Cancer phobia - how hypnotherapy can help
Olympic medallist Lillian Board and the divine singer Minnie Ripperton both lost their battles with cancer in the glare of tabloid journalism. These were young women in their prime. Those of us of a certain age will recognise a time when a diagnosis of cancer was equivalent to a death sentence. Some whispered about "the big C" as if to merely pronounce the word was to tempt fate. Few families were spared the loss of friends or relatives. Too many saw their loved ones wasting away in pain. So perhaps it isn't surprising that a whole generation feared cancer - more than anything else. Sometimes that fear became overwhelming, emotionally extreme and debilitating. This was cancer phobia.
The improved outlook for cancer sufferers is unrecognisable from those bygone days. We now distinguish between forms which are still fatal and others, which are merely a nuisance (like some skin cancers and some leukaemias). Diagnosis is usually achieved much earlier and so therapeutic interventions – surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy – are now far more effective.
Despite these advances, many patients cannot free themselves from an all abiding certainty that they are harbouring a cancer. This phenomenon can often be seen in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These people have real, but benign abdominal symptoms. However, some convince themselves that there is an underlying malignancy. These patients frequently undergo cycles of futile, negative investigation. Some of the investigations - particularly colonoscopy - are deeply unpleasant. Nevertheless, reassurance rarely lasts for long.
Hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) both have long track records in the management of anxiety and panic reactions. Hypnotic intervention can teach the patient first-aid techniques to manage incipient attacks. The establishment of a ‘calm anchor’ is just one example. Subconscious responses can be radically modified under hypnosis to attenuate these unpleasant emotional responses. Phobias are best considered as "thought habits". The phobic stimulus relies on a belief that "things may be outside my control - I could die".
Most patients can learn – with guidance and practice – to alter those unhelpful thought habits. You can quickly achieve a significant measure of control. Intrusive beliefs and fears surrounding cancer need not hold you captive.
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