Hypnosis for exam anxiety

For many years, I was a teacher and have experience of teaching across the whole age range, from key stage one to adults on pre-access courses. One thing all of those diverse students had in common was exam anxiety. Many, when faced with a test or exam, or even the thought of one, became so anxious that they failed to produce the standard of work of which they were so capable in any other setting. They experienced phobic reactions, sometimes even at the mere thought of the exam; shaking hands, feeling sick, an inability to recall any facts or write clearly. Some students became so distressed that they simply failed to turn up on the day. The sad fact was that the majority of these students had clearly demonstrated their knowledge and understanding of the subject being tested, but they simply could not cope with the anxiety that the exam provoked within them.

In today's society, where it seems that almost every aspect of life has to be certificated, there is no escape from performance anxiety. In addition to formal education, driving tests, interviews, presentations, even performance in sports or other recreational activities, pile on the pressure of the constant need to prove oneself and pass muster. 

Learning, in whatever area of life, can be disrupted by the fear of failure. Which of us, has not sat in a class silently, not understanding but too afraid to lift a hand to ask for an explanation, because everyone else seems to understand perfectly? A lot of us, I would guess, whether it was at school, work or even when taking part in a hobby or club. Some lucky people might only have experienced this at a young age and then grew more confident with time, but many people never lose this fear.

For effective learning to take place, we need to be able to bring information into our mind, store and organise that information efficiently and then be able to retrieve it when needed. Anxiety can cause any of the steps in this process to be disrupted and lead to that awful feeling of ‘total brain freeze’ just when you want to demonstrate everything for which you have studied for so long. Sadly many people suffer with such debilitating anxiety; happily, hypnotherapy can help! Creating anchors to a more confident state; teaching self-hypnosis exercises to manage anxiety; building resources within the student such as frustration tolerance to enable them to deal with more challenging material and increasing the ability to organise themselves are all ways in which hypnosis can aid learning but also help combat the symptoms of exam anxiety. As Michael D Yapko writes:

“Hypnosis in the educational context, whether formally or informally used, can enhance teaching skills, creativity and student performance” (Yapko ‘Trancework. An introduction to the practice of clinical hypnosis’ fourth edition).

Considering how many people are affected by performance anxiety, it is certainly worth considering hypnotherapy; after all, what have you got to lose? You might find that the confidence and freedom from fear spread into many other areas of your life too so you could up gaining far more than you expected!

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