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Treating Phobias and Panic Disorders with Hypnotherapy

Anxiety is probably the most widespread mental health concern across the globe. Specific phobias and panic attacks are among the most common types of anxiety disorders in adult population in the US. These mental conditions can start early but their rate becomes low in later years of human life. This actively demonstrates that anxiety disorders are curable and highly manageable.

With the prevalent existence of phobias and panic disorders, the medical field has been exploring ways to treat them such as cognitive behavioural therapy, exposure therapy, and medications. Yet, some people opt to undergo alternative treatments like hypnotherapy. Why? You will know the exact reasons as you read through this article.


Phobias and Panic Disorders: Symptoms and Causes

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) classified phobia and panic disorder as “anxiety disorders”. They share similar symptoms, ranging from intense fear, anxiousness, and panic attacks. But while this is the case for these two conditions, it is important to note that they are distinct and each possesses a specific set of criteria to be identified as an anxiety disorder.


A phobia, as defined, is the persistent fear of a particular object or situation. But this ‘fear’ is not something that simply gives a person discomfort - it is more than that. A person suffering from a phobia is severely afraid of that particular object or situation, greater than the threat it displays.

For instance, most people would feel uneasiness in high places but an acrophobic person (someone with an intense fear of heights) experiences panic attacks when placed in an elevated location. Just thinking they would cross a hanging bridge or see a photo of a cliff may already trigger their anxiety.


Someone with a phobia is aware of the extreme and unreasonable fear they are feeling but they often feel they have no control over it. Known symptoms may include shaking, feeling terrified, fast heart rate, and an excessive need to get away from the object or situation causing the phobia.


On the other hand, panic disorder happens when a person encounters repeated and sudden panic attacks. DSM-5 describes panic attacks as unexpected surges of intense fear that usually last within minutes. People with a panic disorder always feel scared of a possible panic attack. Oftentimes, a panic attack has no clear cause. Physical symptoms include accelerated heartbeats, difficulty in breathing, and sweating.

Although symptoms of both phobia and panic disorder can be alarming, they can be handled well through treatment. Receiving therapy can lessen the symptoms and improve your mental health.


The Science of Hypnotherapy

You’ve probably known hypnosis as swaying a pocket watch in front of someone while whispering words to let them enter a trancelike state and hopefully hypnotize them. Well, bad news! Hypnotherapy is way more than that.


Hypnotherapy is a process that aims to relax one’s mind and focus on the patient’s issues. The term ‘hypnosis’ originated from the Greek word hypnos which means ‘sleep’. A hypnosis session is like deep relaxation with your concentration at its peak, enabling you to respond more to the hypnotist's suggestions. This consents you to dig deeper into your emotions and explore matters about your anxiety.


Also, it should be pointed out that the role of a hypnotist or a hypnotherapist does not involve controlling your mind, but rather guide you throughout the entire procedure.


Benefits of Hypnotherapy in Treating Anxiety Disorders

Researchers at the Stanford University have discovered that hypnosis alters your mind and body due to specific changes in a few areas of the brain. David Spiegel, an Associate Chair of Psychiatry in the university, unfolds the brain’s ability to heal medical and psychiatric disorders. According to him, hypnosis is a powerful method of changing the way we make use of our minds to manipulate perception and our bodies.

Hypnosis sessions revealed effectiveness in reducing chronic pain, treating smoking abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, and solving phobia and other anxiety problems.


Hypnotherapy serves as a way to:


go over suppressed feelings and painful memories

implant a desire to live healthily

assist in calming and resetting an anxious brain


With hypnotherapy, it can also be effortless for clients to avoid intensifying any phobia or panic disorders that might feel, like:


shortness of breath

increased heart rate

muscle strain

irritability

upset stomach


Hence, hypnotherapy can be considered an adequate complementary and alternative treatment for psychological needs such as anxiety disorders.


Can Hypnosis Be Performed Alone?

It is possible to hypnotize yourself by training your mind to relax without the use of any recordings and the help of a hypnotherapist. You can develop your mindset, emotional state, and actions anytime and anywhere. Though hypnotherapy programs and private sessions offer complete elimination of a lifelong issue or a broad transformation, self-hypnosis proposes a change in both short-term and, after sufficient training, long-term states. This is attainable since hypnotherapy creates modifications in the subconscious mind.


Here is one technique you can use to reduce stress


Below are the steps.

Take note of your starting stress level (0 is the lowest, 10 is the highest).

Close your eyes.

Take five slow and deep breaths.

Think of your favourite colour, say it to yourself, and visualize it traveling from your head to your toes.

Repeat these words, “Three, I am going deeper and deeper. Two, I am going deeper and deeper. One, I am going deeper and deeper.”

Again, slowly repeat these words, three times: “I am safe, I am calm, I choose to relax.”

Picture that same favourite colour of yours again, say it to yourself, and imagine it flowing from head to toe.

Imagine you are experiencing a condition you wish to be in. If you feel scared, imagine yourself being courageous. For the next minute, put yourself in a situation wherein you think, feel, and behave according to what you desire.

For the last time, think of your favourite colour, say it to yourself, and imagine it flowing from your head to toe.


Hypnosis has proved its worth in helping people get over their issues.

Battling your mind can be exhausting and draining. You need the physical, emotional, and mental strength to get through, and having to channel all these within you is quite a tough job. That is why you must know how to deal with every sensation you feel. Hypnotherapy is one way to help you manage your psychological concerns. But then again, the real key to achieving healing is to know and realize you deserve more than your struggles— you deserve to be happy and be at peace with yourself.

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