Anxiety and Worry

 

Anxiety is a term that actually covers quite a lot of different issues and experiences.  The DSM V, the Diagnostic manual of mental health issues that is used by NHS and private psychiatrists and doctors both here and in the USA, categorises Anxiety into the following:

 

Generalised Anxiety

Anxiety with depression

Panic attacks

Phobias

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Agoraphobia

Social Phobia

 

I offer help for all types of anxiety and will tailor the treatment plan to you.  I have specialised in fear of flying and have helped many clients to comfortably travel by plane, along with other methods of transport like driving, being on trains and being on boats.

 

Generally speaking, what is happening with anxiety is that your brain has learned, over time, to respond to situations as if they are a threat, even when they are not.  This is called the fight or flight response and involves the perception of threat by an area of the brain called the amygdala which then releases hormones into your body which regulate functions such as your breathing and heart rate, digestion, sweating, shaking, and feeling weak.  This is all good if you are actually under threat because this gives you the strength and speed that you would need to deal with a threat.  However, when no threat is present then this feeling is harmless, but distinctly uncomfortable, something we generally like to avoid.

 

In general anxiety, we can feel that life itself and its day to day activities is threatening.  With specific phobias, like fear of cats or heights, then it is the object or situation that we find threatening.  With panic attacks, it’s the idea of experiencing the fear itself that we find threatening.  With OCD, it is often a fear that if we do not carry out a certain ritual, then bad things will happen. 

 

What is common to all of the above is that the threat may or may not be real.  It is enough that we think the threat is or would be real, for us to respond as if it is.  This links to our individual way of seeing things (our perception) and we often find that our experience of anxiety is matched by our viewing things in an unfavourable way – either playing up the threat or difficulty or believing that we don’t have the ability to cope.

 

There are other factors that reinforce and indeed create our anxieties such as avoidance, secondary benefits and the enabling behaviours of others.  Those that may be relevant to your experience will be discussed with you in your consultation, should you decide that now is the time to deal with your own anxiety.

 

Therapy generally has mixed results in reducing anxiety, with CBT and hypnosis having the strongest evidence of success.  Longer-term therapy is often not the best solution.  Talking about our anxiety does not necessarily reduce it, and the classic Freudian concept of regression to cause taught by many hypnotherapy colleges has very little evidence that it is effective and its relationship with False Memory Syndrome must be considered carefully when deciding whether this approach is helpful to you.  In addition, NLP techniques such as fast phobia cure have not stood up to scrutiny and has not been able to provide a robust evidence base that it is effective.  In fact, Krugman et al (1985) indicated that the NLP fast phobia cure was no more effective in reducing anxiety than merely waiting for 1 hr. They write: "Data suggest that Bandler and Grinder's claim for a single-session cure of anxiety may be unwarranted." 

 

However, what does not work for one person often does work for another and the skill of the therapist is to suggest the most appropriate techniques for you.

 

The strongest evidence base for working with anxiety using hypnosis comes from the cognitive behavioural approach.  Many CBT therapists do not realise that CBT can be very successfully combined with hypnosis and not just that, but this combination actually improves the outcome even further.  The CB-hypnosis approach, which I use in my practice often, involves looking at how we are viewing the world and helps to identify beliefs and decisions that might be making our experience harder.  I then work with you to fully look at your issue, and how you would like things to be to prepare a plan.  This involves using hypnosis to enhance relaxation (a polar opposite to anxiety which involves activating the parasympathetic nervous system – or your 'relaxation response') and breaking down your goal to reduce your anxiety into achievable stages, measuring success as we go.  Positive change can generally be achieved in a short number of sessions.

 

CBT has a robust academic evidence base that is accepted by organisations such as NHS and Cochrane for most anxiety conditions. In addition, other specific, evidence-based approaches such as systematic desensitisation and graded exposure therapy through hypnosis are used to effectively work on specific fears related to panic attacks, OCD and phobias.

 

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