Overview: Can you manage social anxiety with hypnosis? The short answer: Yes, hypnotherapy is a powerful tool for managing the anxiety triggers you feel in social situations.
Does going to a party or mixer fill you with dread? What about meeting new people?
If you answered yes, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 12% of U.S. adults experience social anxiety disorder. Countless others face less severe symptoms and feel self-conscious in social situations.
Ultimately, psychologists suggest that social anxiety is triggered by fear.
We fear embarrassment or humiliation, and this fear often gets implanted in our minds in childhood. For example, a negative experience in grade school – you didn't know what to say or froze when meeting new people – can affect us many years into the future.
Hypnosis for social anxiety works by helping us reset and replace these fears.
Using hypnosis, we can update and reframe these triggers and work toward building our social confidence. And several studies conclude that hypnosis is an effective option for resolving social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition characterized by intense fear or anxiety of social situations.
In general, the anxiety stems from a fear of being scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed by others. You might also experience these signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder:
- Fear of being judged or criticized
- Fear of humiliation or embarrassment
- Avoiding social situations or events
- Excessive self-consciousness or worry about how one appears or behaves
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, shaking, or nausea
- Difficulty speaking, including stuttering or stumbling over words
- Fear of public speaking or performing in front of others
- Difficulty making friends or maintaining relationships
- Persistent, irrational fears or beliefs about social situations.
Social anxiety symptoms can vary in intensity. In severe cases, they may interfere with daily life, work, school, and relationships.
Gaining Control of Social Anxiety with Hypnosis
Social anxiety, for many sufferers, is the result of automatic thinking. We find ourselves in a stressful social situation, and our palms start to sweat and our thoughts race.
Once the wheels start spinning, we experience self-consciousness. We can't find the right thing to say and may start to panic.
For others, social anxiety is even more debilitating. The thought of a social event fills them with dread and panic. They might struggle to even attend the event.
These triggers are all automatic, and they reside in our subconscious.
The stressful stimuli – whether a first date or an office holiday party – sends an electrical charge to the brain. And there, subconsciously, the mind jumps into action and tells the body how to react.
Over time, we’ve taught the subconscious how to respond to these stimuli. Many life experiences can embed negative emotions and triggers in the subconscious. Often, they begin in adolescence.
What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder?
Psychologists speculate that social anxiety often starts in adolescence. We might experience a negative social experience like an awkward first date, and we develop a mind-body response to protect us from the negative emotions we felt.
Some possible causes of social anxiety disorder include:
- Genetics. If your parents or siblings have social anxiety disorder, you may be more likely to develop the condition.
- Difficult childhood experiences. If you experienced teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule, or humiliation in childhood, you may be at a higher risk of developing social anxiety disorder.
- Trauma. Childhood trauma, such as family conflict, trauma, or abuse, may also be associated with the disorder.
- Change in school-life / work-life. Life changes like entering a new school, starting a new job, or leaving home, or work-related stress can trigger social anxiety.
- People with health impairments or conditions. Conditions such as facial disfigurement, stuttering, or tremors related to Parkinson's disease may increase self-consciousness and potentially trigger social anxiety disorder in certain individuals.
How does hypnosis help social anxiety?
These causes often develop into attachments and emotional beliefs embedded in the subconscious.
For example, after a negative experience, we might say, “I'm not a conversationalist. I don't have anything interesting to say.” This belief protects us from negative experiences in the future and may result in anxiousness or avoiding social settings.
Hypnosis is a tool that allows us to explore and reframe these subconscious attachments.
For example, using hypnosis, we might reframe the negative experience. We might even learn to laugh at it, like an awkward first date. Hypnosis can also help us release self-consciousness, negative beliefs, and other attachments that may be triggering our social anxiety.
What Is Hypnosis? How Does It Help Manage Social Anxiety?
We like to say that hypnosis is meditation with a goal. In both hypnosis and meditation, we seek a similar state of heightened focus and relaxation.
But with hypnosis, once we've relaxed the mind and the body, we can start to work with the subconscious.
Ultimately, hypnosis changes the way our brains process information.
The state of relaxation shuts down the conscious mind, and we can talk directly to the subconscious. Fortunately, the subconscious is very receptive to new information. Therefore, we can begin to reframe our fears and experiences through suggestion.
These suggestions provide new ways to process sensory information, which allows us to quiet anxiety and fear in social settings. Then, through repetition, we can begin to retrain the subconscious and make these new responses stronger and more automatic.
Here's an example of a hypnosis for social anxiety session:
Does Hypnosis Work for Social Anxiety?
Here's a look at some of the anxiety hypnosis research:
Hypnosis and Anxiety. A large review of research, published in 2010, examined six studies related to hypnosis and anxiety. The authors concluded that the research provided “compelling evidence that hypnosis is an efficacious treatment” for event-based and anxiety related disorders like social anxiety.
Hypnosis and Public Speaking. A fear of public speaking can be related to social anxiety disorder. A 1997 study, for example, found hypnosis helped to reduce perceived anxiety during performance. In other words, hypnosis can help to reduce the anxiety you experience during social occasions. (See our guide: Does Hypnosis Work for Public Speaking?)
Hypnosis and Stress Reduction. A 2017 review of research explored several hypnosis studies, finding a majority of those reviewed showed that hypnosis was an effective tool for stress management.
Getting Started with Hypnosis for Social Anxiety
Do you want to try hypnosis? Like meditation, you can practice hypnosis at home or with a certified hypnotherapist.
In general, there are three ways to try hypnosis:
- Hypnotherapy Apps – Hypnosis apps like Grace allow you to listen to recordings. You can practice with apps at home, work, or on-the-go. Grace features a helpful “Overcome Social Anxiety” hypnosis recording.
- Hypnosis Books – Reading hypnotherapy books teaches you techniques, terminology, and many feature scripts and exercises you can use at home. Close Your Eyes, Get Free provides a framework for overcoming stress and anxiety.
- Certified Hypnotherapy – Working with a certified hypnotherapist in-person or online is another alternative. Working with a coach can provide deeper focus and personalization in the process.
What Is Self-Hypnosis for Social Anxiety?
Self-hypnosis, simply stated, is following a hypnosis plan by yourself. You might listen recordings or a read a book.
It is one of the best ways to try and experiment with hypnosis at home. Generally, when you practice hypnosis, you will follow these three steps:
- Relaxing the body and mind
- Providing suggestions for your subconscious
- Visualizing yourself free of anxiety
Self-hypnosis is a powerful tool for managing anxiety.
For starters, it can be utilized anytime. You might practice prior to a social event, or directly following a stressful experience.
Ultimately, the key is repetition. You can practice self-hypnosis for anxiety every day, at home, work, or even on public transportation. And it’s a tool that, once you master, you can use throughout your life.
What to Expect from Self-Hypnosis
A great thing about hypnosis: You can expect to see results after your very first session. They may be subtle, or they may be quite pronounced. But letting the mind unwind and the body relax will certainly provide relief. Some of the most common benefits include:
- Sense of Clarity: Hypnosis gives your mind and body a chance to relax. When you open your eyes, you’ll likely feel refreshed.
- Reduced Symptoms: A common benefit: After hypnosis, your anxiety symptoms will have likely decreased. That's why it's great to do before a stressful social situation. You’ll feel less worry and increased confidence.
- Lifted Mood: Anxiety can exacerbate stress and lead to racing thoughts. A quick hypnosis session can help to improve mood in a matter of minutes.
Long-Term Results Takes Time. Remember that self-hypnosis is a skill. And like learning any new skill, it takes time to master. You shouldn’t expect to sit down and reach the same state as someone who has practiced for many, many years.
Tips for Achieving a Consistent Self-Hypnosis Practice
Self-hypnosis works the best through regular practice. That’s particularly true for a condition like anxiety, which can be triggered in an instant by a stressful situation.
So as you begin experimenting with self-hypnosis, remember: Make a plan to add time to practice once a day for a week, before you give it up. That’s not always easy. We lead busy lives, and finding an extra 5-15 minutes can be a challenge. But it’s important.
Here are a few tips to follow:
- Quiet, Comfortable Location – Find a quiet corner in your home or office to create a hypnosis space. A comfortable chair, plants, blinds to shut out natural light, or a water feature can all help to increase the serenity of your space.
- Pick a Time – Setting a time for hypnosis can be helpful in keeping you on track. But the trick is to not be so precise. Rather than saying, “I will do this everyday at noon!” Say: “When I break for lunch, I will be sure to practice meditation.
- Start Slowly: If you started a jogging regime, you wouldn’t try to run 20 miles your first day. The same is true about hypnosis. Pace yourself. Commit first to short bursts you can keep consistent with – like a 5-minute session each day. Then, gradually work your way up.
- Focus on Fundamentals: As you begin, focus your attention on form. Practice your deep breathing, good posture, follow your script, and read your hypnoaffirmations with conviction.
- Track Progress: Anxiety can begin to recede slowly, and that makes it difficult for you to gauge your progress. As you begin, keep a journal. Note how you felt before and after, and write down how you respond to stressful situations throughout the day.
- Keep Learning: Master hypnotherapists with decades of practice under their belts continue to learn. Read books about hypnosis. Learn new techniques. Explore research and studies. Expanding your knowledge will help you maximize effectiveness.
- Have Fun: Hypnosis should be something you look forward to – like a nap or a massage for your mind. Take a break if it begins to feel like a chore. Or space your sessions out – like a longer session on the weekend.
Start Your Self-Hypnosis Journey Today
Social anxiety doesn’t have to control your life. Remember that. With consistent training, you can empower your subconscious to be a better ally, to respond in stressful situations in a more helpful way.
The good news: You can start exploring self-hypnosis right now! Find a quiet corner, grab a script, and give it a try! You might be surprised with how much your mood changes from before and after. Check out all the great resources on Grace.