Anxiety

Most of us know how it feels to be stressed, worried or nervous about something. Usually, these feelings are fleeting and they disappear as quickly as they appear. For those with anxiety, however, these feelings last longer and can be much more intense.

If you have an anxiety disorder, you may find that you avoid certain situations because you’re worried it will trigger these feelings for you. This can make everyday tasks difficult and hold you back from doing the things you want.

There are several different techniques and tools that can help with anxiety, one of which is hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy for anxiety aims to seek the root cause of the problem and change your relationship with anxiety. Here we’ll explore how hypnotherapy works for anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Us humans have evolved to protect ourselves. One of the ways we do that is through the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ reaction. If our brains perceive a threat or danger, it releases hormones to prepare us to run away, fight, or freeze. These hormones include adrenaline and cortisol, and they make us feel more vigilant of what’s happening. They also make our hearts beat faster, so blood is sent where it’s needed the most when we’re under attack.

It’s a great system, but as society has developed, we generally have less need for it. For many of us, the system gets activated when there is no physical danger present. For example, our fight, flight or freeze response may be triggered by our manager asking us to add another task to our to-do list.

We then end up internalising the feelings and find ourselves sitting at our desks, with our hearts pounding, with no idea how to make it stop. Anxiety becomes a mental health problem when it starts affecting daily life. You may be very easily triggered, or find you have a level of anxiety constantly throughout the day.

What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety will feel different to everyone, however, there are certain symptoms here you may relate to if you have anxiety:

  • overthinking
  • ruminating
  • headaches
  • chest pain
  • dizziness
  • difficulties sleeping
  • faster breathing
  • nausea
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • teeth grinding
  • restlessness

Mental health charity Mind created this video about anxiety and the ways it can affect us.

Types of anxiety

Because anxiety is a normal part of life, it can be difficult to recognise when it is becoming a problem. However, if you are experiencing strong feelings of anxiety, or they are lasting for a long time, it can become exhausting and overwhelming.

The symptoms and problems associated with anxiety will differ between each individual but, depending on the kind of problems you experience, you may be diagnosed with a more specific anxiety disorder, such as generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder or social phobia.

Generalised anxiety disorder

Those with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) will feel anxious often and may not know why. The anxiety can interfere with daily life as sufferers may seriously worry about family, money and health. The condition is often diagnosed when an individual spends at least six months worrying excessively about everyday problems. It can be a difficult disorder to live with as it can feel as if there’s no respite from anxiety.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is characterised by intense feelings of terror, which can strike suddenly and without warning. A common symptom is panic attacks, though not everyone who experiences a panic attack will have panic disorder. Those who are diagnosed with panic disorder can often feel constantly afraid of having a panic attack. It’s this fear that can then often lead to panic attacks, where it becomes a vicious cycle.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) involves extreme feelings of anxiety and discomfort in social situations. Some of the common signs of social anxiety include fear of being around and interacting with people and being judged negatively by others.

What causes you to shut down or feel inadequate? If you know your triggers you can de-personalise them and have a strategy for recovering quickly.

- Hypnotherapist Trevor Brown BA(Open), Dip Eur Hum(Open), DipCAH, MNCH(Lic).

Other forms of anxiety disorders include:

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • phobias
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Health anxiety

More commonly associated with OCD, health anxiety is a specific type of phobia or anxiety, that can make day-to-day life extremely difficult.

Someone with health anxiety will find themselves worrying a great deal 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.

Read ‘Hypnotherapy for health anxiety’ for more help and advice about overcoming health anxiety.

How can I reduce anxiety?

Anxiety is a difficult thing to live with. It can feel exhausting, taking its toll on both our mental and physical health. If you suffer from anxiety, in any form, know that you’re not alone and that there are tools to help you.

What works best for you will depend on the nature of your anxiety and your personal circumstances; try not to be disheartened if one approach doesn’t seem to help. For some people, self-help techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and journaling are enough to manage anxiety symptoms. For others, more professional guidance is needed.

Talking therapies like counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are often recommended for anxiety. Your doctor may also recommend medication. Hypnotherapy for anxiety is also gaining in popularity and, for many people, brings about positive change not only in anxiety symptoms but in your relationship with anxiety itself.

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Does hypnotherapy work for anxiety?

Hypnotherapy for anxiety can help boost feelings of confidence and self-belief while reducing feelings of fear and intense worry. It can help you develop the ability to access the relaxed state of mind needed to overcome the often-overwhelming emotions that come with anxiety.

Using the power of suggestion, hypnosis aims to access your subconscious mind and promote positive change. The suggestions themselves can be tailored to help you learn what triggers your anxiety and why, as well as changing the way you react towards them.

How hypnotherapy works for anxiety

To begin, you will generally discuss what it is you hope to achieve from hypnotherapy with your hypnotherapist. Your hypnotherapist will ask questions to try and establish any triggers or causes for the way you feel. They will then explain how hypnosis for anxiety works, explaining the process to you, so you know what to expect.

After your initial consultation, your hypnotherapist will begin by helping you enter a relaxed state of mind. While sessions will differ depending on your therapist’s approach, they may ask you to focus on a time when you have felt anxious. You may be asked to focus on the physical sensations, as well as thinking of what may trigger your anxiety.

Once you have recognised these sensations, your hypnotherapist may offer calming words or ‘suggestions’. What they say will depend on you and your personal situation. For example, if you have recognised a trigger to be pressure at work or university, the suggestion could be, “You can do this. Take a moment to breathe and clear your head then tackle the problem.”

The idea behind this technique is that when you start to feel anxious or fearful, the suggestions or calming words will enter your conscious mind and help you cope. Your hypnotherapist may also teach you techniques to help you relax and calm yourself down when you feel anxious feelings building.

Now when I feel anxious I think back to that place in my mind and find strength from there somehow. I'm not really sure how it works but I have felt differently since having my hypnotherapy session.

- Read Sandra’s experience of hypnotherapy for anxiety.

You may find that you only need one or two sessions to help you understand why you feel this way and what you can do to cope, or you may need more. In terms of how many sessions you have, you will be able to discuss this with your hypnotherapist. Together, you will work to decide how many sessions you would like and what techniques you believe will be most effective.

Your hypnotherapist may also teach you self-hypnosis techniques that you can turn to when you feel you need them. They may offer you recordings and teach you simple methods to practise at home. 

Where can I find a hypnotherapist?

When you are ready, the first step of your journey will be to find a hypnotherapist that you feel comfortable with. On Hypnotherapy Directory, we have a proof policy in place to ensure all professionals listed on our website have provided proof of qualifications and insurance or membership with a professional body.

It’s important to find a hypnotherapist that resonates with you, so we encourage our members to fill their profiles with as much information as possible. This way you can learn more about them, how they work and if they are the person to help you. When you find a professional you believe can help, simply send them an email to book a consultation.

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