Hypnosis For Anxiety

Updated August 26, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

We have all been anxious at some point in life. Whether it's feeling uptight or uneasy, it's perfectly normal to be a little anxious. In fact, it can have some good effects, such as sharpening our awareness for an exam or an interview. While a little anxiety is normal, some excessive anxiety and worry can be unhealthy. If haven’t been able to fall asleep at night, or if you sweat profusely and feel nausea just before your interview, then there is a problem. If these feelings last longer than six months and are interfering with your life, then you may have an anxiety disorder.

There Are Many Forms And Degrees Of Anxiety And Many Ways To Cope

What Is An AnxietyDisorder?

Anxiety is the body's natural response to stress, so it’s no surprise that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, more people experience anxiety disorders than any other mental health condition. It's the feeling of apprehension and fear about what is happening or what is to come. Our reaction to stress is an inbuilt survival mechanism that originally enabled us to act when our lives were threatened. To act, the heartbeat is strengthened, blood is pumped to body muscles, and blood pressure is raised. When an action is taken, and the danger is over, or the problem has been resolved, the body relaxes and returns to normal. However, when the threat is low-level and constant as in common stressful situations of modern living, often no action can be taken to deal with it, and the body suffers long-term tension.

There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. There are other mental health conditions that can be comorbid with an anxiety disorder diagnosis as well. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may also experience depression since these mental health conditions often run hand in hand. People with anxiety disorders may also abuse alcohol and other drugs in efforts to feel better. While this may provide temporary relief, it ultimately makes the problem worse.

Symptoms Of An Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety symptoms look and feel different in different people. Some people feel they're standing in the middle of a crumbling building with nothing but an umbrella for protection. Or one might feel like they are in a merry-go-round moving at 65mph and have no way of slowing it down. Others experience butterflies in the stomach, a racing heart, nightmares, painful thoughts, panic, painful memories they can't control, or fear about a specific place or event.

Other symptoms of anxiety disorders include rapid breathing, increased heart rate, difficulty falling asleep, restlessness, sweaty palms, and trouble concentrating. An anxiety disorder may stop you from doing things you enjoy. It may also prevent you from normal things such as using an elevator, leaving your home and crossing the street. If not untreated, anxiety can get worse.

There are many ways of treating anxiety, but one of the most effective is psychotherapy with a professional counselor, including hypnosis.

How Does Hypnosis Work For Anxiety?

Hypnosis is a state of active consciousness where the subject is aware and alert at all times. When used in psychotherapy, it's non-invasive. Instead, hypnosis focuses on finding out the cause of a person's problem as it heals the mind. It reduces peripheral awareness while making a person focus all their attention towards one particular field in conversation. Clinical hypnosis can be a useful, effective part of a therapy treatment plan. In addition to treating symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, it has been shown to help people with losing weight, easing pain, treating irritable bowel syndrome, reducing hot flashes, and quitting smoking.

Basically, the process of hypnotic suggestion begins with a hypnotherapist starting the process of hypnotic induction, which may be done through intense concentration, guided relaxation, focused attention, etc. This is meant to bring patients to heightened states of awareness called hypnotic trances. A person in this state is so focused that anything else going around is temporarily blocked out or totally ignored.

Hypnosis for anxiety works together with counseling to help people explore painful thoughts, memories, and feelings that might have been hidden in their conscious minds. Apart from this, hypnosis enables people to see things differently.

The hypnotic state makes a person able to respond to suggestions. This means hypnosis can be very effective in helping people change certain perceptions and sensations (e.g., pain, symptoms of depression, disordered thinking surrounding weight loss); and it can particularly useful in treating anxiety.

Using an example from Healthline Media, if you always get anxiety attacks when flying, you can visualize yourself going back to the very time you got scared of flying. A technique called hypnoprojectives can be used. Here, you can visualize the past events as you would have loved to have seen them. You will then see yourself in the future, feeling calm and peaceful while on a plane.

Hypnosis is a series of reminders to help promote relaxation and reduce stress, fear, and anxiety. It encourages a person to go into more positive directions when they feel overwhelmed by negativity. This treatment method is sometimes useful in clearing past experiences. While many people think that hypnosis makes an individual lose control when they’re in an altered state, this isn’t necessarily true. It simply makes you more open to suggestion. Research shows that hypnosis affects certain brain areas. Stanford researchers found that hypnosis has an effect on the parts of the brain responsible for controlling what happens in the body, paying attention to external stimuli, and maintaining awareness of one’s actions.

Research—including numerous peer-reviewed studies and systematic reviews—has shown that hypnotherapy is an effective method of treating anxiety. One meta-analysis of clinical trials showed that hypnotherapy treatment can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms, particularly when combined with other forms of treatment, such as exposure therapy or medication. One systematic review of controlled trials—taken from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, PubMed, and other sources—pointed to hypnotherapy as a useful treatment for perceived stress. Another meta-analysis shows that hypnosis can treat depression as effectively as other forms of therapy. So, research shows that hypnosis can not only treat anxiety but also conditions that are co-morbid with anxiety disorders, such as bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, and depression.

According to Healthline Media, there are also some potential drawbacks to hypnotherapy, including false memories, dizziness, and headaches.

Hypnosis is sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders such as:

  1. Panic Disorders

This is characterized by intense fear and terror that develops quickly and unexpectedly. Hypnosis can be used to help relieve symptoms of panic anxiety disorder. During hypnotherapy, the therapist may ask the individual to focus on their panic attacks. This will bring awareness to their emotions, physical sensations, and cognitions associated with the attacks. The therapist will then use words of encouragement and suggest ways of coping with such feelings. Along with treatments such as medication and exposure therapy, hypnosis can help manage the symptoms of a panic disorder. It puts a person with anxiety in a relaxed state, improves their self-esteem, and overcomes negative thinking.

  1. Phobia

A phobia is an excessive fear of a certain object, activity or situation. People with phobias can go to great lengths to avoid whatever they fear. If they can't avoid it, they will tolerate it with great anxiety. Hypnotherapy for anxiety helps to access the underlying cause of phobias and eliminates a person's conditioned response to the action causing the anxiety. Hypnosis can be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as exposure therapy, to best treat phobias.

  1. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

People with this anxiety disorder suffer from compulsive behavior patterns that repeat even when the person realizes the behaviors are irrational and unreasonable. The person may even appear superstitious. For example, they may recheck their looks for up to seven times before leaving the house or continually wash their hands.

Often the compulsive behavior is a way of comforting the inner child and to protect them from deep fears. Such fears usually originate from childhood experiences. Hypnosis for anxiety assists a person with finding the first scene where they began to feel so dirty they had to clean their hands compulsively. It also helps 'wash off' the dirty child and encourage the person to love their inner child.

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This is an anxiety disorder that comes after one goes through a traumatic event. While hypnosis for anxiety cannot erase the traumatic events, it directly addresses the painful events and their effects. It allows people to access information stored in the physical body, the subconscious mind, and their energetic fields. The traumatic event is examined, the pain and difficult emotions surrounding it are processed and expressed, and any negative conclusions and beliefs are released and transformed.

By doing this, a person can reclaim their strength and virtues, which helps them treat the anxiety disorder.

  1. Social Anxiety

This type of disorder is composed of extreme fear of being judged by other people in social situations. For example, if your first public speaking experience was traumatic, you may associate interacting in public with intense anxiety. For this reason, you may avoid going to public places for fear of being judged or humiliated.

Fortunately, hypnosis can help control this problem. The main goal of hypnosis for social anxiety is to help separate the body's anxiety response from the traumatic public speaking experience. Apart from this, it also trains the brain to feel calm when around people.

With hypnosis, you quickly learn how to get along with others by just being yourself easily, and reduce feelings of self-consciousness surrounding what others think about you.

  1. Separation Anxiety

This is the fear of being far away from people you love or home. For example, when a child leaves home for college, both the parent and the child might experience separation anxiety disorder. Or, a married woman can become extremely anxious and worried whenever her husband leaves home for work, or when her children leave for school. She is fully convinced that something awful will happen, like getting hit by a car or get kidnapped.

If you are having trouble feeling calm because of separation anxiety, hypnosis therapy can help put you in a relaxed state. It works by internalizing a sense of a loving, caring figure in your life that you could call on in your mind whenever you feel extremely anxious.

  1. Hypochondriasis

Hypochondriasis is also known as illness anxiety disorder. People with this disorder strongly believe they have a serious or life-threatening illness even though they have experienced few to zero symptoms. Even when they see a doctor and no illness is found, they are not reassured, and their worries will continue. In fact, such people are constantly looking for health problems such as sores, lumps, aches, and pains.

There Are Many Forms And Degrees Of Anxiety And Many Ways To Cope

Consciously, you may be aware that you haven’t received and diagnosis and aren’t sick, but your subconscious is the part of controlling your behavior. During hypnosis for anxiety, a therapist may help you discover that your fear of getting sick goes back to your mother, who was obsessed with cleaning germs. Your subconscious then took note of your mother's behavior and developed an irrational fear of getting sick. No matter the cause of your anxiety, hypnosis re-trains your subconscious to separate legitimate illnesses from imagined ones.

A hypnosis session to treat anxiety can last between 20 and 60 minutes. At the end of every session, the therapist brings you back to alertness to reflect on the experience. In most cases, you will be given instructions on how to practice self-hypnosis for anxiety. The number of sessions required depends on the type of anxiety disorder and the severity of the condition. To do further research on hypnosis for anxiety, you can take a look at this article from Healthline Media. 

If you want to learn more about treatments for anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, you can connect with a licensed BetterHelp therapist. Through BetterHelp, you can participate in talk therapy from the comfort of your own home. You’ll have the ability to connect with a mental health professional via video/voice call, messaging, or live chat and continue on your journey to improved mental well-being.

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