Hypnosis for Anxiety, Stress, Phobias & Fears
Why do we feel stressed and anxious?
Panic attacks and anxiety are abilities that have kept us safe for millions of years, allowed us to survive, evolve and succeed as a species.
Anxiety kept us safe
When the world was a dangerous place, without anxiety and panic attacks we would not have carefully scanned the environment for danger and may not have survived as a species. We survived by learning how to be quiet, timid and very, very careful and our bodies and minds remembered those dangerous places and experiences.
For survival purposes, once we have ‘learned’ that a certain situation is dangerous by panicking, the mind ‘remembers’ this fact to ensure that the next time it sees a similar situation, it can give you the necessary anxiety or panic to enable you to run or fight.
This is not the normal type of ‘remembering’ like remembering a name or telephone number, it is the sort that makes you feel good when you hear a particular piece of music, or feel happy when you look at holiday photos, or maybe feel a bit like a kid again when you walk into school as an adult.
We call this type of remembering ‘unconscious pattern matching’ because it is the ‘back part’ of your mind, the unconscious mind, that causes you to react in a certain way when it spots a particular situation or other ‘trigger’.
Better safe than sorry
If you have a panic attack in a car, you might feel anxious next time you are on a bus or train, because the situation is roughly similar. As far as survival goes, it is much better for us to ‘err on the side of caution’.
Making anxiety work for us
Anxiety, panic attacks and stress-related conditions can be said to be part of modern life. And indeed, in small doses and appropriate situations, they are useful, adaptive responses . But when anxiety gets out of hand and starts to disrupt sleep, or panic attacks start to happen more than once in a blue moon, they can be very worrying indeed.
Drugs are a short-term, ‘quick fix’. What we need is the ability to use our anxiety well. We need to become a little bit anxious when we are going to do a presentation. We need to be able to become a little bit anxious in unfamiliar surroundings. We need to be able to panic if attacked and we need to be able to relax when anxiety is unnecessary.
Hypnotherapy and subconscious learning
This is where hypnotherapy is so effective, working on the level of the subconscious mind, it will re-educate your unconscious to respond more appropriately and banish panic and high anxiety for good.
The Rewind Technique
Another very effective approach for some types of anxiety, fears and phobias is the Rewind Technique. For many years, severe anxiety-based conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or phobias were considered treatable only through long, painful exposure therapy, and in some cases, not at all.
Now, thankfully, we have access to a comfortable, effective treatment that can greatly reduce, and even remove, traumatic or phobic symptoms quickly.
What happens to your thought patterns when you’re anxious
There is often a general feeling of not being able to cope with the expectations and responses of others, you might have thoughts about wanting to withdraw from situations that increase your anxiety and may find yourself procrastinating on tasks.
You find yourself worrying about the kinds of interactions you will have with others. These are some of the anxiety provoking thoughts that can play over and over in your mind leaving you feeling anxious and ill equipped to deal with every day life. “Will I be able to meet the requirements of my job?” “Are they going to accept me?” “I’m afraid he/she is going to leave me?” “What if they discover how little I know?”
What happens to your body when you’re anxious
Constant worrying and persistent negative thinking not only make you feel anxious, they trigger the release of a cocktail of stress hormones into the bloodstream that can have a damaging effect on your physical health if maintained over the long term.
When your brain is in a constant state of worry and anxiety, your nervous system interprets this as a signal that you are under threat. Our autonomic nervous system, the fight-flight response centre in the brain doesn’t discriminate between a perceived threat and a real threat and so it assumes you are in danger, and prepares the body to respond by releasing stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenalin and norepinephrine.
These hormones are designed for short-term release to enable us to deal with a challenging or threatening situation and then the body and mind are meant to return to a state of balance and calm. When our minds are chronically focused on negative thoughts, stress hormones continue to be released into the bloodstream.
These stress hormones affect major systems in the body such as the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, genitourinary, musculoskeletal and central nervous systems. This is why stress and anxiety can effect our physical as well as emotional health and well being.
These are some of the ways that anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms and conditions:
1. Cardiovascular System
- Anxiety increases blood pressure
- Elevated blood pressure leads to tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
- Constriction of the blood vessels in the arms and legs, dilation of the vessels surrounding the skeletal muscles
- These changes produce symptoms of palpitations (an uncomfortable awareness of the heart rate), headaches, and cold fingers
2. Gastrointestinal System
- Anxiety leads to reduced salivary secretions – dry mouth
- Spasms within the oesophagus
- Alterations in the stomach, intestines, and anal sphincter
- These systemic changes result in symptoms of dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, “butterflies” in the stomach, the gurgling sounds of gas in the intestines, and mucous colitis (an inflammation of the colon), causing spasms, diarrhoea and/or constipation, and cramp-like pains in the upper stomach
3. Respiratory system
- Anxiety leads to hyperventilation, or over-breathing, which reduces the carbon dioxide in the blood, with symptoms of “air hunger,” deep sighs, and pins-and-needles sensations
4. Genitourinary systems
- Need for frequent urination
- Men may have difficulty maintaining an erection during intercourse
- Women may have difficulty becoming sexually aroused or achieving orgasm
5. Musculoskeletal system
- The muscles become tense
- Involuntary trembling of the body, tension headaches and other aches and pains
6. Central nervous system
- The anxious person is generally more apprehensive, aroused, and vigilant, feeling “on edge,” impatient, or irritable
- Poor concentration, insomnia, fatigue
It’s not just in your mind
So if you suffer from anxiety, the physical pain and discomfort that you might also be experiencing is not in your imagination, your brain has triggered a stress response in your body that causes real physical problems.
How hypnotherapy can bring you relief from anxiety
What is Neuroplasticity
Learn to feel calm and focused
We generally think of stress as a negative, but this is not always the case. A certain amount of stress is beneficial because it can stimulate us to a level of optimal behavioral and cognitive performance. Short-term stress primes the brain for improved performance, keeping us alert and responsive.
Chronic stress however, can cause problems for our emotional and physical health. If you feel agitated or ”wired” a lot of the time, find it difficult to switch off and really relax or notice that minor things irritate and annoy you, the chances are you are suffering from chronic stress.
The reality is there will always be situations that cause us some degree of stress and discomfort; hypnosis is a very effective way of relaxing the body and allowing the mind to return to a state of calm. With hypnosis you can learn to pay attention to your body so you experience the difference between feeling “wired” and being calm and centred. You can build relaxation skills and an increased sense of self-regulation. Simply knowing you have the ability to relax deeply and reorganize your thoughts and feelings can have a powerful effect in helping you better manage stress and anxiety.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS is a functional disorder which means that although there is a change in how the bowel functions, there is no structural damage. Nevertheless, the symptoms of IBS can be painful and debilitating for many.
Hypnosis has been shown to be an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in a number of clinical studies. Hypnotherapy for IBS involves progressive relaxation, and then suggestions of soothing imagery and sensations focused on the individual’s symptoms. It is a uniquely comfortable form of treatment; relaxing, easy and generally enjoyable. It utilizes the healing power of the person’s own mind, and is generally completely without negative side effects.
Improvements in overall wellbeing, quality of life, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating have been noted. Hypnotherapy also appears to offer symptomatic, psychological, and physiological benefit.
However, hypnosis should not be regarded as a cure-all. Up to 25% of patients fail to respond. Even when people do improve, conventional approaches to treatment should also be considered and it is important that lifestyle factors such as diet are also taken into account.
The beneficial effects of hypnosis last long after the end of the course of treatment. According to research, individuals who improve from hypnosis treatment for IBS can generally look forward to years of reduced bowel symptoms.
Free from Irrational Fears and Phobias
A phobia is an abnormal fear of an object or situation which is experienced in anticipation of or when confronted with the triggering event.
It is normal and helpful for us to feel fear in response to certain situations. For example, it is quite legitimate to be afraid when a dog comes running at you with bared teeth. This is a protective response. Fear is a natural survival mechanism that can keep us safe and encourage us to find solutions to problems.
But if you have a persistent, irrational fear of an object or situation and a strong urge to avoid that object or situation, you may have developed a phobia, an inappropriately intense reaction triggered to an object, event or a particular environment.
The most common phobias are of specific animals and insects, of the natural elements, such as storms or water, of heights and of closed-in spaces.
The person with a specific phobia may react with mild anxiety or even with panic when confronted with the prospect of facing the fearful situation. Some people may fear they will lose their senses and do something foolish. The person with a height phobia, for instance, might fear that he will forget what he is doing and accidentally leap off the cliff. The person with a flying phobia might vividly imagine the tail falling off the plane, or the pilot losing consciousness with no one to take over, or the oxygen running out in mid-flight.
Such fears defy rational thinking. Most people with phobias know that they are being excessive and unreasonable in their thoughts, but this knowledge is of no use to them. Fearful thoughts come automatically and the only option seems to be to avoid the problem situation.
Hypnosis techniques are so effective in dealing with this kind of problem because they directly influence the part of the mind that triggers the fear response. Hypnotherapy does not override your natural, protective response to danger, but it will help you to differentiate between a real and an imagined need for a fear response and to experience the ease and comfort that comes with understanding.
Most people experience times when they have difficulty sleeping, worried about a particular issue, be jet lagged or just not sleeping as well as you normally do. These periods are transitory and usually little more than an inconvenience.
However, insomnia can become a habit, a faulty sleeping strategy as it were, when you believe that you cannot get to sleep and that every night will be a torture. However, research in sleep centres has shown that even convinced insomniacs do achieve multiple brief periods of sleep during the night but because they focus on their difficulties and have amnesia for the sleep periods, they don’t feel rested but experience anxiety and fatigue.
Hypnotherapy can help to calm the mind and enable you to relax so that you can slip into sleep easily and naturally.
Almost everyone experiences anxiety at some time or another. It is an entirely normal physical and emotional phenomenon in response to some worry or perceived threat. Usually when the worrying or threatening situation is resolved, the anxiety dissipates.
However, if the anxiety is out of proportion to the context, or is prolonged and habitual, then the anxious behaviour has become chronic and that can impact on your emotional and physical wellbeing.
As well as the psychological aspects of anxiety, it can also manifest in a range of physical symptoms: such tightness in the chest, a sense of breathing restriction or hyperventilation, skin reactions, IBS and other digestive problems and muscle tension, a cause of headaches and muscle pain.
With hypnosis, you learn that these anxious responses can be changed. By accessing the subconscious mind, you change the way you perceive a situation and hence change your response to it. We can’t take away the stresses in your life, but we can help you to experience a more balanced and appropriate response, to feel calmer and more in control.