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Does Hypnosis Work To Relieve Anxiety?

Anxiety and hypnosis.

Research studies have shown that hypnotherapy can be effective in treating anxiety and panic attacks.

Success stories from individuals who have tried hypnotherapy for anxiety and panic attacks also attest to its effectiveness.

As a hypnosis professional, understanding anxiety and how hypnosis can help your clients should be a cornerstone of your work.

How Effective Is Hypnotherapy For Anxiety?

Here's one meta analysis (a study of many studies) in which hypnotherapy showed good results.

THE EFFICACY OF HYPNOSIS AS A TREATMENT FOR ANXIETY: A META-ANALYSIS Keara E Valentine, Leonard S Milling, Lauren J Clark, Caitlin L Moriarty

"At the longest follow-up, seven trials yielded a mean weighted effect size of 0.99 (p ? .001), demonstrating the average participant treated with hypnosis improved more than about 84% of control participants."

However, it is important to note that hypnotherapy may not work for everyone and may have potential drawbacks and limitations.

It is important to seek professional help and
discuss all treatment options with a qualified healthcare provider.

Can Hypnosis Cure Anxiety?

Anxiety is a part of life. The point of hypnotherapy is not to cure anxiety but to keep it within a healthy range. Let's face it -- you should have anxiety in some situations. Anxiety helps us decide what's safe and what's not.

hypnosis can cure phobias

So, hypnosis doesn't 'cure' anxiety.

However, phobias and panic attacks can be completely removed by hypnosis in some cases. These may be triggered by more specific situations and are not adaptive.

A phobia of heights or flying can be cured, for instance. 

A person who previously had a fear of heights might still experience a bit of fear in a dangerous situation involving heights. But the fear will be proportionate, and not extreme. In a safe situation involving heights, they might feel no fear whatsoever.

It's when anxiety or fear gets out of proportion to the environment that it becomes a problem. A better question might be . . .

Can A Hypnotist Help With Anxiety?

One Client's Story

Note: What follows are my memories of a client session I did many years ago. I have changed a few details to protect the identity of the client. In addition, this section includes my opinions and theories about what caused the problem and how to work with it.

I (Keith Livingston) once treated a client who had a fear of having a heart problem. She had been worried as her heart seemed to be beating rapidly. She went to the doctor. The doctor told her she had a heart condition known as tachycardia.

Being at the doctor, she was already anxious. All she heard was the phrase 'heart condition'. To her, it was as if her worst fears were realized. She had a heart condition. Who knows how long she had left to live?

It turns out that tachycardia just means fast heart. 'Tachy', as in tachometer, and 'cardia', as in heart. She'd gone to the doctor complaining her heart beat quickly and the doctor had told her she had a fast heart. It wasn't really even new information. And in many cases tachycardia is not serious or can be easily treated.

But it was too late for her to hear this information. She was already in full-blown panic mode. And what happens to your heart during anxiety and panic? It beats faster. She worried that she was having a heart attack right there in the doctor's office!

Once your body has produced stress hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, it takes a while to calm down.

Her mind then strengthened the connection between her heart beating fast and fear that she might die. This happened in a classical conditioning way, like with Pavlov's dogs. In cases of strong emotions, these linkages can happen 

Understanding Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety is a natural response to stress and can even be helpful in certain situations. However, when anxiety becomes excessive and interferes with daily life, it may be classified as an anxiety disorder.

Panic attacks, on the other hand, are sudden and intense episodes of fear or discomfort that can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, and heart palpitations.

Specific phobias are intense fears of a specific thing or situation (fear of heights, fear of flying, arachnophobia).

What Causes Anxiety?

One way of looking at anxiety is that the brain doesn't know how to effectively deal with or escape a particular situation. Anxiety is the brain's way of warning us about a situation we don't know how to cope with.

Some theories posit that old experiences leave an imprint in the mind. If we had an experience that caused anxiety and fear in the past, finding ourselves in a similar situation may bring up the old feelings. 

Anxiety can affect how we think.

When feeling the old feelings, it's more difficult to get to more resourceful, or pleasant feelings. This is more likely in the case of a specific phobia or anxiety, as opposed to a generalized anxiety.

There are various other factors in anxiety and panic attacks, including genetics, brain chemistry, and of course, environmental factors. Traditional treatments for anxiety and panic attacks include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Meditation, mindfulness training, and hypnosis can be used to counteract anxiety.

Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety can present itself in various ways, affecting people's physical, emotional, and cognitive states. Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  1. Physical symptoms:
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Shortness of breath
    • Trembling or shaking
    • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
    • Sweating excessively
    • Fatigue or weakness
    • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
    • Frequent headaches or migraines
    • Digestive or bowel problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastritis
    • Muscle tension or pain
    • Dry mouth
    • Nausea
  2. Emotional symptoms:
    • Feelings of fear, unease, or panic
    • Irritability or restlessness
    • Feeling constantly on edge or "wired"
    • Feeling a sense of impending danger, doom, or catastrophe
    • Difficulty in controlling worry
    • Difficulty in concentrating
    • Unwanted or intrusive thoughts
  3. Behavioral symptoms:
    • Avoiding situations or places that trigger anxiety
    • Compulsive or repetitive behaviors
    • Difficulty in making decisions
    • Procrastination due to feelings of worry or fear

Remember, everyone experiences anxiety differently, and the above list is not exhaustive. Some people may experience only a few of these symptoms while others may experience many. Anxiety can also contribute negatively to multiple health conditions, such as high blood pressure.

Can Hypnotherapy Relieve Anxiety?

Hypnosis can relieve anxeity.

Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that uses hypnosis to induce a trance state in which the individual is more open to suggestion and can access their subconscious mind.

This allows the hypnotherapist to work with the individual to address specific issues and make positive changes.

During a hypnotherapy session, the individual is guided into a relaxed state and given hypnotic suggestions to help them achieve their goals.

Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks.

Panic and anxiety are not typically conscious decisions. They seemingly happen to us, but are caused largely by our automatic, or semi-automatic thoughts. Hypnotherapy helps to reach the parts of the mind that are creating the thoughts that cause anxiety. Hypnotherapists might refer to these parts of the mind as the subconscious mind, or the unconscious mind.

Do You Have A Mental Health Disorder, Or Are You Just Stressed Out?

It's important to note that hypnotherapists generally fall into 2 categories. There are professionals who practice hypnotherapy only. Then there are those who are licensed in psychology, mental health care, or medicine. Frankly, not many psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed mental health counselors, or physicians practice hypnotherapy.

However, only someone who is licensed in the mental health field is qualified to diagnose a mental health disorder. If you have a mental health disorder, you should be diagnosed by a licensed professional. They can either treat you, or refer you to someone qualified to work with you.

To be clear, there are many fine hypnotherapists who can work with you on your anxiety disorder -- even if they're not licensed mental health practitioners.

However, they should do so under the supervision of, in conjunction with, or with a referral from a licensed professional.

How do you know if your anxiety rises to the level of a diagnosable mental health disorder, or if you're just stressed out? 

You don't. And you shouldn't self-diagnose. If you're worried you might have a mental health disorder, go to a professional mental health diagnostician.

To give you a ballpark idea, The National Institute of Mental Health says "For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships."

Any well-trained hypnotherapist can help you if you simply feel stressed out and you want to learn to relax.

What to Expect During a Hypnotherapy Session

When seeking hypnotherapy for anxiety disorders, it is important to find a qualified hypnotherapist who has experience in treating these issues. The initial consultation will involve discussing the individual's symptoms and goals for treatment in treating anxiety.

While the state of hypnosis alone, without suggestions, is beneficial to a variety of health conditions. However, more targeted therapies are generally needed to achieve good results with anxiety and panic attacks.

So, during the hypnotherapy session, the individual will be guided into a relaxed trance state and given hypnotic suggestions to address their specific issues. The session may also involve visualization exercises and other techniques to help the individual relax and overcome their anxiety.

After the session, the hypnotherapist may provide post-session follow-up to check on the individual's progress and provide additional support. More than one session may be required for anxiety disorders.

How Hypnotherapy Can Help Treat Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Hypnotherapy can be an effective alternative treatment for anxiety and panic attacks. By addressing the root cause of the individual's anxiety in a trance state, and/or replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones, hypnotherapy can help individuals build self-confidence and self-esteem and develop coping mechanisms for future anxiety and panic attacks.

Direct suggestion hypnosis is one technique that can be used in a trance state. Post-hypnotic suggestions can provide relief in situations that formerly caused anxiety. Regression techniques are sometimes used to find the events that initially caused an anxiety, and reprocess those events, giving the mind new techniques to handle similar situations less stressfully.

So, can hypnosis help anxiety disorders? Yes, when used correctly.

How Anxieties Can Spread

The client had a link established in her mind, between her heart beating quickly, and extreme fear. This was not something she set out to do deliberately. The pattern was run automatically any time her heart beat faster.

So, whenever she exercised, got anxious, walked up some stairs, or saw someone attractive, she was in danger of having a panic attack. While meditation, yoga, or lifestyle interventions would lower the overall background level of anxiety, they are unlikely to prevent panic attacks in these specific contexts.

People having panic attacks often think they're having a heart attack. You'll often hear panic attacks described with, "I thought I was going to die."

She contacted me after experiencing a particularly bad panic attack. She had some anxiety, but was going to a class. Her car wouldn't start and she was afraid she would be late. She decided to take a cab and the cab immediately got stuck in traffic. At this point her heart started beating quickly, and she was afraid she was having a heart attack.

Ironically, she was headed to a stress-reduction class when this occurred!

This event, as well as the doctor's visit and another event from her childhood were the basis of her fears. We used special visualization techniques to take the emotional sting out of these memories and get a new perspective on them. When that's accomplished, even if the subconscious mind goes back to those memories, there is no longer fear or anxiety attached to the memories.

In addition, you can use the techniques of anchoring and future pacing, combined with post-hypnotic suggestions. With these techniques, you have the client go to a time when they felt wonderfully calm, or excited, but good. You suggest that, in the future, when their heart beats quickly, these feelings will automatically occur. Then you lead the client through several imaginary scenarios in which their heart beats fast and you suggest the good feelings.

You're establishing an automatic, more resourceful emotional response to replace the panic.


Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool in treating anxiety and panic attacks. By addressing the root cause of the individual's anxiety and replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones, hypnotherapy can help individuals build self-confidence and self-esteem and develop coping mechanisms for future anxiety and panic attacks.

If you are struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, it is important to seek professional help and discuss all treatment options with a qualified healthcare provider. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to overcome anxiety and live a fulfilling life.

About the author

Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston is the Director of Education & Operations for the International Hypnosis Association. He's been training Hypnotherapists and NLP Master Practitioners for more than 20 years, and have created, or co-created more than 20 NLP/Hypnosis related programs.

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Posted in News on July 17, 2023 by  Keith Livingston 0