A few years ago, if you would have told me hypnotherapy works better for anxiety than any medication -and that it doesn’t just maintain it, it cures it-, I would have ignorantly replied with a snarky comment right before dismissing the thought entirely. However, if you told me that today, I would enthusiastically agree. I know, because I have experienced it; and it is because I have experienced it that I am able to sit here peacefully and write this without racing thoughts clouding my mind.
For 21 years of my life, “shy” was the last word people would have used to describe me. Unfortunately, this all changed when anxiety began to consume me. At the beginning of my long battle with Lyme disease, I was placed on a grotesque amount of psychotropic drugs. After experiencing the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals, both mentally and socially, I chose to treat myself naturally and began the long journey of withdrawing from one prescription pill after another. My destiny was to return to the version of myself that was not chemically altered by drugs. Unfortunately, this road also lead me down further, often times more drastic, changes physically, mentally and spiritually. It made me incredibly sick. I managed to endure my withdrawals on top of Lyme disease by constantly reminding myself that it was only temporary, until anxiety began to viciously ravage my every thought when I began weaning myself off a benzodiazepine called Ativan. I had experienced anxiety before, and had even had a few severely irrational anxiety attacks where I thought I was dying. This was different, though. It took the term “anxiety” to a whole new level, and re-defined my entire perspective of life. Imagine having an intense anxiety attack 24/7, that’s how I permanently lived. It prevented me from doing things as minor as walking into the gas station alone. The little social life I had continued to diminish until it became virtually obsolete, as the severity of my anxiety was magnified when I was placed in social situations.
Clearly, I was not okay living in such a way. Due to withdrawals, I became a full time host for anxiety. I was desperate to put an end to it, but not desperate enough to give in and start taking the pills again. However, the disheartening fact was that benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, which mostly plagues long-term benzodiazepines users, commonly lasts well over a year. It prolongs and intensifies withdrawal symptoms, and can even happen to individuals who have taken benzodiazepines for as little as two months. My most debilitating symptom was crushing, unrelenting anxiety. Considering I had taken a tranquilizing dose of Ativan for over two years, the anxiety was likely to stick around for the long haul -was, until hypnotherapy relieved me of anxiety entirely.
How Hypnotherapy Works
Addressing anxiety at its deepest level through hypnotherapy can entirely eradicate your anxiety and provide you with permanent behavioral and lifestyle changes, rather than changes that are only apparent when you pop a pill. Hypnotherapy works by quieting the conscious mind in order to completely access and reprogram the subconscious mind. Chronic anxiety typically stems from deep-rooted memories and beliefs about yourself that are stored in your subconscious mind, which serves as the hard drive for your conscious mind. Using your conscious mind, you can acknowledge your anxiety and try to control it. You might successfully defeat your anxiety this way, but not for long. Significant change must occur deep within the subconscious mind in order to achieve lasting results, since it is ultimately what fuels your conscious mind. Hypnotherapy opens the door to your subconscious mind by putting you in a trance-like state, enabling the hypnotherapist to replace any deep-seated negative thoughts or memories you harbor with more positive and productive ones. Hypnotherapists treat anxiety by doing this in one, or both, of the following ways:
- When you are in a trance, your subconscious mind is pulled forth from the background of your mind and placed in the foreground, allowing the hypnotherapist to speak to it. By repeatedly feeding your subconscious with affirmations negating your anxious thoughts, you can cancel them out and replace them with new ideas promoting an anxiety free lifestyle. Storing new, positive suggestions in the hard drive of your brain allows for lasting results that can effortlessly be accessed and utilized once you are conscious again. While pills may keep your anxiety at bay, it is likely that they are merely masking it rather than treating it. A major problem with this is that long-term consequences accompany the short-term benefits of taking medication, as chemical deposits from the substance are secreted into your cells each time you take it.
- Hypnotherapy can also treat anxiety using a method called “visualization,” which is also performed while you are in a trance-like state. If your anxiety stems from a specific event or situation, the hypnotherapist may have you access the initial memory that instigated your chronic anxiety or anxiety attacks, and then have you replace it with a new image that does not provoke anxiety. For example, my hypnotherapist had me visualize myself swinging on a long rope back to the very first moment I experienced my debilitating anxiety, even though I did not believe one specific moment had provoked my anxiety and that is was solely a symptom of benzodiazepine withdrawals. Surprisingly, a particular time in my life did in fact surface. Once there, I visualized the situation as if I were observing it from the outside looking in, and then imagined myself pointing a laser of golden light at it. I imagined the laser gradually shrinking the image until it was entirely gone, in order to imprint the feeling of reclaiming my power back from anxiety into my subconscious mind, thus allowing me to live as if I truly had in my waking life as well. Lastly, while still in the trance state, positive images of a life opposite from that of chronic anxiety, such as ones filled with joy and spontaneity, were introduced and stored in my subconscious mind.
Essentially, hypnotherapy has the potential to successfully change the negative core beliefs spawning your undesirable habitual surface thoughts, feelings and behaviors. If you prefer not to visit a hypnotherapist for anxiety, you may choose to learn self-hypnosis instead. A link to instructions on doing so is posted below. There are plenty of great hypnotherapy videos for anxiety, as well as a plethora of other problems, available on YouTube. Any form of hypnosis may prove to be beneficial in one way or another. Like most things in life, it is all a matter of trial and error to find which method works best for you. Also, keep in mind it takes some people several sessions before they are able to drop into trance and experience the full benefits of hypnotherapy. As a person who meditates frequently, I was able to drop into trance during my first hypnosis session and reaped profound benefits almost immediately. That being said, meditation is an excellent practice for quieting your mind, which will help you immensely when trying to drop into a trance. Not to mention, 20 minutes of meditation a day will help you remain calm and keep residual anxiety under control and/or prevent a re-emergence of past anxiety.