What are the benefits of using hypnotherapy for anxiety?
Anxiety is a process of focusing too much on negative things that oftentimes you cannot control.
When you spend too much time focusing on negative things, you start to notice more negative things around you. You stop noticing the positive things. This can develop into a habit; you are not an anxious person, you are someone who has developed the habit of being anxious.
The first thing you might try, to reduce your anxiety, is to use the same thinking that makes you anxious in the first place. To focus on the problem, how it might have started etc. You need to try a different approach.
Hypnotherapy for anxiety will help you develop the ability to control your focus and slow down your thinking. Hypnotherapy will help you connect to your subconscious and change your subconscious processes; you can change your anxiety.
The hypnotic state also allows you to explore painful thoughts, feelings, and memories that might be hidden from your conscious mind. Hypnosis provides a safe space where you can revisit painful experiences at your own pace, in your own way.
Benefits of hypnotherapy:
- allows access to subconscious processes
- allows you to regress and change learnt beliefs and behaviours
- allows you to mentally rehearse anxious situations
- allows access to creative solutions
- reduces unhelpful automatic, subconscious processes
- empowers you to manage your emotions
- enables you to develop a better sense of self-efficacy
Before I went to Barry for help I had panic attack’s all the time this ruined my life for years , id tried lots of medications but nothing worked. When I started my sessions with in a few weeks I felt so much better ! As I went more often the anxiety disappeared, now I feel normal again and my life is back on track !Andrew
How does hypnotherapy work for anxiety?
How you experience anxiety and how you become anxious is unique to you. To help you overcome your anxiety, the approach I take needs to be tailored to you. So one of the first things I need to do is understand you. Including how you respond to hypnosis.
Then depending on the agreed approach, we will use a combination of practical techniques, hypnotic suggestions, and psychotherapeutic techniques.
Hypnotherapy techniques for anxiety
Listed below are some of the techniques used alongside hypnosis to create the changes you need:
Hypnotherapy encourages your body to activate its natural relaxation response, reducing levels of stress and anxiety, and instilling an overall sense of well-being. Imagining/triggering something that makes you feel anxious whilst maintaining a deeply relaxed state helps associate the trigger with a relaxation response instead of an anxious response.
It is often used alongside classical behavioural therapies such as ‘systematic desensitisation’.
It’s not possible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time. Relaxation techniques alone can help ease anxiety.
It can be difficult to overcome your issues if you avoid them at all costs. The hypnotic state allows people to explore painful thoughts, feelings, and memories in a safe and controlled environment. It enables you to access past experiences, thoughts, and feeling that might have been hidden from your conscious mind. In addition, hypnosis enables people to perceive things differently.
Systematic desensitization is based on the principle of classical conditioning. A hierarchical list of all the things that trigger your anxiety is created and ordered with the least anxious reaction at the bottom of the list and the most anxiety provoking trigger at the top. You practice changing your response to the first item at the bottom of the list (the easiest to overcome) and then work your way up the list as you overcome more and more situations. You practice a relaxation response instead of a fear response when exposed to each trigger. The exposure is done either by recreating the anxious situation in real life (In vivo) or imagining the situation (In vitro).
Being able to visualise yourself in anxious situations, whilst your body and mind remain relatively relaxed enables you to imagine/rehearse how you would like to respond in difficult situations. As your mind mentally rehearses the situation, it learns to make changes without having to confront the anxious situation in real life.
Future pacing turns the problem around. Instead of focusing on the problem (anxiety), the focus is on the solution (how you want to feel when you no longer experience anxiety). Imagine how life would be without anxiety. From there you work backwards and analyse what would need to change to reach this solution.
Changing unhelpful thinking habits:
We tend to develop unhelpful thinking habits such as catastrophising or being too self-critical. Once identified you become more aware of unhelpful thinking patterns. Enabling you to challenge/change/distance yourself from the unhelpful thoughts and see the situation in a more helpful way.
Reframing is a way that you can alter your perceptions of anything that makes you anxious. It relieves significant amounts of stress and creates a more positive life before actually making any changes in our circumstances.
You can evaluate a stressful event as something highly traumatic or as a challenge to overcome. You can depict a really bad day as a mild low point in the grand scheme of things, instead using it as a sign that everything is going wrong. You can see a negative event as a learning experience.
Using reframing techniques can actually change your physical responses to stress because your body’s stress response is triggered by perceived stress, more often than actual events.
Submodalities explain how you ‘code’ internal experiences using aspects of their different senses. You can describe a picture as being black and white or colour, or it could also be bright or dim. Sounds could be loud or soft, or coming from a particular direction. Feelings could be in different parts of the body or have different temperatures. Smells could be pleasant or offensive, strong or light. Taste could be sweet or bitter or strong or mild. These are all submodalities; they add detail to an experience.
Changing submodalities is an effective way of changing the meaning of an experience. When you set yourself a goal, for example, the more detail you add and the more pleasing all those details, the more specifically refined it becomes. The finer our distinctions, the more clearly and creatively we can design our future.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Anxiety is something everyone experiences at times and feeling anxious is a perfectly natural reaction to some situations.
But some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant, overwhelming, or out of proportion to the situation and this can affect their daily life.
How many hypnosis sessions are needed for anxiety?
The number of hypnotherapy sessions required for lasting change is different for everyone. Whilst Hypnotherapy is not a magic wand, it does help you create positive change in a relatively short period of time. How long it takes to see results from hypnotherapy can vary based on your individual goals and personal circumstances. Typically for anxiety and stress-related issues, a minimum of 4 – 8 sessions are required to benefit.
Why do I have anxiety?
The causes of anxiety aren’t fully understood. Anxiety can be caused by a variety of things: stress, genetics, brain chemistry, traumatic events, or environmental factors.
Anxiety may be rooted in a previous experience, relate to a specific activity or situation, or be generalised, where there is no apparent trigger or cause.
For some people, anxiety may be linked to an underlying health issue. In some cases, anxiety signs and symptoms are the first indicators of a medical illness
Examples of medical problems that can be linked to anxiety include:
- heart disease
- thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
- respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
- drug misuse or withdrawal
- withdrawal from alcohol, anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) or other medications
- chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome
- rare tumours that produce certain fight-or-flight hormones
These factors may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder:
- If you experienced abuse or trauma or witnessed traumatic events, then you are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some point in life.
- Stress due to an illness. If you have a health condition or serious illness it can cause significant worry about issues such as your treatment and your future.
- Stress buildup. A big event or a buildup of smaller stressful events may trigger anxiety — for example, a death, work stress or money problems.
- People with certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others.
- Other mental health disorders. People with other mental health disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder.
- Having blood relatives with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can run in families.
- Drugs or alcohol. Drug or alcohol use or misuse or withdrawal can cause or worsen anxiety.
What is the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response?
We have evolved ways to help us protect ourselves from danger. When we feel under threat our bodies react by releasing certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
- make us more alert, so we can act faster
- make our hearts beat faster, quickly sending blood to where it’s needed most.
After we feel the threat has passed, our bodies release other hormones to help our muscles relax. This can sometimes cause us to shake.
This is the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response because the hormones protect us by preparing us to fight the danger, run away from the danger (flight), or hide from the danger (freeze).
For many of us, the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ system gets activated when there is no physical danger. For example, your ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response may be triggered if you worry about missing a deadline or paying the bills.
Prolonged exposure to cortisol and other stress-related hormones can cause:
- hormonal imbalances
- increased blood pressure
- memory problems
- poor concentration
- weakened immune system.
Symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety will feel different to everyone, however, there are certain symptoms here you may relate to if you have anxiety:
Some of the most common physical symptoms are:
- increased heart rate or increased muscle tension
- ‘jelly legs’ or tingling in the hands and feet
- hyperventilation (breathing too heavily) or dizziness
- difficulty in breathing or a tight band across the chest
- wanting to use the toilet more often
- feeling sick
- tension headaches
- hot flushes or sweating
- dry mouth
- shaking, trembling or palpitations
- choking sensations
- feeling weak or tired.
Some of the most common psychological symptoms include the following feelings:
- a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
- losing control and/or going ‘mad’; or feelings that you might die
- having a heart attack, being sick or faint
- that people are looking at you and noticing your anxiety
- things are speeding up/slowing down
- being detached from your environment and the people in it.
- wanting to run away/escape from the situation
- being on edge and alert to everything around you
- trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present anxiety.
When does Anxiety become a problem
Anxiety can continue to creep up and it becomes a mental health problem when it holds you back from living the life you want. Anxiety may be a problem if:
- your worrying affects your daily life, including your job and social life
- your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
- your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
- you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
- your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
- you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks.
Panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense and often overwhelming fear.
They can happen when you experience high levels of anxiety. Anyone can have a panic attack. Sometimes, these attacks are a symptom of panic disorder.
Your heart pounds, you can’t breathe, and you may feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Panic attacks often strike out of the blue, without any warning, and sometimes with no clear trigger. They may even occur when you’re relaxed or asleep.
An anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may respond to certain things and situations with fear and dread. You may also experience physical signs of anxiety, such as a pounding heart and sweating.
An anxiety disorder goes beyond the regular nervousness and slight fear you may feel from time to time. An anxiety disorder happens when:
- anxiety interferes with your ability to function
- you often overreact when something triggers your emotions
- you can’t control your responses to situations
Anxiety disorders can make it difficult to get through the day.
Having an anxiety disorder does more than make you worry. It can also lead to, or worsen, other mental and physical conditions, such as:
- problems functioning at school or work
- trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- poor quality of life
- digestive or bowel problems
- headaches and chronic pain
- social isolation
- depression (which often occurs with an anxiety disorder) or other mental health disorders
- substance misuse
Types of anxiety
Agoraphobia: is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. People often misunderstand this condition as a phobia of open spaces and the outdoors, but that is not the case. A person with agoraphobia may have a fear of leaving home or using elevators and public transport.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): is a chronic disorder involving excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worries about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations. Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder, and people with the disorder are not always able to identify the cause of their anxiety.
Health anxiety: is a type of anxiety where people worry excessively about their health and may think they’re unwell when they’re not. They might check their body regularly for signs of illness, including unusual lumps, pains or other physical sensations. They may also be perpetually frightened of dying.
Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition includes symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): is a common mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. Obsessive thoughts are unwelcome thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. They can make you feel very anxious. Compulsions are repetitive activities that you do to reduce the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts. It could be something like repeatedly checking a door is locked, repeating a specific phrase in your head or checking how your body feels.
Panic disorder: experiencing brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension. These attacks can lead to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and breathing difficulties. Panic attacks tend to escalate rapidly, peaking after about 10 minutes. However, a panic attack might last for hours.
Panic disorders usually occur after frightening experiences or prolonged stress but may also occur without a trigger. An individual experiencing a panic attack may misinterpret it as a life-threatening illness and may make drastic changes in behaviour to avoid future attacks.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. People experiencing PTSD often experience reliving the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life
Selective mutism: may be an extreme form of social phobia. People with selective mutism are not able to speak in certain places or contexts, even though they may have excellent verbal communication skills around familiar people.
Separation anxiety disorder: is a type of anxiety where people experience anxiety after separation from a person or place that provides feelings of security or safety. Separation might sometimes result in panic symptoms.
Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia: is a fear of public embarrassment or of negative judgment from others in social situations. Social anxiety disorder includes a range of feelings, such as stage fright, a fear of intimacy, and anxiety around humiliation and rejection.
This disorder can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that it impacts on everyday living.
Specific phobia: is an irrational fear and avoidance of a particular object or situation. Phobias are not like other anxiety disorders, as they relate to a specific cause.
A person with a phobia might acknowledge fear as illogical or extreme but remain unable to control feelings of anxiety around the trigger. Triggers for a phobia range from everyday objects and situations to animals.
Substance-induced anxiety disorder is characterized by symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are a direct result of misusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance or withdrawing from drugs.
There’s no way to predict for certain what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you’re anxious:
- stay active
- reduce intake of caffeine (tea, coffee, and chocolate)
- check with a doctor or pharmacist before using over-the-counter or herbal remedies, for any chemicals that may make anxiety symptoms worse
- maintain a healthy diet.
- keep a regular sleep pattern.
- avoid alcohol, cannabis, and other recreational drugs.
In some cases, a person can treat an anxiety disorder at home without clinical supervision. However, this may not be effective for severe or long-term anxiety disorders.
There are several things you can do to help you to cope with anxiety, including:
- Stress management: Learning to manage stress can help limit potential triggers. Structure and organise yourself; break down daunting jobs into more manageable tasks. Take time to relax and reward yourself.
- Relaxation techniques: It’s impossible to feel relaxed and anxious at the same time; restore balance by taking time to relax. Techniques include meditation, deep breathing exercises, long baths, resting in the dark, and yoga.
- Exercises to replace negative thoughts with positive ones: List the negative thoughts that you experience as a result of anxiety, and write down another list next to it containing positive, believable thoughts to replace them. Imagine successfully facing and conquering a specific fear can also provide benefits if anxiety symptoms relate to a specific cause, such as a phobia.
- Support network: Talk with familiar people who are supportive, such as a family member or friend. Support group services may also be available in the local area and online.
- Exercise: Physical exercise can improve self-image, confidence, energy and release chemicals in the brain that trigger positive feelings.
When we think that something might be dangerous, we naturally want to avoid it.
Avoiding situations that cause anxiety might feel right and might seem like a good idea in the short term, but it will not resolve the issue and may your ability to function.
For example, some people with related anxiety start avoiding:
- busy/crowded environments
- meetings and work situations
- social events
If you start to avoid some situations, then the avoidance most likely will spread to avoiding more situations, deepening the anxiety. This can lead to avoiding everyday situations.
Other forms of treatment
- cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- exposure therapy
A quick look at the best anxiety apps
- Best anxiety app for meditation: Calm
- Best anxiety app for adult colouring: Colorfy
- Best app for tracking your mood: What’s Up? A Mental Health App
- Best anxiety app for sleep: Nature Sounds Relax and Sleep
- Best meditation app for people of colour: Shine
- Best anxiety app for breathing techniques: Breathwrk
- Best anxiety app game: AntiStress Anxiety Relief Game
- Best app for CBT: Mindshift CBT
- Best anxiety app for journaling: Moodnotes