Does Hypnotherapy Work For Anxiety?
In many ways, hypnotherapy is an ideal treatment for anxiety. The relaxation that hypnosis induces can significantly reduce both emotional arousal and the physiological arousal which invariably accompanies it.
Well controlled research studies (e.g. Weldon et al) have demonstrated that the more hypnotizable an individual is, the better their outcome when being treated for anxiety. Anxiety is related to PERSISTENT NEGATIVE THOUGHTS, in particular the constant anticipation that the worst is likely to happen.
Such thoughts are often of the ‘what if…’ type, leading to the imagination conjuring up all kinds of dire predictions (the anxious individual will almost invariably vastly overestimate the chances of the worst happening AND underestimate his/her ability to cope should the worst occur. However, I know from my own experience that the fear such thinking creates is very real and can lead to severe distress).
Examples of the kinds of thoughts the anxious individual may experience are :
– ‘ what if my partner leaves me? – I’ll die lonely and unhappy.’
– ‘ what if I lose my job? – I’ll be on the streets and have to obtain my meals from garbage cans.’
– ‘ what if this new mole on my hand is skin cancer? – I’ll be dead within a month and die horribly, or else my hand will be amputated and my juggling career will be severely hampered.’
The term for this kind of thinking, you will not be surprised to discover, is CATASTROPHIZING. Such thinking processes are often deeply ingrained in those who suffer anxiety; indeed, such catastrophizing can become intrusive and obsessive causing, as I have said, considerable anguish. My own anxiety required that I was sometimes hospitalized.
THE ROLE OF HYPNOSIS. When we are anxious, a vicious circle can develop : our negative, even paranoid, thinking causes us to experience adverse physiological symptoms (e.g. sweating, dizziness, tremors, dry mouth, stomach upsets, physical tension, restlessness etc) and these symptoms, in turn, intensify our negative thinking. In this way the mental and physiological symptoms feed off one another in a king of anti-symbiotic relationship.
Hypnosis can address both of these categories of symptoms in a two-pronged attack – it can reduce negative thinking and encourage their replacement with more realistic, positive thoughts by utilizing a technique, based upon the psychologist, Beck’s, cognitive behavioral therapy model (click here to read my article on this) AND training the individual to use powerful, physical relaxation techniques.
However, acquiring the new skills requires several hypnotherapy sessions, which is why a good hypnotherapist will provide the client with a recording of the session so that s/he (the client) can repeatedly listen to it at home, thus making it more likely the new skills will take permanent root in his/her mind.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).