Beat Anxiety With Hypnosis

Take Back Control From Anxiety

Anxiety and anxiety-related conditions are the most common psychological afflictions of man and account for a major percentage of initial complaints to psychiatrists as well as to general practitioners. Although it is estimated that some 5% of the population may suffer from acute or chronic anxiety, with women outnumbering men two to one (Cohen and White, 1950), the numbers are probably significantly higher.
As a symptom, anxiety is a final common pathway for many conditions, physical as well as psychological. As syndromes, anxiety disorders are under intensive study to define more precisely their etiologies and clinical outcomes. Recent studies, showing disturbances of lactate metabolism in certain anxious individuals, point to the possibility that some anxiety states, like some depressive states, have strong biological and genetic determinants.
Hypnosis finds its most common clinical utilization in the treatment of anxiety and its related states, not only because of anxiety's prevalence, but because hypnosis has such a clear role as a potent anti-anxiety agent. In this chapter, we will examine hypnotic behavioral approaches to anxiety.

Evaluation Of Anxiety

The first task of the hypnotherapist is to evaluate the anxiety condition. At the end of the initial interview, several questions must be asked. Is the anxiety organically determined? Is there a medical, physiological, or otherwise somatic basis for its existence? The list of medical conditions which, as a by-product, contain anxiety is long: hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, anemia, hypoglycemia, withdrawal from sedative hypnotics (including alcohol), and caffeinism, cocaine, and psychostimulant abuse, among others. Anxiety is also sometimes confused with medical conditions which, in their presentation, share its expressions. Coronary artery disease, with chest pain, respiratory distress, and cardiac symptoms can mimic anxiety states; so can hyperthyroidism, pheochromocytomas and Meniere's disease. The treatment, while not obviating adjunctive psychotherapeutic or hypnotherapeutic intervention, will of course be mainly aimed at treating the primary medical condition.
Is the anxiety an aggravating component of a chronic medical syndrome? Most psychosomatic conditions are intimately connected to anxiety and stress. Flare-ups of such diseases as peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis, or hypertension produce anxiety. Conversely, difficulties with psychosocial adjustment bring exacerbations in these conditions. Anxiety control is important to ease the interactive play of psyche and soma.
Is the anxiety a part of another psychiatric syndrome? Anxiety weaves into most psychiatric syndromes. Major depression is rarely seen without it, and so is mania. Schizophrenia, especially in the decompensation phase, as the individual experiences ego fragmentation, can be marked by fright--as can organic brain syndromes with their cognitive disruptions. Treatment of anxiety in these conditions is centered on correcting the global psychiatric syndrome.

When medical conditions and major psychiatric syndromes are eliminated as reasons for anxiety, we are left with more functional causes. It is useful, in our therapeutic approach, to see patients' experiences of anxiety as falling into three general categories: (1) individuals reporting chronic, free-floating feelings of fear (generalized anxiety disorder); (2) individuals manifesting discreet episodes of panic, but who, in between attacks, are relatively anxiety free (panic disorders); and (3) mixed syndromes.

Hypnotherapy Treatment For Generalized Anxiety

Generalized anxiety disorder (DSM-III, 300.02) is characterized by pervasive, persistent anxiety, manifested by motor tension--strained facies, fidgeting, restlessness, fatigueability; autonomic hyperactivity-sweating, palpitations, light-headedness, paresthesias, upset stomach, lump in the throat, high resting pulse and respiratory rate; apprehensive expectation--worry, rumination, anticipation of misfortune to self or others; hyperattentiveness resulting in distractibility, difficulty in concentrating, insomnia, irritability, and impatience. To meet diagnostic criteria, the anxious mood has to have lasted at least a month.
Approaches to chronic generalized anxiety, which may incorporate hypnotic intervention, may be roughly grouped into analytic or behavioral types. Hypnoanalytic methods will be explored in a later chapter. Behavioral techniques do not necessarily exclude the importance of psychodynamic factors but rather, as in the case of anxiety, treat them as incidental to the illness itself, ie, anxiety is not a reflection of an underlying disorder, it is the illness; as a learned maladaptive response it needs to be unlearned. In this model, anxiety, once removed, is not replaced by other symptoms. In clinical practice, however, it is observed that some symptoms occur in a learned maladaptive model, others in a conflict-generated model, and the rest as admixtures of the two. Hypnosis may be woven into most behavioral techniques. In this way, the therapeutic potential of both disciplines may act additively, if not synergistically.

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