Along with pain management, perhaps few other areas are thought of as synonymously with hypnotherapy as stress and anxiety. Through the years if not centuries people have used hypnosis to deal with the stresses and anxieties of daily life which can come from numerous sources. Perhaps it’s a relationship issue, whether a personal one, or professional relationships with supervisors or coworkers. Perhaps its issues dealing with your teenager, burn-out at work, a medical condition, or it could be coming from a fear or phobia such as stage fright. Kids deal with stress and anxiety as well, and perhaps on a level that adults of the current generation never knew. Certainly academics can invoke both stress and anxiety just as it did when the adults of today were growing up, but with the social media craze of the internet, bullying today can easily rise to the level of pure mental anguish. So much so that it may turn into and manifest as a very real physical ailment such as migraines, TMD, ulcers, or a growing list of psychogenic and auto-immune issues. Even PTSD has been attributed to bullying that occurred earlier in life. This concern is of course in no way isolated simply to adolescents. In today’s world where we’re constantly pressing harder to achieve more in less time, stress, anxiety, and the fallout that results from it has perhaps never been a more pressing issue.
For this reason the subject will come up frequently at social gatherings and the question most commonly asked is if hypnotherapy really works for stress and anxiety. Personal experience aside, scholarly, clinical research studies back up the claims, and tell us yes, it does.
With students for example, one study by Johnson & Johnson chronicled the effects of hypnotherapy on learning and reading comprehension tasks. The researchers had the students in the hypnosis group receive hypnotic training to reduce anxiety prior to taking learning and reading comprehension tests. In these sessions the students were given suggestions to improve relaxation and concentration, as well as suggestions that these techniques to relax and concentrate could be recalled with a mental cue. The following is a direct quote from the results that would later be published in the Journal of the National Medical Association on this study:
“On the reading-comprehension test the experimental group who received hypnosis scored significantly higher than the control group. Further examination of the total score revealed that the experimental hypnosis group difference was due to superior performance on the inference items” (Johnson & Johnson, 1984).
Another study involving students raised the stakes, and didn’t isolate results to tests given as part of the research. In this instance, researchers pitted a hypnosis group against students in a control group, and in this case factored in the students’ midterm test grades. Similar to the case outlined above, the researchers cited a decrease in test anxiety and improvements in achievement for the hypnosis group. Additionally the study cited that the gains were maintained at the study’s follow-up (Sapp, 1991).
Many may think that learning to take tests and growing out of “exam anxiety” is just a part of growing up, and it will soon pass. An interesting observation however has been made by other studies on the subject to the contrary. Specifically it’s been noted that as one progresses through their academic career, and the stakes get higher, the stress and anxiety can actually get worse. A prime example that has been stated in previous articles is that of medical students. It could be assumed that by the time a student is sufficiently entrenched in the daily routine of medical school, they would have become so accustomed to taking tests that they would be of little concern. Studies have cited otherwise, and therefore in another relevant study that would later be published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, the researchers again pitted a hypnosis group against a control group. However, in this study the control group attended the sessions as well, however they did so in a waking state instead of a hypnotic state. The students in both the waking and hypnotic states, attended group sessions once a week for eight weeks, and a ninth session being dedicated to age progression, and mental rehearsal. Therefore in this situation, both groups were receiving the same tools; however one group was in a state of hypnosis at the time. This was very significant, as the published results again cited like findings; specifically that the hypnosis group again improved significantly in dealing with the exam stress (Palan, & Chandwani, 1989).
While exams, tests, and academics can certainly be stressful, as stated at the beginning of this article both stress and anxiety certainly come from numerous other causes as well. Stage fright or fear of public speaking is one that is widely known and often referenced. If you’re the type that is actually comfortable in front of an audience, then it may be difficult for you to comprehend, but the fear public speaking according to Psychology Today in the article “The Thing We Fear More Than Death” is actually cited as the number one fear in this country. For some it may be classified as more of a phobia than a fear, but either way, it can lead to crippling anxiety attacks, and it doesn’t just strike the person who is called upon to give the occasional toast at a banquet. Another study (Stanton, 1994) that cited hypnotherapy as being useful in abating performance anxiety was conducted overseas. The researchers studied second and third year music students studying at a conservatorium of music. These were students who had in many cases been performing publicly most of their lives, however still experienced performance anxiety. Just as with the medical students, one can at this point begin to see the ugly trend forming, in that if one doesn’t learn tools such as self-hypnosis to deal with stress and anxiety, it can simply continue to both follow and haunt the person throughout their life.
The issues we deal with however aren’t always of a type that have been an ongoing trend throughout life such as taking exams, or getting up in front of an audience. Sometimes it’s a single devastating blow such as a medical condition calling for surgery. Researchers in the departments of Pediatrics and Child Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine addressed the successful intervention of hypnotherapy in this issue (Saadat, et Al, 2006). Other times it’s simply the progression of life going on around you that leads to an overall feeling of just being run down, or burned out.
Whatever the issue may be, hypnotherapy often can provide much needed assistance with a combination of regular sessions, and instruction in self-hypnosis. Recordings of the sessions that can be used as homework have also proven to be very useful in combating stress and anxiety. Such is the case in a 2013 study that used hypnosis for dealing with stress, burnout and overall well-being (Cardeña, Svensson, & Hejdström 2013).
Whatever your case may be, if you are dealing with the daily challenges of stress and anxiety, and would like more information on hypnotherapy as an option, contact us online, or call the office at 469-225-9040.
|William Carpenter holds a certification in Healing the Inner Child with Hypnosis as well as Pre and Post Surgery Hypnosis from the American Hypnosis Association.|
Cardeña, E., Svensson, C., & Hejdström, F. (2013). Hypnotic Tape Intervention Ameliorates Stress: A Randomized, Control Study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 61(2), 125-145.
Johnson, R. L., & Johnson, H. C. (1984). Effects of anxiety-reducing hypnotic training on learning and reading-comprehension tasks. Journal of the National Medical Association, 76(3), 233.
Palan, B. M., & Chandwani, S. (1989). Coping with examination stress through hypnosis: an experimental study. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 31(3), 173-180.
Saadat, H., Drummond-Lewis, J., Maranets, I., Kaplan, D., Saadat, A., Wang, S. M., & Kain, Z. N. (2006). Hypnosis reduces preoperative anxiety in adult patients. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 102(5), 1394-1396.
Sapp, M. (1991). Hypnotherapy and test anxiety: Two cognitive-behavioral constructs: The effects of hypnosis in reducing test anxiety and improving academic achievement in college students. Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis.
Stanton, H. E. (1994). Reduction of performance anxiety in music students. Australian Psychologist, 29(2), 124-127.