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Hypnotherapy Anxiety, Fear and Phobias

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Essentially stress is a survival mechanism brought through the ages of man.  Whereas our predecessors would have a stress response to being in danger from a dangerous animal, modern day man has different stress triggers to release of the survival hormone cocktail, which includes adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine.  Stress is the bodies reaction to a perceived imminent threat or one in the future, it is the bodies fight or flight response where the body prepares to act.  non-essential processes are stopped and blood is directed to muscles, hormones such as adrenaline give a rush of energy, the heart beat increases its rhythm, breathing becomes much faster it increases attention to details/surroundings and to be able to react to the danger.  The stress response to imminent danger or call to action can be a positive thing in that it helps us act quickly, focus and gives us a burst of much needed energy or strength.

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The stress response is unhealthy when it is triggered at an inappropriate time or the duration of the stress response goes on for too long, leading to increased cortisol levels and to the inability to think straight.  This is because brain functions during stress periods are being compromised by blood flow being redirected to increase supply within muscles for movement.  Agitation, aggression, dry mouth, feeling sick, detachment, catastrophizing, feelings of losing control, increased blood sugars and blood pressure can all be a result of prolonged periods of stress.  

It is when the Stressor has gone that Stress turns to Anxiety when the individual experiences prolonged periods of feeling fearful, or emotions which are out of proportion for the situation they are in together with the physical reactions of the stress response.

Anxiety is much more predominant in modern times because of the ongoing nature of stressful situations for instance within the work place, and also because there are much more things within society that we have to be and are programmed to be fearful of.  These different negative thoughts and experiences can combine to create a persistent state of anxiety.

Our view of the world, experiences etc gets saved in a generalised form with emotions and our dominant representational system plays a significant part in this.   For example, fear gets saved as a generalization from a specific situation so the fear doesn’t necessarily equate to the actual thing we were trying to save ourselves from.  This view becomes imbedded then reinforced over time, which is why sometimes our fear seems irrational and needs a combination of different techniques to effectively pin point, understand and treat it.

Hypnotherapy can be very effective in helping to elevate the symptoms of stress but also in preventing stress, however it does have its limitations with regards to stress, anxieties and phobias.  

One of the limitations is that without additional home practice by the client with self-hypnosis the client is not fully committed to their recovery which will therefore negatively impact on the outcome of treatment.  Another limitation maybe that without finding the initial stress incident in order to reframe the memory of it, the longevity of success will be undermined by the client still having the same view and beliefs about the initial stress incident. Also it isn’t necessarily true that hypnotherapy is a quick fix as it maybe that the extent of the anxiety or phobia requires a larger number of sessions are if for instance the client is initially resistant or they have several factors feeding into their anxiety, fear or phobia.  Which brings me to the final limitation that I am going to talk about which is that it maybe that for the client there are underlying benefits of having the anxiety or phobia.  Without ensuring if there are any they have been identified and dealt with the client will not have the desired outcome or longevity in therapy success.


Different techniques which can be employed in the treatment of stress anxiety and phobias are:

Anchoring according to is “any stimulus that triggers a consistent psychological state.”  It also states that “There are four keys to anchoring: 1. The intensity of the state; 2. Timing (peak of experience); 3. Uniqueness of the stimulus, including the number of senses used (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, gustatory), and; Exact replication of the stimulus, or trigger.”  These strong positive feelings are used to give a much needed boost at times of need of a specific feeling such as calm during times of anxiety.  

Age regression to the first point the client can recall feeling panic or loss of control.  This techniques is commonly used as part of hypnoanalysis to get to and understand the root of a behavior for instance.

Direct and solution focused suggestions can support such things as increased self worth, perfectionism, realizing own abilities etc

Future pacing, helping to people to see themselves e.g. in a mirror how they will be at any given future moment of time so they can see the potential of what they can achieve and become, e.g. How they will look once they have lost weight and got to their target goal, or are at an event and confidently public speaking.

Parts and integration work to support the client to feel more whole and to accept parts of them that they were not comfortable with.

Ego strengthening, should be part of every hypnotherapy session to help the client to see their abilities, possibilities and opportunities and increase a sense of their own self worth.

Reframing techniques to remove the negative emotions attached to his childhood memories

SUDS (Subjective Unit of Disturbance) scale to work to reduce the level of anxiety in specific situations.  SUDS scales are typically used for phobia work but can be very effective in giving greater understanding of the different levels and process of stress and anxiety especially considering stress, anxiety and phobia are all interconnected.  Given it all starts with stress which leads to anxiety if not managed appropriately which then in turn can result in a phobia.  

Hypno-desensitization, the website states that “Through hypnosis, we can create a situation where the client comes into contact with the object of their fears in exactly the way they need to.  We can ensure that the object of their fears behaves in exactly the way we need it to, so that they can overlay their fearful experiences with relaxed, confident and harmless ones. In imagination they can approach or experience the thing they fear, while maintaining a calm and relaxed state of mind. They don’t have to wait until they happen to encounter the thing they’re trying to overcome.”



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