patient in cognitive behavioral therapy

Research Shows Cognitive Behavioral Therapy May Help with Physical Illnesses

Counselors and therapists around the world use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and many more behavioral health issues. In these sessions, therapists help patients understand how their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors interact with one another and form patterns.

In study after study, CBT has been shown to be effective in treating these emotional and behavioral disorders. Researchers who want to understand the relationship between the human mind and body have started exploring how CBT can impact physical ailments as well. These early studies show that CBT could be part of a treatment plan for ailments like diabetes, chronic stress, insomnia, and pain.

People with Diabetes Find Help Exercising with CBT

Exercise is an essential component of diabetes management. Getting regular exercise helps patients with this disease manage their weight, balance cholesterol levels, and improve insulin sensitivity. Unfortunately, many patients report being unable to exercise regularly due to pain.

A study in the February 2020 issue of the Annals of Family Medicine, researchers found the CBT may effectively relieve this pain and improve function when people with diabetes exercise. The study compared participants with diabetes. Some of the participants received CBT while others got general health advice. Those who got CBT reported lower levels of pain and more functionality. Even when pain kept them from some forms of exercise, those who got CBT were able to complete modified exercises.

Managing Pain with CBT

The scientists who conducted the diabetes study cited above were inspired by decades of research into the relationship between CBT and pain management. Many studies on this topic have found that CBT can help patients with chronic pain manage and relieve their symptoms. The studies have been so persuasive that CBT has become one of the primary treatment options for chronic pain.

Scientists believe that this works because CBT changes the way people think about the pain they experience. With this vital change, people can complete important exercises, which in turn reduce their pain levels.

How CBT May Fight Symptoms of Chronic Stress

Stress is a normal and healthy reaction to some situations. For example, in life-threatening situations, stress can heighten awareness and help you survive. However, ongoing stressors that are not life-threatening can cause chronic stress. Chronic stress can be a problem that causes serious emotional and physical problems such as:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Weakened immune system
  • Chronic pain

All of these issues affect a person’s quality of life. However, it’s sometimes difficult or impossible to remove the cause of stress without creating further issues. CBT may be the answer to this problem.

One study found that even people with severe complications from chronic stress can see significant improvements after 12 weeks of CBT treatment and only 10 minutes of CBT per week. The study also found that the CBT was equally effective in-person and via telehealth.

CBT Helping Pregnant Women Sleep

Pregnant women experience many unpleasant symptoms throughout pregnancy, including insomnia. The lack of sleep can cause other issues, such as fatigue. However, doctors can be hesitant to prescribe sleep medications to some pregnant women, due to the increased risks.

Even when a doctor believes a pregnant woman can safely take sleep aids, she may be hesitant to do so. As such, pregnant women with insomnia need an alternative solution. One recent study found that CBT can not only be an effective alternative for these patients, but it may be more effective than traditional insomnia treatments.

While more research needs to be done on many of these topics, there’s no denying that CBT can be a powerful tool. Contact LifeStance Health today to find a CBT provider near you.