Q: You have talked a lot over the years about anxiety. Is hypnosis also effective in dealing with anxiety?
A: Yes, in fact hypnosis is a good coping strategy. A big part of dealing with anxiety is the concept of mind over matter. This does not mean that extreme anxiety attacks are ‘all in your head’ as the phrase goes, but it does mean that we sometimes have to train the brain to respond differently to common triggers. When we are stressed the brain becomes hypervigilant—it watches for whatever danger might befall us. Many have heard of the fight or flight response. Our bodies have an autonomic nervous system that often mis-interprets stress to mean that we are under threat and that we either have to prepare ourselves to run or to fight. In order to have the energy to run or fight, our body releases adrenaline providing us with the needed extra energy. When we have an anxiety attack, the brain interprets our heightened anxiety to mean that we are under attack—why else would we be experiencing such extreme anxiety? In response, the brain tells the adrenal glands to release more adrenalin into the system. However, since we are not really under attack we are not using the extra adrenalin and it stays in the system making us feel very anxious and further contributing to the elevated state of anxiety.
Hypnosis along with other techniques provide us with a means of training the brain to stay calm in times of stress and to not react as it normally would to the fight or flight triggers. With hypnosis an individual can be placed into a state of relaxation while the trigger stressors are introduced so that the individual’s brain learns to stay relaxed even when facing the things that usually would be stressful. Thus minimizing the anxiety rather than enhancing it. It is like retraining for the brain and it works.