBT for agoraphobia typically involves two main components: cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy. Cognitive restructuring involves identifying and changing negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to agoraphobia. This may include challenging thoughts such as “I won’t be able to handle it if I have a panic attack in public” or “I’m not safe outside of my home.”


Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals with agoraphobia to feared situations or places in a controlled and supportive environment. This helps them to confront and overcome their fears and develop new coping skills, reducing anxiety symptoms.



Claustrophobia is a type of specific phobia characterised by an intense fear or anxiety of enclosed spaces or situations where escape may be difficult or impossible, such as being in a small room, crowded elevator, or airplane. Not to be confused with Agoraphobia, in claustrophobia the fear is about suffocation or restriction.

Similar to agoraphobia, CBT for claustrophobia involves two main elements. Cognitive restructuring to hp identify and challenge negative thoughts or beliefs about enclosed spaces, and Exposure therapy to help gradually build up a tolerance to feared situations.

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