Does Self-Hypnosis Help Anxiety?

Updated on November 3, 2017
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I am a researcher, writer, and PhD student focusing on ecopsychology and social transformation. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and experiences.

About Anxiety

Anxiety can feel debilitating. It leads to feelings of dread or even panic. People might tell you your feelings are irrational, and you might think this yourself. This doesn't stop the constant worry and the feeling that something could go wrong at any minute. The shaking hands, the shortness of breath, or the muscle tightness, continues to leave you feeling tense and uncomfortable. Anxiety can disrupt your quality of life, your relationships, and your ability to concentrate. It is no surprise then, that anxiety and depression are interrelated. Here are five ways that self-hypnosis helps with anxiety.

Imagine Yourself in a Forest . . .

Self-Hypnosis for Anxiety

  • Self-hypnosis is a form of guidance, in which a person is lead into a relaxed and peaceful state. It involves the use of trance.
  • While within this trance, the person is guided towards a goal or purpose, such as relaxation or calm.
  • Anxiety is a form of worry linked to repetitive thoughts that play over and over again in a person's mind.
  • Studies show that self-hypnosis, or guided imagery, redirects the brain into a more relaxed state which results in neurological changes.
  • Self-hypnosis slows down the brain waves, enabling a person to relax. Heart rate and blood pressure decrease, and breathing slows down.
  • Neurological tests have linked self-hypnosis to an increase in immune functioning because of reduced stress on the body.
  • A person's self-perception may also be altered in a positive way after using self-hypnosis.

Guided Imagery and the Use of Hypnosis for Anxiety

  • Guided imagery often encourages users to go into a deeply relaxed space, where the person feels safe.
  • Examples involve floating down a peaceful river towards an island, while feeling calm, relaxed, and at ease.
  • The suggestions used in self-hypnosis are flexible, and picked up on by the individual who creates his/her own image of safety or relaxation.
  • Suggestions mean that people who feel anxious or reactive to commands are able to feel safe and secure during the process. While in a trance state, the brain is able to pick up on these suggestions and access them more powerfully than it can while we are awake.

See the Waves Lap Against the Shore . . .

Creating a Safe Space

  • For an anxious person, these images present a different experience to a world where everything (or perhaps even one specific situation) feels out of control.
  • However, research shows that once the brain has established pathways or memories of an experience, the feelings associated with these memories are present and accessible. If we go on holiday, for example, we are able to recall memories of this holiday along with the feelings we experienced at the time.
  • This means that creating memories of a calm and safe place will make this space accessible to a person with anxiety.

Benefits of Repeated Use of Self-Hypnosis for Anxiety

  • Repeated use of self-hypnosis can guide the mind towards relaxation, and has the ability to soothe stress.
  • Unlike medication, this gives the person internal resources for managing stress and anxiety.
  • This is because self-hypnosis allows the person to access parts of the mind that are not available while in a state of normal consciousness.
  • Repeatedly accessing this part of the brain means that the person is able to create changes which are beyond conscious control.
  • Like anything, taking time to practice or build up experience brings greater benefits.
  • At first, it might take a while to enter into a deep trance state, but after repeated use, a person will enter into a trance state relatively easily and will be able to gain maximum benefits from the self-hypnosis session.
  • As the person feels more familiar with the process, it becomes a trusted means of relief which will bring peace and safety.

Repeating Mantras

  • Over time during the working day, it's possible to use some of the suggestions from self-hypnosis in order to restore a sense of calm and balance.
  • "You are safe," or "Everything is calm and peaceful." These mantras help an anxious person to feel that everything might not be so dire.
  • This understanding enables a person to live in a more relaxed way, without the constant churning dread that comes with anxiety.

References

Batty, M. J., Bonnington, S., Tang, B. K., Hawken, M. B., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2006). Relaxation strategies and enhancement of hypnotic susceptibility: EEG neurofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation and self-hypnosis. Brain research bulletin, 71(1), 83-90.

Benson, H., Arns, P. A., & Hoffman, J. W. (1981). The relaxation response and hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 29(3), 259-270.

Caprio, F. S., Berger, J. R., & Miller, C. (1998). Healing yourself with self-hypnosis. Prentice Hall Direct.

Crawford, H. J. (1994). Brain dynamics and hypnosis: Attentional and disattentional processes. International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 42(3), 204-232.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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    © 2017 Nicci Attfield

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