Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Reducing Anxiety in Autistic Youth 

An Introduction

CBT is a viable treatment for anxiety disorders, which affects one-third of all American adults at some point in their lives. CBT treatment aims to identify practical answers to the anxiety triggers and symptoms that autistic youth experience.

While less than 40% of persons with anxiety disorders seek therapy, those who do generally report significant improvement in their symptoms, CBT therapy is often delivered in hour-long sessions in which a therapist assists you in learning ways to control your symptoms and create good habits. In addition, CBT treatments are often of a shorter duration, ranging from 8 to 20 weekly sessions. So, keep reading to understand better how CBT might help autistic youth reduce anxiety!

How can CBT Treat Anxiety in Autism Youth?

CBT treats anxiety by assisting autistic youth in changing how they think and behave when nervous. In addition, CBT seeks to assist autistic youth in interrupting and changing anxious thoughts and reducing avoidant behaviors. When combined, these modifications help minimize anxiety symptoms without needing medication and lessen the burden on their everyday life.

Anxious thoughts are described as "thought distortions" or "negative automatic thoughts" in CBT and are thought to exacerbate anxiety. Anxious 'worst-case scenario' or 'what if...' thoughts that many young people have when they are nervous, as well as other negative ideas a person has about themselves or their lives, are examples of these. CBT techniques can help autistic youth stop and modify these negative ideas into more positive, helpful thoughts that lessen anxiety.

Here are a few common CBT approaches for treating anxiety symptoms in autistic youth:

1. Pattern Tracking

CBT treatment aims to change thought and behavior patterns to minimize symptoms and improve functioning. Early treatment focuses on helping clients notice these behaviors and discover strategies to stop them before they become problematic.

2. Stopping Thoughts Patterns

Following the development of pattern awareness, CBT therapists may begin to teach particular techniques to interrupt and replace some of the client's patterns. Many CBT techniques focus on assisting clients in interrupting troublesome cognitive processes, but others also assist clients in interrupting counterproductive behavioral habits.

3. Difficult and Anxious Thoughts

Challenging thoughts entails putting a notion to the test by rational processes such as listing evidence that the thought is true or false or examining alternate plausible explanations. Challenging anxious ideas can help minimize anxiety and unreasonable and impulsive decisions during stressful or worrying moments.

4. Tasks for Exposure

Exposure assignments are frequently recommended to limit avoidance, reduce anxiety, and increase confidence in anxious persons since they tend to avoid circumstances that make them uneasy. Tasks involving exposure require gradually confronting dreaded situations and progressing to more deeply feared and avoided situations.

5. Solving Issues

Clients are urged to think through their alternatives and analyze each option's potential short- and long-term ramifications when problem-solving. Because many anxiety-driven activities seek only short-term relief, these abilities are required to assist individuals in making better selections.


CBT is a highly viable treatment for anxiety disorders, and it is available in most locations across the country from therapists and other competent specialists. CBT helps autistic youth make specific adjustments to how they think and respond when they are worried, which helps lessen symptoms and enhance functioning. CBT can be used alone or with other therapy approaches, including medication.