Cognitive behavioral therapy activities usually involve having patients with certain disorders talk about their feelings toward certain situations, and do things which make them feel anxious. These activities are typically not physically harmful, but they cause irrational fears or anxiety in those with certain disorders. By exposing themselves to these activities over time, the anxiety lessens, and the patient is able to get a better handle on his or her condition. Eventually, he or she may also discover how to use cognitive behavioral activities as self-treatment when new anxieties emerge.
There are a wide range of conditions for which cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended. The can include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), agoraphobia, and other anxiety disorders. Most individuals with these conditions have severe and prolonged anxiety over situations that will never happen. Those who do worry about real potential danger usually worry over these events or situations more than most people. For instance, a hypochondriac worries obsessively about illnesses or dying. Although illness and death are actual threats, constant worry over their potential occurrence can significantly lower one's quality of life.
Most anxiety disorders are treated with a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy activities. The role of medication is usually to keep anxious feelings at bay to a great enough extent for therapy to be possible. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to "re-wire" the brain so that thoughts or situations are no longer fear inducing in patients. This is achieved by exposing patients to the very things they fear most. Patients are also given the chance to talk about their thoughts towards themselves, fears, and anxieties, as they are often skewed. Patients must learn to view situations more realistically through talking, and through activities.
In many cases, cognitive behavioral therapy will involve talking about thoughts and feelings in regards to certain situations. These can be imagined situations, such as feelings of fear or doom, or real ones, such as death of a loved one. Most times, therapists speak with patients to help them recognize negative thought patterns, and they help them begin focusing on more positive thoughts and emotions. Other times, they may slowly expose patients to anxiety-provoking situations so that they can more easily deal with them.
Exposure to troublesome ideas or circumstances is usually done gradually. For instance, imagine someone with obsessive compulsive disorder who feels the urge to tap on the door three times before leaving any room. He or she must do this over and over again until the taps "feel" right. Failure to do so causes crippling anxiety and a feeling of impending doom. Cognitive behavioral therapy activities for this person might begin with having him simply imagine leaving a room without tapping the door.
Even something as small as visualizing leaving the room would likely cause anxiety in the patient. He may be tempted to go back and have the same thoughts again, only this time adding the taps as he leaves the room. With time, however, the patient should be able to visualize himself leaving a room without tapping the door. Once this is accomplished, the patient may be asked to actually get up and leave the room without tapping on the door first.
These repetitive cognitive behavioral therapy activities work by showing patients over and over again, and that nothing bad will happen if they fail to engage in rituals, or if they perform activities which frighten them. The length of time cognitive behavioral therapy activities are needed will depend on the patient and the severity of the condition being treated. Many patients take several months, or even years, before they are able to successfully self-treat using these methods.