Discuss the relationship between stress, anxiety, habits and phobias and describe how you can treat these issues with hypnotherapy

“Discuss the relationship between stress, anxiety, habits and phobias and describe how you would treat these issues with hypnotherapy”

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Stress & anxiety, phobias & habits, these are all symptoms many of us have experienced at some point in our life. From the child strapped in a buggy frustrated with the mother’s shopping trip, relieving the anxiety it is feeling by sucking his thumb ( habit), to the youngster biting his nails (habit) because he’s worried about wearing something different to school that may get an adverse reaction from the other school children. It could be teenagers learning how to cope in difficult situations, facing important exams, peer pressure to smoke (habit), through to the daily grind of adulthood when it seems every day can throw up one problem or another.

Short bouts of stress such as these can be healthy, it can stimulate us & help us to gain in confidence as we learn to handle new life situations. It can motivate us to work through a problem and can sometimes be helpful in boosting our immune system. Healthy stress can be identified as any stress that increases the body’s ability to remain alert & ready to perform well under pressure. While unhealthy stress has the potential to shorten our lives, healthy stress has the potential to lengthen our lives.

STRESS: it could be good stress, it’s something we find stimulating, we have chosen the situation & are in control & can be a healthy way to release day to day pressures. Bad stress, it’s something that you can’t control, that forces you to act in a certain way, it is any state that cause’s people to lose their equilibrium, be it emotionally, physically or mentally. This can be extremely harmful to your health, leading to heart attack, stroke & cancer.

ANXIETY: an abnormal & overwhelming sense of apprehension & fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension & increased pulse) but doubt concerning the reality & nature of the threat & by self-doubt of one’s ability to cope.

HABITS: an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

PHOBIA: an irrational, intense & persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive & unreasonable desire to avoid the feared stimulus.

Stress, anxiety, phobias & habits can all be related in one form or another. For instance stress causes anxiety & vice versa. They are all caused by fear & change. A habit can cause stress because we have no control over when we do things, such as biting our nails or playing with your hair. An extreme habit (OCD), can make life very hard when someone is forever having to repeat things such as switching off lights several times, checking doors are locked, even when they know deep down everything is ok. A phobia can cause stress & anxiety, if we have a fear of going outside, it can cause stress & anxiety & in some extreme cases people can end up prisoners in their own homes. The mind is a powerful tool & it doesn’t care whether it’s working for you or against you. The subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between what is real & what is imagined.

It accepts information without question & once it believes something to be true, it seeks to fulfil & protect that belief. This belief can sometimes be traced back to the ISE (initial sensitising event) this can occur because of an event in childhood or it can be passed down from a family member. An adult screaming at a mouse, surely if this mouse frightens an adult the child has reason to be scared of it as well. Stress, anxiety, phobias & habits can ruin lives. For some people this means they cannot do the normal everyday things that they used to be able to do, all these symptoms stem down from FEAR & CHANGE.

Like all emotions, fear can be mild, medium or intense, depending on the person & the situation. The fear can be brief or it can last for a long time. When we sense danger, the brain will instantly react. Physical responses can be a faster heartbeat, feeling sick, sweating & a rise in blood pressure. This response is known as “fight or flight” because that is exactly what the body is preparing for, to fight a danger or escape from one, but if the brain then receives a message that everything is ok, it’s just a car back firing “phew”, things will quickly go back to normal. There are different categories of stress: Hypostress – Lack of motivation, bored & unchallenged.

Eustress – A positive stress, short term, increases motivation.

Acute Stress – Can cause physical & tension problems, may require up to 6 weeks treatment.

Episodic Acute Stress – A more damaging type of stress, linked to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, etc. Treatment may take months & also need medical intervention.

Chronic Stress – This can be treated but it is a serious state that there seems to be no end to with associated medical conditions such as cancer & diabetes.

Traumatic Stress – This can come from a child hood event or life trauma.

People presenting with stress may be affected both mentally & physically so it is beneficial to learn the most common symptoms so that you can easily recognise them in clients. Psychological changes in a client could present as depression or anxiety that cannot be connected to a specific cause. States of confusion & an inability to concentrate are also common, this will result in difficulty with time management & learning skills.

Some clients may present with sleep disturbances, stress can cause insomnia which can prevent the client from falling asleep or be the cause of fit fall sleep (waking through the night & being unable to get back to sleep) this can then make a client more anxious or stressed as when the body & mind are tired they are even less able to cope. Stress could also be the cause of sexual dysfunction in both men & women. It can manifest in lack of libido, inability to achieve orgasm & impotence in men. There is some evidence that stress can contribute to infertility.

When a client comes for an initial consultation & presents with symptoms of anxiety or stress it is important to discover whether there is a known cause for the symptoms. Is the client going through any life changes, has anything happened to cause the symptoms & how long have they been feeling this way. If a client describes long term suffering this will need further investigation, as there could be underlying physical or psychological reasons that will need either checking by their GP or guidance from your supervisor as to a referral. A stress disorder can be a devastating force that really does have the power to prevent us from reaching & fulfilling our true potential – if we are unable to manage & release it. Stress can build up inside us rather like pumping up a tyre & ignoring the pressure gauge, eventually something will go POP.

Fear & change, sometimes it is our own imagination that cause’s fear. It’s entirely natural to be fearful of the unknown. It’s all so easy to convince yourself that your reasons for being afraid are valid, we can imagine all sorts of negative things when we contemplate something we are afraid of, but this doesn’t make those things real. No one can predict what may happen in any given situation, but if we never try, we will never know, “if at first you don’t succeed etc. Clients may present with a fear that can be amusing to some people, although you should never show this. A client fear is their fear & as trivial as this fear may seem it is a real fear for the client, this should be respected at all times & when this fear is irrational it is defined as a phobia:

SIMPLE PHOBIAS: these are fears of a single stimulus such as heights, ladders, enclosed places, etc.

COMPLEX PHOBIAS: these are fears of a number of stimuli, for example a fear of going on large boats, maybe a fear of drowning, losing control, crashing, being lost or open spaces.

SOCIAL PHOBIAS: these are a fear of what may happen when you are in the company of others. This can be a fear of blushing, fear of losing self-control & a fear of trembling.

PANIC ATTACKS: are episodes of intense fear or apprehension that are of sudden onset.

AGORAPHOBIA: literally fear of leaving home, clients may only go short distances from home before they start to feel nervous or they may never go out at all.

It is paramount to try to establish the cause of the stress or anxiety. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but a client can make a small beginning by charting out any times or situations when they feel under most pressure. Recognising reducing & if possible eliminating the things that cause stress, when possible, and changing how we react to it are the safest & most successful ways to treat stress. A client must also take responsibility for the role they may play in creating or maintaining the stress, as until they do things will continue to remain out of their control. We must make a referral to a GP for any medical conditions caused by stress. The majority of stress will walk hand in hand with someone who feels they have no control over what is happening to them. In fact giving someone the simple realisation that they can take back that control is the foundation of stress management. Managing stress is all about taking charge, taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment & the way you deal with problems.

The ultimate goal for us all would be a life that’s balanced, with time for family, work, relationships & friendships, but we sometimes forget to make time for relaxation & fun, this can be the most time important of all. This can help with building resilience for us so that when times get tough we are stronger within ourselves to hold up under life’s pressures & meet them head on. Every client will have a different reaction to stress, it is not a “one size fits all”, some will have a more positive out-look on things, where as other clients will be at their wits end with no energy at all so we need to focus on what the client feel most calm & back in control. Unfortunately some stress in life is unavoidable & it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. Client’s will be pleasantly surprised & empowered when they start to relax, calmly think things through & realise that there are a number of stressors in their life that they can actually eliminate.

In conclusion I feel that stress, anxiety, phobias & habits are all linked or caused through fear & change. Life is hard on us all, whatever age, sex, class or religion. We are constantly being put under pressure sometimes good, sometimes bad, growing up from dependence to independence can be a struggle for many. It is how we learn to deal with these situations that effect the way we feel. Sometimes we need to retreat & let the problem resolve itself, but sometimes we need to stand & fight, take control, it is the only way we can feel comfortable within ourselves.

To be strong & deal with life we all need to feel we are in control of our own destiny, so initially we need to learn to relax, think or talk things through in a calm & logical manner, decide what is important to us, what issues we are stressing about that are really not worth it & what issues we need to start working to resolve. We are able to replace bad habits with new better ways of doing things, we don’t need to constantly go round & round in circles, continually making the same mistakes. Therefore by taking back control, we reduce the stress, we feel more relaxed & able to deal with things before they become bigger than we are.

First Steps in Counselling – Pete Sanders.
Hypnotherapy a Practical Handbook – Hullmut Karle and Jennifer Boys Chrysalis course note – Counselling and Psychotherapy – Year One – Module 5 notes. Hypnotherapy society Code of Ethics

Web Resources

Stress, anxiety & phobias – Together Therapy
Counselling for stress & anxiey

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