Can Hypnosis Help with Anxiety?
Can Hypnosis Help with Anxiety?
With 40 million adults in the US suffering from anxiety, it’s no wonder that many new clients come to us with these same concerns.
But what do these anxiety complaints really mean, and what can we do to help?
Because it’s characterized by a deep state of relaxation, hypnosis seems like a natural remedy — and basically the antithesis of anxiety. And who doesn’t sometimes want a break from thinking and feeling?
The real question is whether hypnosis can produce a lasting feeling of ease, long after the therapy session is over. Can we really just hypnotize away all of our anxiety and worry?
The answer is not so straightforward or simple, because anxiety itself can be complicated. But, when combined with other treatment methods, hypnosis can be an effective and advantageous tool in finding significant and lasting relief.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety and related conditions are common complaints — some estimates are that as many as five-percent of the global population may struggle with acute or chronic anxiety, although the real number is likely higher.
As an adaptive response, anxiety is a natural reaction to danger. When a predator is creeping close or you find yourself in other risky situations, the resulting fear and sense of alertness can keep you alive. Adaptive anxiety helps you prepare for and cope with changes and stimuli in your external environment in order to safeguard your survival and that of your community.
Basically, anxiety is a natural reaction to stress that alerts you to danger. Stress can come from a variety of sources and present in different ways — like a problem at work, a difficult personal decision, or a challenging exam or test. After the stressor has passed, your anxiety disappears, too.
Anxiety disorders, however, are characterized by the experience of persistent and overwhelming fear and anxiety — to the point of interfering with your daily life, such as causing you to avoid school, work, or social events.
Anxiety can be paralyzing. It can keep you from making friends, engaging in social activities, or making progress in your career. Worse, it’s extremely uncomfortable and interferes with your health and your everyday life.
Experts haven’t yet pinpointed the cause of anxiety disorders, which can take the form of generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia, separation anxiety, panic disorder, selective mutism, or specific phobias like heights or spiders.
Genetics, your environment, medical conditions, personal history of abuse or trauma, drug use, and even being shy as a child can increase your chances of developing an anxiety disorder.
While the primary symptom of an anxiety disorder is excessive worry or fear, anxiety can manifest both somatically and cognitively, and an individual’s reactions to anxiety often exacerbates his or her symptoms. Somatically, anxiety can show up as a racing heart, shallow breath, or other uncomfortable bodily reactions. Cognitively, anxiety can take the form of intrusive thoughts that something terrible might happen, or as worries about what others might think.
Some types of anxiety, such as GAD, social anxiety and social phobia, seem to impact every aspect of your life. It can feel like non-stop racing thoughts and constant worry, even when you know logically that the worry is exaggerated. Other anxiety disorder symptoms can include sleep issues, dry mouth, nausea, restlessness, dizziness, and an inability to concentrate.
Your reactions to anxiety might lead you to overindulge in food or develop a drinking problem. Anxiety can also interfere with your work or personal relationships, which often results in lowered self-esteem.
While there are medications and lifestyle changes that can help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and anxiety disorders, therapy methods like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — especially when used in combination with hypnosis — can offer significant relief.
How Hypnosis Works for Anxiety
With adaptive anxiety being not only natural but also beneficial—by helping to keep you alive and alert to danger—what can we do to help ourselves relax when the anxiety we experience is not needed or disproportionate?
This is when hypnosis can help.
Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation in which you are firmly aware and in control, and open to positive and constructive suggestions from a trained therapist. In this trancelike state, your mind is highly focused while external stimuli and concerns fall away.
Hypnosis can help you explore painful memories, process unresolved trauma, and find relief from anxiety and depression.
Sometimes, simply reaching the state of hypnosis can provide powerful reassurance that relaxation is possible and that anxiety can be addressed and remedied.
Hypnosis allows you emotional distance from whatever is troubling you, so that you can gain a different perspective and develop new coping strategies in partnership with your therapist.
When addressing anxiety, the deep relaxation of hypnosis helps to lessen anxiety symptoms. You can use guided imagery to envision yourself in your daily life — or tackling a tough project or specific phobia — while in a state of calm and centeredness.
This emotional remove, coupled with suggestibility, offers the opportunity to work with your therapist toward positive changes and achieving your goals. During hypnosis, these suggestions and changes can take root, resulting in improvement in your mental state and significant growth in your daily life.
Hypnosis opens the door to reducing the intensity of anxious feelings while also digging into root causes. Working with your therapist, you can challenge the irrational beliefs, negative self-talk, and catastrophic thinking patterns that are often associated with anxiety.
While hypnosis alone cannot adequately treat anxiety disorders, the combination of hypnosis with therapeutic treatment of anxiety can have a profound impact on mitigating and coping with anxiety. For instance, our therapists employ mindfulness, psychoanalysis, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to delve into the underlying causes of anxiety, while applying hypnosis to the specific difficulties that arise as a result of anxiety.
This integrative approach allows our clients to develop new coping skills, boost self-confidence, and deepen self-awareness.
What Does the Research Say?
Research has shown that hypnosis is particularly beneficial in treating people with anxiety, as well as addressing the issues that arise in response to anxiety. Generally, people can become fearful of both the triggering stimuli and their somatic reaction to it. Hypnosis helps because it guides you into a calm and relaxed state.
In a 2016 study by the Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers scanned the brains of people during hypnosis sessions and found that these subjects had more focused attention, less self-consciousness, and more emotional and physical control. Other research has shown that hypnosis can immediately and significantly reduce the anxiety of people with cancer.
Hypnosis has been shown to help people reduce their levels of distress, and has been found to help reduce and control anxiety related to another medical condition. In addition to reducing stress levels, hypnosis can even boost the immune system.
Anxiety can leave you feeling frustrated, out of control, and hopeless. If you’re experiencing anxiety, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any underlying medical conditions that could be causing or contributing to your discomfort and unease. Be sure to look for trained and licensed professionals when seeking therapy for anxiety.
Anxiety is a complex problem. While hypnosis alone cannot adequately treat anxiety disorders, it is an effective and advantageous tool when combined with other therapy modalities and can provide a constructive way forward.
Our Anxiety Experts are Clinical Psychologists at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy that specialize in combining hypnosis and therapy for issues related to stress and anxiety. To get in touch or learn more about how combining therapy and hypnosis can help you, please contact us here.
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