Overview: Learn how using hypnosis for anxiety can help you update your automatic response to triggers, eliminate the worries that hold anxiety in place, and help transform your life.
Stressful situations, trauma experiences, and difficult intrapersonal relationships…
Anxiety has numerous triggers. We feel the trigger, and then, automatically our brains respond. Our thoughts race. Our palms sweat. And we feel the anxiety in our bodies.
These triggers are held in the subconscious. We might not even know they exist. However, when we experience stressful stimuli, our brains go to the subconscious to know how to respond. In other words, anxiety is a conditioned response.
How does hypnosis help anxiety?
Hypnotherapy and hypnosis allow us to access the subconscious. Through hypnosis, we can enter a deep, relaxed state of heightened awareness. Once we're relaxed, we can use suggestions to update how the subconscious responds to stress.
In other words, hypnosis for anxiety allows us to gain greater control over our response. The good news: Hypnosis has been shown to offer relief for anxiety suffers. For example, the British Psychological Society recognizes hypnosis as a therapy for anxiety.
You might be wondering: What is hypnosis? Why is it effective for anxiety? And how does it work? This short guide explores hypnosis for anxiety and answers those questions with a look at the latest hypnotherapy research.
Anxiety: A Condition that Grips the World
If you experience anxiety on a regular basis, you are not alone. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world.
In the U.S. anxiety affects an estimated 40 million adults, which is nearly 20 percent of the population. Yet, even though many treatment options are available, just one-third of anxiety sufferers actually seek treatment, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
In other words, many adults in the U.S. and around the world learn to live with anxiety. They manage their anxiety, but they never truly free themselves of anxiety's burden.
Psychologists speculate that anxiety is a learned behavior.
Our minds have natural defense mechanisms that typically manifest as emotions like fear or panic. Over time, our subconscious mind learns to amplify these defense mechanisms. Essentially, the fight-or-flight response gets triggered, even when we aren't in physical danger.
We feel fear or panic in social settings, due to public speaking, or when we make a mistake at work. And we feel extreme anxiety. Our response doesn't fit the situation.
Often, these responses are based on automatic, subconscious thinking.
We may have had a negative experience with public speaking, and our subconscious learned to induce anxiety to protect us from having a similar experience in the future. With repetition, these feelings become more and more ingrained in our minds, to the point of being debilitating.
Hypnosis empowers people to examine and explore these subconscious, automatic thoughts. You can learn to recognize them and change them.
For example, billionaire Richard Branson had a negative experience with public speaking early in his life, and he avoided public speaking for many years after. Through hypnosis, he was able to tie positive emotions to public speaking and alter his automatic responses to it.
In short, hypnosis helps us get to the root cause of the anxiety. It allows us to examine these automatic defense mechanisms, and we can update them to remove the fear, panic or irrational thinking that fuels anxiety.
Hypnosis for Anxiety: Exploring the Subconscious
Our minds are complex. We don’t often recognize that our rational, critical thinking minds aren’t often in control. The rational mind takes a back seat to the subconscious.
The subconscious mind informs and influences many of our thoughts. For example, when you feel cold, your brain reacts to the stimuli.
In other words, we don’t consciously think: “I feel cold.” Instead, that thought is created automatically, by the subconscious. These automatic thoughts are based on our entire life experience.
When anxiety controls our lives, it’s similar to feeling cold. We experience a stimulus that triggers an automatic response of fear and panic.
Try hypnosis for anxiety with this short guided session:
Using hypnosis to reduce anxiety
Traditional therapeutic techniques tend to provide strategies for managing these automatic thoughts. We might learn to control the fear, for example. We might use controlled breathing to slow our body's reaction. But with traditional therapies, these triggers still exist.
That’s why many traditional treatments are ineffective or don't provide lasting help. The root causes of your anxiety still exist.
With hypnosis, you can begin to update the information in your subconscious that’s telling you to feel fear and panic in certain situations.
For example, when using hypnosis for social anxiety, we might examine past negative experiences. We can update the negative emotions that we have for social situations. Or we can update the self-criticism that holds you back in social settings.
Reframing Your Subconscious Thoughts with Hypnosis
Say, for instance, public speaking induces anxiety for someone. Often, the underlying cause is a fear of failure.
Without removing that fear, the anxiety will always remain in place. It may become more manageable, but the fear remains. It’s still a burden, and even if it is managed, it can surface months or years in the future.
Many people who fear public speaking do, for example, learn to speak confidently in front of crowds.
Hypnosis works by helping clients examine the subconscious.
In a state of hypnosis (a highly relaxed, aware state), the mind and body are at ease. In this state, we’re able to bypass our critical thoughts, and we can move right to the subconscious.
We can look at our automatic thoughts. Hypnosis for anxiety might help us:
1. Examining and Identifying Emotions
At the beginning of a hypnotherapy session, you might be asked to describe your feelings that are triggered by anxiety. These might include fear, panic, humiliation or shame.
Starting at this point, you can begin to isolate and identify your triggers. You’ll also be asked to find where these feelings originate from in the body. This might include dryness in the throat or tightness in the stomach. These emotions are just like that feeling of cold. They’re triggered automatically based on past experience.
2. Exploring Your Experiences with Anxiety
During a hypnotherapy session, you can explore the experiences that initially triggered your anxiety. If you have flight anxiety, you might explore that first negative flying experience. If you experience stress at work, you might explore your earliest experiences of work-related stress.
This will help you get down to what’s actually triggering the irrational fear and stoking the emotions you experience when in an anxiety-inducing situation.
3. Offering Relief from Past Experiences
Our minds are fast learners. One negative experience can effect you forever.
Hypnosis provides a means to reframe these negative experiences.
For example, someone with flight anxiety might have developed this anxiety after a rough flight. As a result, they see every flight as life-threatening! With hypnosis, they can reframe that experience, and see that they were safe.
One hypnosis strategy involves reimagining a negative experience. For example, with a negative flight experience, you might remember feeling calm and safe in the situation.
This technique helps to release the negative experience. As a result, your subconscious relies on it less as a frame of reference for your behavior.
Hypnotherapy for Anxiety: What to Expect
There are a variety of ways to practice hypnosis.
For example, you can visit a certified hypnotherapist, who will interview you about your anxiety and provide a tailored hypnosis for you, or you might practice self-hypnosis with a hypnosis app, in which you listen to an audio recording.
The steps of an anxiety hypnosis session include:
- An Interview or Self-Review: You start with a self-accounting of your anxiety, and you'll examine what’s causing it, how it manifests, and your experiences with it. With a hypnotherapist, this takes the form of an interview, but if you’re practicing self-hypnosis, you’ll often explore this on your own.
- A Hypnosis Session: You’ll follow steps to reach a highly relaxed state of mind. This might include breathing, closing your eyes, or visualization. Once you’ve reached this state, you can begin to examine and reframe your subconscious thinking. Options for subconscious work include suggestion therapy, regression therapy, or visualization.
- Follow-Up Assignments: Many people see positive results after their first hypnotherapy sessions, though additional work is usually required. This usually includes additional one-and-one sessions or at-home self-hypnosis sessions.
After a few initial hypnosis sessions, you will begin to become an expert at identifying those natural defense mechanisms, and you’ll be given tools for pushing fears and anxiety out of your mind in certain situations.
As a result, hypnosis helps you break free from the repetitive cycle and completely remove them from your subconscious mind. Over time, you can completely shed those default settings and reprogram your mind to better respond to stressful situations.
How many sessions for anxiety?
Although you will begin to notice differences after one session, you may need to continue the process. One classic study, for example, found that hypnosis had a 94 percent recovery rate after six sessions. Additionally, “tune-ups” can also help to foster and encourage long-lasting results.
Is Hypnosis for Anxiety Effective? What the Research Says
If you’d look at the medical establishment, the answer is yes. A variety of medical associations and healthcare organizations recognize hypnosis as a valid treatment option for anxiety, stress and a number of other conditions.
For example, the British Psychological Society, the American Medical Society and the British Medical Society all include hypnotherapy as a treatment option. A variety of research also seems to convey this sentiment. A number of researchers have found compelling evidence of hypnotherapy’s efficacy.
- Hypnosis and Stress Relief: A 1980 study, one of the first to examine hypnosis for anxiety, found that hypnosis provided relief to more than 75 percent of the study’s 100+ participants after 12 weeks. After one year of self-hypnosis, nearly the same number (72 percent) reported no symptoms.
- Hypnotherapy and Anxiety: In 1999, researchers published results of a study of 20 participants who utilized self-hypnosis and relaxation to manage anxiety over a 1 month period. Following the experiment, both groups experienced significant reductions in symptoms, with those who used self-hypnosis reporting higher levels of confidence and positivity.
- Anxiety Hypnosis Review of Literature: A 2001 review of literature, published in the British Medical Journal, found both hypnosis and relaxation to have positive impacts on reported levels of anxiety. The review examined both randomized clinical trials and systematic reviews.
Free Yourself from Anxiety: Try Hypnosis Today
We offer numerous options to help you practice anxiety. Start today with our:
- All-in-one hypnosis app Grace – Featuring recorded sessions and series related to anxiety, flight anxiety, performance anxiety and more.
- Hypnotherapy books – Learn techniques to manage anxiety in Close Your Eyes, Get Free.
- Online hypnotherapy sessions – Meet with one of our certified hypnotherapists for one-on-one sessions.