We all encounter stress in our lives!
Stress is the process of managing circumstances that disrupt, or threaten to disrupt, a person’s physical or psychological functioning (Seyle, 1976). Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. Challenging events or situations, such as severe pain, a demanding job, or bereavement, are called stressors, to which a person must react. The physical, psychological and/or behavioural response to a stressor is called a strain, or a stress reaction e.g. nausea, nervousness, sweating and fatigue.
People who experience high levels of stress tend to behave in ways that increase their chances of becoming ill or injured (Weidner et al., 1996). Compared with people with low stress, those with high stress are more likely to eat higher fat diets with less fruit and vegetables, and engage in less exercise, smoke cigarettes, and consume more alcohol (Baer et al., 1987; Cartwright et al., 2003; Ng & Jeffrey, 2003). Stress also impairs sleep (Hall et al., 2004). Studies have shown that children and adults who experience high levels of stress are more likely to suffer accidental injuries at home, in sports activities, at work, and while driving a car than individuals under less stress (Johnson, 1986, Quick et al., 1997).
Stress produces many physiological changes in the body that can affect health. For example, high levels of job stress are associated with high blood pressure and abnormally enlarged hearts (Schnall et al., 1990). Stress produces many cardiovascular changes that relate to the development of chronic heart disease. For instance the blood of people who are under stress contains high levels of platelets (Malkoff et al., 1993) and lipids, such as cholesterol (Patterson et al., 1995). These changes in blood composition tend to promote atherosclerosis – the growth of plaques (fatty acids) on artery walls. As these plaques build up, they narrow and harden the arteries, increasing blood pressure and the likelihood of a heart attack and stroke.
If you are suffering with stress, I can work with you to identify the sources and physical effects of the stress to understand the degree to which it is disrupting your life. Once we’ve identified the stressors we can work on setting goals to help you eliminate or manage them. Hypnotherapy can be very effective in helping you to plan through potential stressful situations and deal with past or present experiences. By playing them through in your mind while relaxed and calm, you can learn to create new ways to manage and deal with problems, and regain and maintain control.
Gil Boyne, a pioneer of modern hypnotherapy, defined hypnosis as a natural state of mind with special identifying characteristics including an extraordinary quality of relaxation. Trance is a very pleasurable experience and the pleasant effects of a hypnotherapy session can last for hours after you leave the therapy room. I can help you learn the art of relaxation and regular practice including self-hypnosis and internal dialogue is a key to create lasting change.
Anxiety and Panic
Anxiety and panic
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Acute Stress Disorder
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
- A GP and specialist as appropriate will typically diagnose a sufferer of GAD as persistently anxious, and chronically uncontrollably worried about most things. The distress can be so pervasive that it’s often known as free floating anxiety. Symptoms include sweating, upset stomach and inability to relax. Common behavioural symptoms of anxiety include avoidance, escape, dependency, checking, obsessions, avoidance of eye contact, and over-apologising. These problems can be interlinked with the sufferer experiencing low confidence and self-esteem issues. We all experience some level of anxiety in our day to day lives. When anxious we have a feeling of unease and this can be a fear or a worry that can range from mild to severe. Common situations include attending a job interview, taking a driving test, public speaking and sitting an exam. An anxiety response is associated with the release of adrenaline and the ‘fight or flight’ response which kick starts the body into action, but anxiety for most can be an uncomfortable experience they would rather not endure. If you suffer with anxiety, I can help you develop effective strategies for managing the symptoms and also develop better coping strategies for managing the causes that provoke the anxiety. I can help you to learn and develop a range of relaxation and self-control techniques that you can easily call upon when you notice the signs of anxiety, or before if possible.
- Panic disorder
- Panic disorder is usually characterised by recurrent unexpected panic attacks followed by persistent concern about having additional attacks, worry about the implications of the attacks and changes in behaviour relating to the attacks. Sufferers may begin to avoid situations in which a panic would prove incapacitating or humiliating and thoughts that their anxiety might lead to social embarrassment or losing control. This can lead to the sufferer developing agoraphobic symptoms.
- Psychological approaches to understanding panic disorder have revolved around the idea that the panic is in some way a “fear of fear” (Goldstein & Chambless, 1978). That is, people panic because they are threatened by the presence or potential presence of their own fear and it’s so acute that they misinterpret bodily sensations (Clark, 1986) and ruminate about serious illnesses (Hibbert, 1984). This causes sufferers to amplify slight physical sensations into signs of impending disaster, which could then spiral into full-blown panic e.g. a small heart flutter may be taken to mean that the person is about to have a heart attack and die. Panic attacks occur frequently, usually weekly and the symptoms include heart palpitations, dizziness and fear of losing control. They can last from a few minutes to several hours depending on how they are managed. They sometimes occur in specific situations e.g. when in a lift or on an aeroplane. When they are associated with situational triggers, they are referred to as cue panic attacks. They can also occur unpredictably e.g. when the sufferer is relaxing and in other unexpected situations. These are referred to as uncued attacks. For a diagnosis of panic disorder, the sufferer must have recurrent attacks and be worried about future attacks. The exclusive presence of cued attacks likely reflects the presence of phobia (Davison & Neale, 1986). If you suffer with panic attacks, I can help you to interpret internal sensations from signals of loss of control and panic to cues that are harmless and can be controlled with new skills. This takes place in a safe environment where you can learn and apply cognitive and relaxation coping strategies.
Phobia and fear
Defined by psychologists as a disrupting fear-mediated avoidance out of proportion to the danger posed by a particular object or situation and recognised by the sufferer as groundless (Davison & Neale, 1996), phobias are common in the general public and the behaviour is often avoidance and fear. Specific phobias are unwarranted fears caused by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation (Davison & Neale, 1996) and the most common sources of the phobias are animals, heights, closed spaces, air travel and blood and injections. Agoraphobia is a cluster of fears around public places and being unable to escape or find help and this includes shopping, crowds and travelling. Social phobia is a persistent, irrational fear generally linked to the presence of other people. The sufferer usually tries to avoid particular situations in which they may become anxious or behave in an embarrassing way and these include eating in public, public speaking and using public toilets. Many people who suffer from phobias do not look for help. The motivation to get help often develops when there’s a change in the sufferer’s circumstances, for example a job promotion that requires air travel, which prevents them from avoiding the feared stimulus i.e. aeroplanes.
If you are suffering with a phobia or fear of failure, I can help you to desensitise to the fear and guide you to relearn new behaviours.
Obsessions & Compulsions
Obsessions are intrusive and recurring thoughts, impulses, and images that appear irrational and uncontrollable to the sufferer. They can appear with such force and frequency, interfering with the person’s normal functioning and leading to extreme doubt and procrastination.
A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour that the sufferer feels driven to perform in order to reduce anxiety or prevent something ‘bad’ happening. Common compulsions have to do with cleanliness and orderliness, sometimes with elaborate sequences of events which take hours to complete; where the person will avoid things and engage in protective behaviours such as aligning, checking and counting.
Obsessive –compulsive disorder (OCD) is a severe anxiety disorder where the individual suffers persistent and uncontrollable thoughts or is compelled to repeat certain acts, causing them significant distress and interference with everyday functioning (Davison & Neale, 1996). Psychologists described it as a hidden disease because many sufferers are embarrassed and secretive about their symptoms and may not seek professional help (Welkowitz et al., 2000). The disorder usually begins in early adulthood, often following some stressful event such as pregnancy, childbirth, family conflict or difficulties at work (Kringlen, 1970). Early onset is more common in men and associated with checking compulsions; later onset is more frequent among women and is linked with cleaning compulsions (Noshirvani, Kasvikis, Marks, Tsakiris, & Monteiro, 1991). During an episode of depression clients occasionally develop OCD, and significant depression is often experienced by sufferers of OCD (Rachman & Hodgson, 1980).
If you are suffering with OCD, I can help you develop strategies for managing your environments so that you can tolerate the uncertainty and anxiety you might experience, desensitise to difficult situations, manage anxiety and relax.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reflects an extreme response to a severe stressor, including increased anxiety, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and a numbing of emotional responses. PTSD is defined by a cluster of symptoms, but unlike other anxiety disorders it also includes its presumed aetiology (i.e. the traumatic event which the person has directly experienced, witnessed or learned about, that involved actual death, threatened death, or serious injury) (Davison & Neale, 1996). Causes include rape, assault, domestic violence, vehicle crashes, bombings and natural disasters. The symptoms of PTSD are grouped into 3 main categories:
Re-experiencing the traumatic event, including nightmares and intense emotional responses.
Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event or numbing of responsiveness, including an inability to feel positive.
Symptoms of increased arousal e.g. difficulties falling or staying asleep.
The diagnosis requires that symptoms in each category are experienced for longer than 1 month (Davison & Neale, 1996). Other problems associated with PTSD include guilt, substance misuse (Keane et.al, 1992) and psycho-physiological problems e.g. lower back pain and headaches (Hobfoll et.al, 1991).
PTSD and trauma are sometimes referred to as the “big T” and “small t”, respectively. “Big T” refers to a traumatic event which precipitates PTSD whereas “small t” events are ubiquitous events such as earlier humiliations and disappointments. In information processing terms, memories of this kind are incorrectly stored in the wrong type of memory. We may remember the sensations in our bodies and the words reoccurring in our minds of what we or others said to us at the time. This information has been processed in a dysfunctional way and these automatically arising thoughts, emotions and physical reactions may be inappropriately affecting our perceptions and actions in similar present day situations. These are not conditioned behaviours; they are inherent in the stored memory. When an event has been sufficiently processed, we remember it but do not experience the old emotions or sensations in the present. The symptoms of PTSD (e.g. nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and high levels of arousal) from this perspective are also derived from inappropriately stored experiences of this type. With an adaptively processed event adequate learning has taken place and the event is stored with appropriate emotions, which will guide future events. An event stored in a dysfunctional way still has some of the sensory perceptions that were there at the time the event occurred. The earlier perspective is held in place and the person perceives similar experiences from that earlier perspective (Shapiro, 1992).
If you are suffering with PTSD and/or trauma, I can help you identify the events that are stored in a dysfunctional way so that you can process this information fully, maintaining control and feeling safe. I will kindly ask that you see a GP and specialist as appropriate before we commence hypnotherapy.
Being underweight or overweight with a psychological disorder characterised by abnormal or disturbed eating habits, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating and compulsive overeating, can affect anyone, at any age. Symptoms include poor concentration, mood swings, severe depression and anxiety. Anorexia has the highest death rate (20%) of any mental disorder.
Physical damage from anorexia can include heart failure, osteoporosis and fertility problems. Bulimia can result in kidney failure, heart failure and tooth decay from vomiting. The UK is now among the most obese nations with 1 in 4 adults affected. Obesity can have a severe impact on people’s health, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and heart and liver disease. Being able to maintain a healthy weight is very important and hypnotherapy can provide lasting change. I can help you regain control, get the scale back to healthy again and live the life you desire. I can help you achieve better health and enjoy the time you spend with family and friends.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Around 40% of the UK’s population has high blood pressure and it accounts for 60% of all strokes in the UK. It is one of the largest causes of death and disability. You can see from these statistics why being able to maintain your blood pressure at a healthy level is really important. If you are struggling with high blood pressure, I can help you to deal with the aggravators and get the monitor to read normal again. With the OK from your doctor, you can reduce your medication, feel back in control and enjoy a normal life. See www.hypnotension.com for more information.
Pain and Headaches
Hypnotherapists should work with pain management rather than cure and I will kindly ask that you see a GP and specialist as appropriate before we commence hypnotherapy. This provides the opportunity for diagnoses and/or conclusions for medical conditions by trained professionals.
Nearly everyone experiences pain at some time in their lives and it can be acute (occasional or isolated short-term bouts lasting less than 6 months where anxiety increases while pain exists but then reduces to normal as pain decreases) or chronic (frequently or continuously over a period of more than 6 months where anxiety levels continue to be higher than normal). Chronic pain can interfere with daily activities, sleep and can dominate life. The perception of pain almost always includes a strong emotional component. For many sufferers the belief that they can’t control their pain can be very stressful. If you are suffering with pain, I can help you manage it with relaxation and visualization skills.
The rates of smoking in the UK are in decline and whatever what your reason to stop is, I can help you become a non-smoker in a single extended session with a free back-up session should you need it. You will soon recover the financial outlay if you quit because cigarettes and cigars are so expensive! I will encourage you to plan ahead and set a date when you will become a non-smoker. The ideal day to stop would be a stress-free day or few days. There is no ideal time of day, just choose and commit to one. As with all interventions, there are no guarantees. My role is to facilitate your need to take control of your life. What will you see, hear, feel, smell and taste as a non-smoker?
Health benefits of giving up (taken from ‘Giving up for Life’ NHS publication):
Time StoppedBenefits 20 Minutes Blood pressure and pulse return to normal. Circulation improves, especially to hands and feet. 8 hours Blood oxygen levels increase to normal, and your chances of having a heart attack start to fall. 24 hours Carbon monoxide leaves the body. The lungs start to clear out mucus and debris. 48 hours Your body is now nicotine free. Your senses of taste and smell begin to improve. 72 hours Breathing is easier, and your energy levels increase. 2-12 weeks Circulation improves throughout the body. Walking and exercise gets easier. 3-9 months Breathing problems, coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing improve. Lung efficiency increases by 5-10 percent. 5 years Risk of having a heart attack falls to about half of that of a smoker. 10 years Risk of lung cancer falls to about half of that of a smoker. Risk of a heart attack falls to about the same as someone who has never smoked.
You can see from this information that the benefits are almost immediate and the problem is clearly defined. You either stop or you continue smoking. Your motivation will help define the outcome.
If you really want to become a non-smoker, I can help you achieve that change and the lifestyle you desire. You push and I’ll pull and together we’ll get you up and over the hill.
Visualization is an effective self-hypnosis technique I can help you to learn and many successful athletes will often use this just before their event to improve their performance. Learning to dissociate from pain and injury and overcoming anxiety and self-doubt can help you to cope, recover and perform in spite of it. Relaxation methods can be very helpful when it comes to increasing focus, honing skills, fine-tuning a technique and managing pain which is a part of most sports. Having a level of self-belief and confidence can enable you to excel beyond what you may have previously thought possible.
Learning and Memory
In hypnosis, the more we utilize our senses the more likely it is to create change and this is also true for learning and memory. Long term retention is more unlikely when we learn from just reading or listening to someone else speaking. By engaging and noticing what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste in your everyday activities, I can help you improve your performance. Experts say that we remember approximately 20% of what we read, about 30% of what we hear, about 40% of what we see, about 50% of what we say, about 60% of what we do, and about 90% of what we see, hear, say AND do! Your learning will improve when you make an effort to utilize all of your sensory systems.