What is anxiety hypnosis? And does it really help? That's a question that many anxiety sufferers have asked. And the short answer is that, yes, hypnosis can be an effective tool for managing anxiety.
Well, in many cases, anxiety is learned subconsciously. We condition ourselves to react to stressful situations in a particular way. For those who experience anxiety, the natural response is a wide range of symptoms, from racing thoughts to labored breathing.
Hypnotherapy allows us to reframe and release these automatic responses, replace them with more helpful ways to thinking, and ultimately, to reduce anxiety and stress instantaneously. Through hypnosis, you can begin to gain greater control over your response to triggers and stressful situations and empower the mind to be a better friend.
Today, hypnosis for anxiety is fairly mainstream. More and more medical professionals are recognizing hypnotherapy as a viable and successful option for anxiety. For example, the British Psychological Society now recognizes hypnosis as a therapeutic option for the condition.
But what makes hypnotherapy so effective for anxiety? How does it work? What does the research say about its efficacy?
Read on to learn how hypnotherapy can you overcome the negative default thinking that fuels your anxiety and transform how your mind’s natural response.
Anxiety: A Condition that Grips the World
If you experience anxiety on a regular basis, you’re not alone. Anxiety is one of the most common psychological conditions in the world.
In the U.S. alone, anxiety affects an estimated 40 million adults – that’s nearly 20 percent of the population. Yet, even though many treatment options are available, just one-third 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 may learn to manage it, but without treatment, many never truly free themselves of anxiety’s burden.
Many psychologists speculate that anxiety is a learned behavior.
In other words, our minds have natural defense mechanisms that typically manifest as emotions, like fear or panic. Over time, our subconscious mind has learned to amplify these defense mechanisms to the point that they become irrational. We irrationally feel fear or panic – in social settings, due to public speaking, or just in general in our day to day lives.
Why does this happen?
Well, for starters, it’s often based on automatic, subconscious thinking. We may have had a negative experience with public speaking, and our subconscious learned to induce fear, panic and 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 that they can become debilitating.
Hypnosis empowers people to examine and explore these subconscious, automatic thoughts, recognize them and ultimately, remove them. In other words, hypnosis provides a method for getting down to the root cause of the anxiety – the automatic defense mechanism thinking – and remove the fear, panic or irrational thinking that fuels the anxiety.
The Subconscious Mind’s Role in Anxiety
Our minds are powerful and complex. But what we don’t often recognize: 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 body reacts to the stimuli, say a cold breeze.
That stimuli essentially signals the brain to ask what it’s feeling. In other words, we don’t consciously think: “I feel cold.” Instead, that thought is created automatically, by the subconscious, and it’s based on our entire life experience – i.e. what we’ve learned, our past experiences with cold, etc.
When anxiety controls our lives, it’s a lot like that automatic feeling of cold. We experience a stimulus – say, a social situation – that triggers an automatic response, the fear and panic and ultimately anxiety.
Traditional therapeutic techniques tend to provide strategies for managing these automatic thoughts. We might learn to control the fear, for example, but they still exist. And that’s why many traditional treatments fail. The fear and panic – the root causes of your anxiety still exist.
With hypnosis, you can begin to remove the information in your subconscious that’s telling you to feel fear and panic in certain situations.
Reframing Your Subconscious Thoughts
Say, for instance, public speaking induces anxiety for someone. Often, the underlying cause is fear of failure, of facing colleagues face-to-face, of forgetting what you’re going to say, etc.
Without removing that fear, the anxiety will always remain in place. Sure, it may become more manageable. Many people who fear public speaking do, in fact, learn to speak confidently in front of crowds.
But that fear – which is irrational – remains. It’s still a burden, and even if you it can be managed, it can pop up months or years in the future.
Hypnosis works by helping clients examine the subconscious.
Here’s how: 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. For example, we might choose to examine why that cold breeze makes us think we’re cold, or in this case, why an event or situation induces anxiety. Hypnosis for anxiety might include a variety of steps, including:
- Examining and Identifying Emotions: At the beginning of a hypnotherapy session, you might be asked to describe the feelings that trigger anxiety – like fear, panic, humiliation or shame. Starting at this point, you can begin to isolate and identify the true triggers. You’ll also be asked to find where these feelings originate from in the body – i.e. 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 information.
- Exploring Your Experiences with Anxiety: While in hypnosis, you open a direct line to your subconscious mind. The experiences and information that trigger your anxiety live here, and they’re often related to past experiences. A hypnotherapist may ask you to talk about one of your first experiences with anxiety, for example. 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.
- Offering Relief from Past Experiences: Our minds are fast learners. It may only take one negative experience with, say, public speaking to induce a lifetime of performance anxiety. While in hypnosis, we can reframe those negative experiences. For example, a person might identify an elementary school public speaking assignment that went poorly. One hypnosis strategy would be to help the person reimagine that experience – but with a positive outcome. The imagined younger self can then release this experience, which reduces the adult self’s reliance on it as a frame of reference.
Anxiety Hypnotherapy: What to Expect
So how does hypnotherapy work? What does it entail? For starters, there are a variety of ways to practice hypnosis.
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, in which, you follow a script or recording to reach hypnosis yourself.
Both types of hypnosis follow a similar process. The most common steps include:
An Interview or Self-Review: Hypnosis doesn’t start with staring into a swinging watch. Instead, it requires you to conduct a self-accounting of your anxiety – what’s causing it, how it manifests, and your experiences with it. When working with a hypnotherapist, you’ll be interviewed about your condition. If you’re practicing self-hypnosis, you’ll often explore and examine this on your own.
A Hypnosis Session: Whether you listen to a recording or hypnotherapist, 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 hypnosis, you’ll begin to examine and reframe your subconscious thinking – and there are a variety of methods for doing this, including suggestion therapy, regression therapy, or visualization. (You can try it for yourself with an anxiety hypnosis recording inside our Grace App.)
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, the fear and panic. Plus, you’ll be given tools for pushing fears and anxiety out of your mind in certain situations — which is important. This helps you break free from the repetitive cycle and before completely removing them from your subconscious mind. This is the power of hypnosis: Over time, you can completely shed those default settings and reprogram your mind to better respond to stressful situations.
How Many Sessions Are Required? Although you will begin to notice differences after one session, you’ll likely need to continue to reshaping your subconscious thoughts. One classic study found that hypnosis had a 94 percent recovery rate after six sessions. Plus, “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.
In fact, along with the British Psychological Society, the American Medical Society and the British Medical Society both 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 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: Get Started with our Grace App Today
Hypnosis can be a powerful tool for overcoming the automatic thoughts and responses that trigger your anxiety. Get started today!