Anxiety and Hypnotherapy

Anxiety comes in many different shapes and sizes, from fears of specific things or situations (like the fear of elevators, or anxiety about social situations) to anticipatory anxiety to generalized anxiety and panic attacks. Physical problems, such as a depleted immune system, stomach complaints, high blood pressure or body tension -- often come along for the ride.

In my experience, hypnosis is good answer to anxiety problems of all kinds. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the “gold standard” for a lot of mental health treatment, including anxiety. As a result, if you search for treatment for anxiety, you’ll often stuff saying that CBT is the answer. Although there aren't as many studies about hypnosis and anxiety as there are about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and anxiety, at least one study suggests that hypnosis based therapy is as effective as CBT, but that the effects are longer lasting.

Here are some talking points about hypnotherapy and anxiety treatment:

  • One reason for hypnotherapy’s effectiveness with anxiety this may be that therapeutic hypnosis states are themselves very relaxing. While there are exceptions to this rule, generally a hypnotherapist will help someone enter a relaxed, internally focused trance state in order to do hypnosis. In this kind of state, there isn’t much anxiety. In other words, just going into a hypnotic trance state -- regardless of what you do in that state -- can help with anxiety in the moment, and may help an individual’s system “reset” to a more relaxed state in general. A similar effect can be seen with yoga nidra meditations and even sometimes with samatha meditation.

  • Then, in hypnosis, many different interventions are possible. My favorites include:

    • anchoring - giving your unconscious cues that you can relax and/or reminders of competence and strength so that the anxiety feels less threatening

    • personally tailored direct suggestions to address any cause of the anxiety, like I talk about in this entry where I discuss an imaginery case of public speaking anxiety.

    • going back to the original cause of the anxiety and fixing the issue there -- I'll be talking more about this soon when I talk about hypnosis and trauma treatment

  • Other possibilities include: hypnotic exposure therapy and rehearsal (ie, using hypnosis to imagine a scary situation and it working out okay), dialogue with the "protector parts" that are triggering the anxiety in the style of Internal Family Systems or Self-Relations Therapy, or creative metaphorical interventions to reduce or remove anxiety, such as the hypnosis “control room” exercise.

The major thing that I want to convey about anxiety is that it's very treatable. Sometimes I hear people talking about living with anxiety for years and years. While it's possible that working with the anxiety may take some time, and may require additional interventions, such as temporary anti-anxiety medication, herbal supplements, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, a life where anxiety isn't a daily obstacle is very possible. There’s obviously a lot more I could say about this, but maybe I’ll stop here. If you’d like to learn more or have questions, contact me or write a comment.

Next I’ll be talking about treating trauma and PTSD with hypnotherapy.