Mental Illness

Erika Slater headshot photo 300x300Mental illness touches 20% of the population either directly or indirectly. It’s treated mostly by medications but prescription drugs don’t always work or have harmful side-effects for patients. Other therapies to compliment medications include cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy to provide help in daily living and holding down jobs.

In addition, the stress on families living with a loved one with mental illness is staggering as they attempt to provide support to them in what can be ongoing erratic and stormy times. Some illnesses such as depression, OCD and PTSD can respond to therapies, and others such as bi-polar and schizophrenia are inconsistent and experimental.

The selection of materials covers realistic current assessment and case studies of therapies for mental illnesses, but also provide help for families and caregivers of those supporting a loved one.

Enjoy the articles.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Hypnosis as a Treatment

By Erika Slater
PTSD Word Cloud

PTSD Word Cloud

In this article you’ll discover:

  1. How Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is triggered and manifests itself in disrupting sufferer’s daily lives.
  2. Current treatments including medications and therapies to help cope and overcome the trauma and triggering event.
  3. Further reading, studies and resource links around PTSD diagnosis and treatments.

Over the last 10-15 years, there’s been much discussion about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as it relates to the general population. In previous generations it was common to hear PTSD discussed whenever one was referencing wars, namely ‘The Vietnam War’, and eventually later on ‘The Persian Gulf War’. Soldiers who had served in either war, often times came back ‘shell shocked’ from what they had witnessed or experienced as a by-product of the atrocities and violence of war. In fact, during the World Wars in the twentieth century soldier victims of the illness were diagnosed with the term “shell shock.”

Many soldiers were unable to resume ‘normal’ lives, as their everyday living was interrupted by intrusive thoughts caused by the memories of being in a vicious war. Even though it was considered a ‘mental illness’, it wasn’t considered serious enough to warrant the attention it deserved. Many individuals went unchecked or untreated, a sad state of affairs as it destroyed many lives.

Perhaps PTSD wasn’t taken serious enough because it was so misunderstood years ago. It was also a new phenomenon, and the criterion for diagnosing and assessing it weren’t cut and dry. The treatment protocols for how to go about helping individuals were still in early stages, so often times it was ‘hit or miss’, as there were too many misdiagnoses, or no diagnoses, and too many individuals suffering from PTSD slipped through the cracks and were never treated.

Incidentally, when more individuals who suffered from PTSD started to become a harm to themselves (usually suicides), or a harm to others – violence in their work places – it was then the mental health and medical communities realized it was a mental disorder warranting its own term and diagnosis.

When studies were eventually done to examine the effects of PTSD on suffering individuals, it was found there were correlations to anxiety disorders, depression, alcoholism and substance abuse problems. Upon digging further into the symptomologies of PTSD, it was discovered many who were diagnosed with alcoholism, drug addictions, anxiety disorders and/or depression had these ‘issues’ and disorders due the true underlying cause – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mental health practitioners (psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and social workers) dug deep into the study of patients and individuals who suffered from PTSD, as well as the aforementioned other mental health disorders linked to it. They were interested to find out if the mental health issues were concurrent or co-existing, or whether one created the other (The ‘chicken or egg phenomena‘ – which came first?).

Furthermore, even though PTSD in most individuals was acutely similar, it was imperative to also recognize it in terms of differential diagnoses – not everyone was the same in terms of their personalities, or how they were coping with it.

This article will explore how PTSD awareness has evolved, how it’s currently assessed, diagnosed and treated. I’ll finally take a look at how hypnosis has been introduced as one of the treatments and some studies behind its use and effectiveness.

 

WHAT IS POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER?

Woman in darkened room alone and depressed.Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a clinical mental illness as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DMS V) [1]. It’s created and manifested from exposure to trauma related to death or the threat of death. It can also be created and caused by sexual violence (rape or molestations) or serious injury (car accidents, home or work-related accidents, etc.).

Whenever someone is exposed to a situation that’s frightening, violent or catastrophic, repeatedly, or even just one time, and which is perceived as intense, this can create trauma in an individual.

For example, being exposed to accidents, crimes of violence, wars or even natural disasters, where one perceives it as a threat to life, can lead to trauma.

Individuals exposed to these situations are more inclined to feel helpless or powerless, leading to feeling intensely stressed out and traumatized because they cannot control the situation.

Furthermore, when these situations happen out of the blue, and are totally ‘unexpected’, it creates a greater sense of helplessness in the individual.

 

PTSD AND FLASHBACKS:

When an individual suffers from PTSD, they become ‘traumatized’. People use the term traumatized loosely often in everyday conversations, but those with PTSD are truly traumatized. Many suffer from recurrent negative thoughts, intensely vivid nightmares and flashbacks, which characterize the true essence of traumatization. People with PTSD will experience sudden intrusive negative thoughts that literally come out of nowhere and that overwhelm them where they feel out of control.

Many PTSD sufferers experience intense and recurring nightmares. Too often, their dreams and nightmares have themes or replays of what happened to them which traumatized them in the first place. They relive their accidents or traumatic events when they sleep.

Flashbacks are similar to nightmares; however, they occur during the individuals’ waking hours. They can be in the middle of something, when all of a sudden something triggers their thoughts and they literally feel like they’re thrown into the traumatic situation all over again. For example, some war veterans may be watching a movie that has violence or a war theme, and as they watch they suddenly go back into their mind (unconsciously) to their own experiences and believe what they are watching is real, and they act in real time accordingly as they would in the real situation!

 

WALKING ON EGG SHELLS:

Woman laying on couch feeling depressedIndividuals who suffer from PTSD spend most of their lives after the traumatic event feeling extremely nervous, or on edge all of the time. They literally feel like they’re “walking on egg shells” waiting to have something traumatic happen again!

Most PTSD suffers have an extremely difficult time focusing and concentrating on the rigors of their everyday lives. They are startled easily, and nervous to ‘certain triggers’ (people, places, things) which serve as reminders to their past traumatic events. No matter how safe they may be, they never feel safe. They’re always in a ‘fight or flight’ response mode waiting for something potentially bad to happen. This adds to stress as our body chemistry responses to danger is designed to last for just a few minutes to get us through the danger, and not for long periods of time.

Many PTSD suffers have a hard time processing their emotions. They become disconnected, even ignorant to positive thoughts, feelings and memories. Everything they think and feel has a ‘black cloud’ hovering over it, or so it would appear to them. Moreover, some individuals become so out of tune with their thoughts and feelings they literally feel disconnected from their bodies. They no longer enjoy their life, rather their life has gone from enduring life after the traumatic event to now ‘existing’.

When individuals get to this point in their lives, it’s not uncommon for them to develop behaviors that focus on avoidance. In the beginning, it’s not uncommon for them to avoid people, places and situations that remind them of the traumatic event they’ve experienced.

As time goes on, the ‘avoidance’ becomes transferred toward many other people, places and situations in their lives, even the ones that used to provide them with the greatest experiences of happiness and peace. Individuals who used to ‘love driving’ may avoid wanting to get behind the wheel of a car all together because the accident they were in has left them traumatized. Sadly, for many with PTSD their symptoms go untreated.

So, now we can understand where the person with PTSD has got to this state and symptoms they’re experiencing. Getting diagnosed and into treatment is the next step on road to recovery.

 

WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS FOR PTSD?

Trauma sufferer with DoctorMany individuals who suffer from PTSD in the early stages will often self-medicate. When I refer to self-medicate, I mean by either using drugs or alcohol. It’s easy to acquire sedatives over-the-counter at pharmacies, and many will use sleeping pills to not only help them sleep at night, but also to try and dull their senses during their waking hours.

More individuals will turn to alcohol! Let’s face it, it’s readily accessible and can be used at any time. For some, they use it to numb and dull their senses, or get them to the pass out state for sleep. Conversely, some individuals will use it as their ‘courage in a bottle’ to help them get through their days (work and social lives).

In the end, the longer one uses and abuses either of these methods, the more likely they are prone to develop addictions and depression.

Those who opt to see their physician or a psychiatrist will be offered anti-anxiety medications [2] to try and help them keep their thoughts and emotions in check. For some, the drugs will help them with functioning in their everyday lives. The idea with the drugs is to ‘help them cope’, until they overcome the traumatic thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, for many, the drugs only numb or mask, but do not take the memories away.

Some individuals will be prescribed anti-depressants [2]. The trauma they experienced may have led them to become withdrawn or introverted from society and living, which has led to intense feelings of depression. The medications may work to help alleviate the depressive feelings, but in most situations will not remove the traumatic memories.

The main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. Some people may need to try different treatments to find what works best for their symptoms” [3].

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) [4] is often the first therapy choice for treating PTSD [3].

CBT helps individuals process current thoughts and feelings differently. CBT helps people becoming more focused on their moment to moment awareness and ‘think intentionally’! CBT teaches individuals to use methods and skills to bring them back to the present moment instead of living in the past – reliving the traumatic events.

CBT also encourages individuals to discuss the experience that traumatized them to ‘get it out’ and help them realize it’s a ‘past event’ that has nothing to do with what is happening in the present. These ‘talk sessions’ can greatly assist in helping people who have developed avoidance issues. The hallmark of CBT is empowerment. CBT teaches clients and empowers them to tale back total control of their lives through controlling their thoughts that leads to their emotions.

There have been recent studies on hypnosis as an alternative or adjunct therapy to CBT and I’ll explore this for you in the next section.

 

PTSD AND HYPNOSIS:

Woman in therapy for PTSDThere is no one medication or therapy that works for everybody. But usually with the help of trials one can be found to provide some relief for a PTSD sufferer. So, neither CBT or hypnotherapy can solve all problems. CBT is an intensive therapy requiring significant work outside formal sessions and this can be challenging for sufferers. Hypnosis doesn’t work for everybody as it requires a level of suggestibility and imagination on the part of the patient. However, sufferers of PTSD are good candidates for hypnosis and learning self-hypnosis techniques due to their mind’s ability to flashbacks and relive the events of the trauma.

By way of an introduction hypnosis can help individuals who suffer from PTSD in one of two ways.

First, it can serve as a great tool for helping folks to relax and de-stress whenever they start to feel nervous, or have flashbacks. Second, it can help individuals block out the negative intrusive memories embedded in their unconscious minds.

Hypnosis can help individuals learn to relax. Through a series of relaxation techniques and suggestions, the mind will become retrained to scrutinize stressful situations and events differently. Stress and anxiety hypnosis teach the individual to respond differently. And how does one break free of their negative response ruts? By helping one to re-train their perception of what they are experiencing.

Hypnosis can help people to feel better about themselves, especially when intrusive PTSD flashbacks occur. It works with the unconscious mind that continually creates and recreates the stressful perceptions leading to flashbacks and nightmares.

By tapping into the source, hypnosis helps modify and re-train the problems, negative perceptions and memories in the unconscious mind. The source (the unconscious mind) begins to learn how to perceive similar situations differently, or in less stressing ways. Hypnosis also helps the person block out irrelevant perceptions and events which led to the initial trauma, which later led to the nervousness, nightmares and flashbacks.

Let’s look at a few studies involving effectiveness of hypnosis as a therapy treatment for PTSD.

The first cited study involves 32 chronic combat-related PTSD patients suffering with insomnia – a common symptom for PTSD suffers. The group was split into two with one receiving medication and the other hypnotherapy. The study author concluded “Hypnotherapeutic treatment revealed a significant primary effect on post-traumatic stress symptoms as measured by the post-traumatic stress disorder scale. This effect was always present at the follow-up one month later. Other benefits seen in the hypnotherapy group included decreased intrusion and avoidance responses and improvement in all of the sleep variables assessed” [5].

The next is a case study involving a woman who suffered trauma when large glass doors collapsed at her place of work and engulfed her on two separate occasions over a year. Name used was Julie and she was treated by a psychologist using hypnosis who documented each of the seven (7) sessions. The therapist tackled Julie’s anxiety and low self-esteem and feeling at fault for the accidents. Breathing and relaxation techniques were taught along with other coping strategies. The author wrote: “The use of a combination of hypnosis, cognitive behaviour strategies, exposure techniques, and relaxation hypnosis in the treatment of PTSD has been well documented, and appeared to work well in the case of Julie, reinforcing and enhancing an overall treatment approach. Additionally, Julie felt that she was much better equipped to deal with any distressing events in the future” [6].

Finally, Spiegel, Cardena noted in their paper ‘New uses of hypnosis in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder’ [7], “Hypnosis can be used to help patients face and bear a traumatic experience by embedding it in a new context, acknowledging helplessness during the event, and yet linking that experience with remoralizing memories such as efforts at self-protection, shared affection with friends who were killed, or the ability to control the environment at other times.”

Sufferers of PTSD wishing to explore hypnotherapy as a treatment should discuss with their physician options and referral to a hypnotherapist who has experience in helping others with trauma. Some psychologists are trained in hypnosis but professional hypnotherapists who specialize in trauma patients should also be pursued and interviewed.

 

CONCLUSION:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has come to prominence as a diagnosis in recent years due to the number of veterans deployed to war-torn zones returning and struggling to fit back into normal society and ravaged by their exposure to the horrors and demands of combat. But PTSD can be an outcome induced by any type of trauma and involvement in accident or witness to a triggering event.

Symptoms can include flashbacks and reliving of the event triggered during the day or as nightmares. Insomnia is a common side effect. Sufferers can live with anxiety and stress, depression, difficulty focusing, lack of motivation, and feeling of helplessness and social disconnection.

Treatments include medication and therapies, and/or both. Addressing the root cause usually requires therapies and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and counseling is in common use for PTSD sufferers. In recent years hypnotherapy has been introduced in conjunction with CBT and medication or as an alternative with success. Multiple sessions are usually required. Seek out a referral from your physician for an experienced counselor or hypnotherapist in trauma.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES RELATED TO POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER:

[1] DSM-5 criteria for PTSD – Nature >>>

[2] Medications for PTSD – American Psychological Association (APA) >>>

[3] Psychotherapy Treatments for PTSD – Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) >>>

[4] Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 101 >>>

[5] Hypnotherapy in the Treatment of Chronic Combat-Related PTSD Patients Suffering From Insomnia >>>

[6] The Use of Hypnosis in the Treatment of PTSD – Case Study – Carter >>>

[7] New uses of hypnosis in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder – Spiegel, Cardena >>>

Library of Self-Hypnosis Downloads Products >>>

Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis
Massachusetts

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Suicide: Suicidal Thoughts and Prevention and Treatments

By Erika Slater
Woman sitting alone on rock staring out to sea in thoughtful pose

Woman sitting alone on rock staring out to sea in thoughtful pose

In this article you’ll discover:

  1. How to break through the stigma and start the discussion with those contemplating suicide.
  2. The four types of suicide and common myths surrounding those with suicidal thoughts.
  3. Current treatments and what you can do to help a loved one or friend, and those impacted by somebody who takes their own life.
  4. Further reading, studies and resource links around suicidal thoughts and treatments.

Suicide is one of the most difficult topics to talk about because of the stigma attached to it.

A few years ago, suicide jolted my life. I was in shock for a long time. But this isn’t the place to linger on my specific incident but it raised a lot of questions about suicide as a topic for me and it felt the right timing to do research to get some answers now there’s been some time distance since it happened.

It isn’t just the stigma alone that deters people from discussing it, but also the ‘concern’ talking about it may actually lead someone to contemplating it, or following through on thoughts they have about taking their own life. But research tells us this just isn’t reality. Not talking about suicide is more likely to lead to a tragedy.

Throughout time, suicide has been deemed; a ‘sin’, an act of cowardice, behavior that demonstrates complete selfishness, or a response to mental illness (depression), and even in some cultures, a dignified act under certain circumstances.

When you view suicide within any and/or all of these contexts, you can see why discussing it for some people would invoke the same feelings as discussing politics or religion. Most have different views about suicide, and it can be taboo to discuss it just like politics and religion.

The sad part is, when someone close to you, or someone you know or are aware of, takes their own life, regret becomes hindsight, which is always 20/20. The ‘ifs’ come into play – “If only I would have just listened to them, or encouraged them to talk about it…” Taboo and discomfort aside, suicide is, and should always be, a topic to put “out in the light” and discussed!

 

CHANGING THE CONTEXT AND DISCUSSION:

Man offering supporting hand to girl who is depressedOften times it takes a major media event to shed light and bring to the public’s attention how serious a problem suicide truly is. Moreover, when it involves an individual with celebrity status taking their own life, whether it be Kate Spade (American fashion designer) or Anthony Bourdain (CNN chef and storyteller) in 2018, the general public becomes ‘more’ aware suicide is indeed a problem and real.

The sad part is, people tend to become more cognizant of people taking their own lives when a celebrity commits suicide, that the majority of others taking their lives, perhaps numbering in the hundreds every month, are never made known to the public. The moral of the story, society grieves celebrities who take their own lives, but it doesn’t grieve enough for the everyday “Joe’s” and “Jane’s” who take their lives.

Suicide should not be glamorized or manipulated by the media to get ratings because someone famous has died. It should be discussed in the media, in schools, in households more often to not only inform people, but rather offer hope and support there is help out there. Too often times, this isn’t done and this is how in some cases, suicide can, or could have been, prevented.

If the way society approached suicide is ever going to change, it first has to change the way it perceives this horrific event. Throughout history, suicide has always been a topic of ‘tainted’ discussion. Many elementary schools and high schools have tended to shy away from discussing it as part of the curriculum, or as a general topic. Too many parents of the children in schools, and school boards have always viewed it as taboo – thinking… it may give children ideas.

Interestingly, in these same schools, iconic literary works such as Shakespearean plays as well as other novels are still a part of the curriculum having at the core of their romantic tragedies suicide as ‘the answer’, or suicide in some instances was the honorable thing to do for the main characters in the story’s plot. This is how most of us are introduced to suicide, but isn’t how it should be.

When people think about or read about suicide, they often compartmentalize it or stereotype it as being the mere act of one killing themselves because they are unhappy with their life or they’re deeply depressed. As true as this can be, suicide runs much deeper in terms or underlying causes, as well as one eventually following through in taking their own life.

 

THE FOUR TYPES OF SUICIDE:

Emile Durkheim did a study on the types of suicides nearly 70 years ago [1] and came up with four distinct causes or reasons individuals commit the act. He asserted suicide types will often times fit into one of these four categories; Egoistic, Altruistic, Anomic and Fatalistic.

Egoistic Suicide is the type of suicide most people associate with when they read about a death in the media or in schools. The suicide is based on extreme feelings of loneliness, or rebuff – either from a personal rejection, or overall from society. Over a period of time a sense of ‘loneliness’ will be perceived by the individual and this may lead to intense feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and haplessness.

Rather than dealing with this internal struggle of rejection, they choose to end their lives by believing they’ll find some sense of solace, or believe they’re doing others a favor by disappearing for good. Furthermore, some may even take their own lives to ‘punish’ those who have rejected them. Many of this ‘suicide-type’ have low self-esteem and often dissociate themselves from others.

Altruistic Suicide is the type of suicide often times associated with martyrdom, or a sense of self-sacrifice for the greater good. You read about this more in the media today when it comes to terrorism or cult affiliations destructive in nature. A suicide bomber is willing to walk into a market place (bomb strapped to their bodies) to die for the name of their group or cause. You see this also in some cult groups such as Heaven’s Gate, who killed themselves believing they’d catch the Hale Bopp Comet back in the late 1990’s, or the infamous Jonestown Massacre led by Reverend Jim Jones in the 1970’s in Guyana.

Anomic Suicides are usually the least predictable type of suicides carried out during intense periods of stress or frustration, or after a person has experienced a major traumatic loss in their lives. At the root of it, individuals believe they’ve lost their ability to control things, their lives, their personal relationships, etc. Whatever degree of balance and control they believed they had in their lives gets turned upside down and they feel vulnerable. Unfortunately, great financial loss is often times at the root of this type of suicide and you see it in some gamblers who’ve lost their entire savings.

Fatalistic Suicide is the final type of suicide. It’s a different type of suicide in that an individual perceives themselves as having little to no value, and literally struggles with an identity crisis – “Who am I?” In the past, this type of suicide was strongly linked to ‘countries’ or regimes where members of society were suppressed and oppressed. It was common in communist countries.

Today with more insight into spousal abuse or extremely abusive dysfunctional families, this type of suicide can be linked to one feeling overwhelmed and victimized whereby they develop intense feelings of hopeless, helplessness and haplessness. For them, suicide feels like the best and sometimes only option to be ‘free’.

 

TWO COMMON MYTHS ABOUT SUICIDE AND FOUR QUESTIONS:

Woman sitting on rock staring out to sea feeling depressedAs I mentioned earlier, there are common myths linked to ‘suicide’. The first is, feeling if you discuss it, it may lead someone to actually killing themselves. Secondly, if someone is talking about killing themselves, they probably are not serious because they wouldn’t be talking about it in the first place.

These are both dangerous myths which can lead to further isolation by those considering suicide.

Discussing suicide will not put ideas into peoples’ heads that weren’t already there. Just because someone is depressed or, down and out, doesn’t make them stupid! If they have thoughts about suicide, then those thoughts have most likely come long before your discussion with them.

All discussion or threats about suicide should be taken seriously!

Of course, if someone is ‘joking’ and using sarcasm to refer to themselves in that light, most individuals are wise enough to discern it isn’t a true threat. Conversely, if one is discussing suicide and death often, or out of context, then you should take it seriously and use what experts refer to as the ‘Four Questions’ – Why, When, How and Where?

The first question, which is perhaps the most obvious one to ask an individual who is threatening to commit suicide is, “Why do you want to kill yourself?” The reason this question is important is two-fold. First off, it assesses the degree of severity for how intent one is on following through with suicide. By asking this question, you see what the trigger or cause is, or was, that led the individual to want to take their own life.

Secondly, this question demonstrates the ‘thoughtfulness’ for the intent of taking one’s life. It first serves as thoughtful for the listener to gauge how serious they are in committing suicide. Next it demonstrates the severity of the potential act for the one wanting to commit it. They may have thought it through, but actually hearing it in a conversation with someone else may make them refrain from doing it, and following through, because they may have an ‘ah-ha’ moment whereby they realize how irrational their thinking is. For some potential suicide victims, they want to be heard, felt understood and wanted, so asking them ‘why’ may provide them with this.

The second question to ask a potential suicide victim is, “When are you planning to take your own life?” The rationale for asking this question is to determine not only how serious they are, but where they are in terms of planning the event. If they can offer you a specific date and/or time, they obviously have put some serious planning into it.

Furthermore, when they’re able to qualify the rationale for their timeline, the likelihood of them doing it goes up to an even higher level of concern. For example, if they inform you they plan on doing it after a major holiday or event because they don’t want to ruin things for their loved ones, or that this is going to be their final good-bye, you can be sure they’re extremely serious!

The third question to ask is, “How do you plan on taking your own life?” Do they have a plan in place and the means for carrying it out? When asking this question, you’re finding out if they already possess the means for taking their own life. If they inform you they’ve gotten sleeping pills because they’re afraid of a violent death and they ‘just want to go peacefully’, they have motive, rationale and means. Conversely, if they’re in possession of firearms and believe in a quick harsh type of death, then once again, they’re demonstrating their level of severity and intent.

Finally, you want to ask them, “Where do you plan on committing suicide?’, to see if their plan is complete and close to fruition. When they tell you, they plan on going to some secluded area, or even checking into a hotel so their loved ones will not be the ones to find them, they’ve also put empathy and sympathy into their equation, meaning they’ve totally thought their plan through. When they’re already demonstrating remorse before committing the act and ‘sorry’ to those who will find them, they are beyond a shadow of a doubt serious!

 

SUICIDE AND MENTAL ILLNESS:

Somebody with a serious or chronic mental illness is at an increased risk of suicide. This includes those people diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Bi-polar and PTSD [2] because these can have severe depression as a symptom and we know from experience depression can lead to people taking their own life if not diagnosed and treated. Depression itself can be treated with medication and other therapies [3] but we also know those suffering with mental illness can stop treatment and quickly slip back into being at risk once again.

However, research tells us a few things to be careful about assuming with mental illness. Not all people with mental illness have suicidal thoughts or are at risk, and not all people who commit suicide have a mental health issue causing them to suffer from depression [4]. One recent study in China has particularly thrown doubt on conventional wisdom and rethinking the role of mental illness in suicide [5].

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness or caring for somebody who has it, then being vigilant and aware of the risks and ensuring treatment is ongoing can reduce anxiety over potential for suicide.

 

TREATMENTS AND WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Woman in counseling session looking depressedCrisis situations should be treated as an emergency calling 911 or a local emergency number. There is also the National Suicide Prevention Number at 1-800-273-8255. At the emergency room in a hospital you’ll be treated for any injuries, and if appropriate receive medications to help with the crisis and allow you to be assessed for any follow-up treatment you may need [6].

Non-crisis situations are usually addressed by common outpatient treatments depending on a professional assessment include: psychotherapy, medications, addiction treatment, and family support and education.

Psychotherapy by trained counselors and therapies used can include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) [7], Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) [8] and other therapies suggested by an attending psychiatrist.

Medications help reduce symptoms and tend to include those used for depression but because some of these provide an opportunity for overdose then the choice can vary. “Antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, anti-anxiety medications and other medications for mental illness can help reduce symptoms, which can help you feel less suicidal” [6].

As mentioned not all suicidal thoughts are rooted in mental illness, and drugs and alcohol addiction can spark situations and/or mood disorders leading to attempting suicide. Treatments include detoxification, addiction treatment programs and support groups. Primary physicians and addiction counselors can assess and recommend appropriate treatment and programs.

It’s often the case that family members, even immediate family, can be surprised by a suicide or attempted suicide. “I never knew” or “if only I’d known…” are frequent refrains. There can be a desire to “keep it under covers” or not subject others to guilt or shame of suicidal thoughts. The person may also feel if they share their thoughts it will create family conflict and doesn’t want to be bothered or deal with it. Because of HIPAA laws them medical professionals may feel they can’t reach out to the family unless the patient will harm themselves or others. However, if the patient is willing to share their situation with family then a strong family support network can be built and often provides the key to getting the person, not only the help they need, but providing support during their treatment.

But what can you do if and when you know or suspect someone is serious about committing suicide? There should be little to no hesitation on your part once you’ve examined the severity of the intent of the individual! The potential victim needs to be psychiatrically assessed and therefore needs to be taken to a hospital and receive the proper care and assessment.

 

HYPNOSIS AND SUICIDE:

There are few if any available studies published on use of hypnosis with those suffering with suicidal thoughts. There are studies on use in depression and I covered these in “Can Hypnosis Really Help with Depression and How Does it Work?” [3]. As depression is a common symptom in those considering suicide then hypnosis can offer an alternative if medication and other therapies have not helped or can provide complimentary therapy to these treatments.

As my article on depression mentioned hypnosis itself isn’t a therapy but a vehicle for providing treatment by a skilled therapist who may have a number of techniques with a patient in a trance state to help control symptoms. For those with suicidal thoughts not caused by depression but a traumatic life event, then a professional hypnotherapist can aid with helping the patient navigate through the loss and negative emotions they’re feeling.

For those suffering the loss of someone to suicide or anxious for somebody who is going through suicidal thoughts then hypnosis can provide reduction of stress or anxiety for family members or close friends. It is easy to overlook the grief or helplessness of others who are impacted by the knowledge or events of what somebody else is suffering.

We are social creatures and shouldn’t underestimate bonds we have with others be they family members or close friends, and our own sense of loss or being anxious about a potential loss. Of particular concern are best friends who are at risk of entering depression at the loss of somebody who they view as center to their life. There are hypnotherapists who specialize in grief through loss and helping people through an emotional and difficult time.

If hypnosis is an avenue you wish to explore then discuss with your primary physician who can help with a referral or perform your own scan and find a local hypnotherapist experienced in helping those with depression.

 

CONCLUSION:

Suicide is often considered a taboo topic to discuss and because of this it often goes unnoticed in ordinary day to day living until a celebrity commits suicide and then it becomes a media frenzy and topic for all the wrong reasons. Normal people are struggling with suicidal thoughts every day and looking for help and understanding. Important lives are being lost because the “cries for help” are going unnoticed or not acted upon by others.

Suicide isn’t just the domain of the mentally ill and depressed, although these with severe depression are higher risk. It also walks the corridors in those who’ve suffered a traumatic event or loss and immersed in a deadly cycle of grief. Whatever the cause the myths surrounding suicide, and its discussion, include those who feel if it’s talked about it’s more likely to make the person act on their thoughts. Alternatively, if somebody is talking about their suicidal thoughts, they’re not really serious about it as if they were, they’d keep it to themselves. Both of these we know are myths.

There are a number of treatments available for those considering suicide. These include medications and psychotherapy. Therapy allows a professional discussion to happen with the person in an attempt to begin the long-term healing process. Therapy to support or replace medication with particular diagnoses includes CBT, DBT, hypnosis and other specific alternatives.

In closing, all discussions or intended attempts with regards to suicide should always be taken seriously!

One talk may be all it takes to save someone’s life.

If you’re specifically grieving the loss of somebody close then you can download a free hypnosis session to help on coping with the suicide of a loved one here >>>

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES RELATED TO SUICIDE:

[1] Le Suicide – Emile Durkheim >>>

[2] Mental Illness and Suicide >>>

[3] Can Hypnosis Really Help with Depression and How Does it Work? >>>

[4] Examining the Claim that 80–90% of Suicide Cases Had Depression >>>

[5] Rethinking the Role of Mental Illness in Suicide >>>

[6] Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts – Mayo Clinic >>>

[7] Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 101 >>>

[8] Dialectical Behavior Therapy – Psychology Today >>>

Library of Self-Hypnosis Downloads Products >>>

Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis
Massachusetts

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Can Hypnosis Help as a Treatment for Anxiety Disorders?

By Erika Slater
Anxiety Disorder depiction for woman

Anxiety Disorder depiction for woman

In this article you’ll discover:

  1. Different forms and types of Anxiety Disorders, and what this means for you.
  2. Common treatments for the disorders and details about the medications and therapies used in providing relief of symptoms.
  3. How hypnosis can help with the treatment for anxiety disorders to provide quick relief of symptoms as an alternative to other therapies or as an adjunct.
  4. Further reading, medical studies and resource links around the disorders and various treatments.

It’s estimated at least one quarter or more of the U.S. population suffers from anxiety or some anxiety-related disorder at any given time in their lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 40 million American adults in any given year are affected by anxiety disorders [1].

The fact is, Anxiety Disorders are a recognized mental illness [2] and not a disorder that’ll naturally cure itself with time, but rather a persistent illness that if left untreated will likely worsen and impact an individual’s quality of life. There are a number of treatments medical professionals use to help affected individuals, which often includes combinations of both prescribed medication and therapies.

This article has been written for sufferers of anxiety disorders. In it, I’ll provide information and other resources for you on different forms and treatments, including the use of hypnosis as a therapy gaining traction in providing both quick and long-term relief for patients. I’ll reference studies [16] conducted using hypnosis as a treatment and offer my own experience on what to expect from using it for my clients.

Let’s get going though by describing what is included in the Anxiety Disorder grouping…

 

DIFFERENT FORMS OF ANXIETY DISORDERS:

Woman feeling anxiousWe hear the terms anxiety and stress used often these days – people in conversations use the words interchangeably – but from a diagnosis and life impact perspective the conditions are significantly different.

Feeling anxious and under stress is a normal part of life. Stress particularly is persistent but normally the levels come and go in specific situations, and we find ways of coping or reducing it. However, stress can cause short-term physical symptoms similar to anxiety such as rapid heart rate, muscle tension and headaches.

Stress is your body’s reaction to a trigger and is generally a short-term experience. Stress can be positive or negative. When stress kicks in and helps you pull off that deadline you thought was a lost cause, it’s positive.

When stress results in insomnia, poor concentration, and impaired ability to do the things you normally do, it’s negative. Stress is a response to a threat in any given situation” [3-4].

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a sustained mental health disorder that can be triggered by stress. Anxiety doesn’t fade into the distance once the threat is mediated. Anxiety hangs around for the long haul, and can cause significant impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning” [3].

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Let’s look at these identified in the DSM-5 Handbook used by professionals and published by APA [2].

Panic Disorder (including Agoraphobia):

Panic Disorder is marked by sudden feelings of terror leading to panic attacks which can strike repeatedly and without warning. These attacks can cause physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, and chest pains. People with this disorder will go to great measures to avoid having an attack, including avoidance of places and situations (agoraphobia) where attacks have occurred in the past.

Phobias:

Phobias are a persistent and irrational fear of a specific situation such as flying, driving, and heights. To avoid a panic sensation people with a phobia, avoid triggers, and this attempt to control the triggers can seem to take over a person’s life. There can be many types of phobias and the DSM-5 APA [2] lists 5 subtypes: animal, natural environment, situational, blood-injection-injury, and other.

In my hypnosis practice I have seen and worked with a number of phobias the most common ones being fear of heights, driving, public speaking, performance anxiety, and flying. Hypnosis as a sole treatment for specific phobias can be effective or used as an adjunct to another therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

Those who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience chronic anxiety and difficulty controlling their worry most of the time about different situations and activities. Symptoms include restlessness and being easily fatigued, headaches, muscle tension, nausea, sleep problems and sweating. People with GAD can find it hard to concentrate or complete routine daily tasks.

Social Anxiety Disorder:

Social Anxiety Disorder or SAD is a persistent fear or worry about social and performance situations”, from DSM-5 APA [2]. SAD can impact people in a specific situation, such as eating in front of people, or generalized where people fear most social situations and interactions with others. Unlike shyness and social awkwardness, this disorder causes irrational worries about conversations or participating in class discussions, causing isolation. People with Social Anxiety Disorder have a hard time making and keeping friends, blush and sweat a lot around people, and are afraid they’re being judged all the time.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

I’ve covered Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and use of hypnosis for this condition in an earlier article “Can Hypnosis Really Help with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – OCD?” here [5].

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a reaction to traumatic stress and gained substantial recognition in recent times due to men and women in military service experiencing combat and assault events suffering from this disorder. Known as “shell-shock” when recognized in the World Wars of earlier generations, it can also be diagnosed in survivors of sexual or physical assault or those subjected to natural disasters or accidents. Information on Hypnosis use for PTSD can be found in Spiegel and Cardena J Clin Psychiatry. 1990 Oct;51 Suppl:39-43; discussion 44-6 [18].

Causes, Risk factors, and Diagnosis:

Similar to many mental illnesses professionals are concluding genetic and environmental factors are a prevalent cause and risk factors for anxiety disorders. Some families experience higher-than-average members with anxiety issues. In addition, professionals also believe stressful or traumatic events such as abuse, death of a loved one, violence or prolonged illness is often linked to the development of an anxiety disorder. However, genetics and environmental factors are risk factors rather than they predict the disorder in somebody.

Because many of the physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can also be found in other medical conditions, a Doctor will perform a physical examination and lab tests on you to rule out those other conditions. The physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be easily confused with other medical conditions like heart disease or a thyroid condition. Therefore, a Doctor will rule out a medical illness first, then recommend you see a mental health professional to make a diagnosis.

 

TREATMENTS FOR ANXIETY DISORDERS:

Psychologisy helping woman overcome fearsIf you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder then there’s good news for you, you’ll likely experience significant improvements in symptom relief and quality of life with professional treatment. The type of treatment you need will depend on your symptoms and type of disorder. There’s no one treatment fits all, so, you may need to try different, or combination of treatments, before settling on what works best for you.

Anxiety, like stress, can’t be cured, but can be reduced and controlled. I talked about the difference between anxiety and stress earlier, so, the treatments are aimed at helping you control your disorder so it doesn’t have the type of impact on your life it has at the moment. The therapies described below help build coping and relaxation skills, along with behavioral modification to help control symptoms.

Medication:

While medication is commonly used for treating patients diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, research studies suggest better outcomes are obtained by a combination of medication and therapy treatments. Medication treatment falls into two general types; antidepressants, and anti-anxiety (anxiolytics). Your Doctor may prescribe a mixture of medications and perform trials to find the right combination and/or dosage to help your symptoms.

Antidepressants [6] are used to treat depression but are also found helpful in treating anxiety disorders. Frequently the first choice of medical professionals for panic disorder or social phobias they’re not a problem for most adult people to take but require close monitoring.

Anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) [6] tend to be preferred for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Medications known as Beta-blockers [6] are also prescribed to help with the control of physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat, shaking, sweating and trembling. Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of norepinephrine, a stress hormone triggered when you perceive you’re in danger or under severe stress.

Medications can have serious side effects on some individuals such as suicidal thoughts, nausea, insomnia, weight gain, dizziness, and headaches. In addition, not everybody does well on meds or benefits from them.

Psychotherapy Treatments:

Most treatments plans include a combination of medication and therapy. Up to recent times the most common form of psychotherapy to treat anxiety disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT isn’t a quick fix for anxiety but it has a reputation for providing long-term relief. It can involve months of sessions before results are seen, and health insurance coverage can therefore be an issue. The sessions are aimed at identifying and changing unhealthy and harmful thought patterns you experience that can lead to your anxiety. Essentially, you’ll learn positive behavioral change techniques you can use to monitor and change your own thoughts. It takes diligent practice and homework, and these, along with time and money, are some of the criticisms leveled at this therapy, and the reasons patients drop out of treatment early [7].

Another therapy for anxiety is Exposure Therapy. Exposure therapy uses different methods of controlled exposure to fearful situations for a patient, which is intended to lead to decreased anxiety and distress in these real-life situations. The exposure is performed in a safe environment by a psychologist. The treatment is based on the premise confronting our fears helps overcome them in the long-term. While avoidance can help in the short-term, it can lead to making the fears increase over time. Various studies have concluded its effectiveness in the treatment of disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, and specific phobias [8].

Exposure therapy can be done progressively over multiple sessions or “flooding” as in somebody with a spider phobic being put straight in a room full of spiders. The professional concern on exposure therapy is for specific patients it can be disturbing and lead to them dropping out of the treatment early. Additionally, care must be taken not to re-traumatize a patient.

Mindfulness Techniques:

Structured Mindfulness is a form of meditation and has become common vocabulary in the treatment of many conditions involving stress and worry. It’s based on Asian practices of meditation and brought to USA in 1992 by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn who also pioneered work in its use in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) treatment programs for anxiety disorders and conducted a number of studies [9].

According to Psychology Today magazine, “mindfulness” is a state of active and open attention on the present moment. Sometimes described as “… in a state of living in the moment. When you’re able to do this, you become capable of just observing your thoughts as a viewer without judging them as being either good or bad” [10].

So, what’s the intent of mindfulness compared to other anxiety treatments? Its main focus is to help you calm yourself and to get in a relaxing and accepting state. It doesn’t focus on confronting or exposing of fears but more on controlling your thoughts in the present and importantly not struggling to control distressing thoughts which can only intensify your anxiousness.

Mindfulness isn’t necessarily about formal meditation, although this can be one aspect if meditation has helped relaxation in the past for you, but it can also be practiced as you go about your everyday activities. So, you can adopt a mindful attitude when eating, listening, walking, and working, being nonjudging, with openness and gentleness. If this sounds strange and unnatural to you, then, consider the roots of mindfulness comes from cultures where these attitudes expect this should be your natural state of mind anyway, so practicing “meditation” to achieve your default state is considered positive for your health and body.

Mindfulness isn’t the only stress-reduction management technique that can help with anxiety, but cited studies have shown, “… mindfulness has indeed proven somewhat effective in the treatment of anxiety and should therefore be considered as a viable treatment alternative” [9].

There’s no shortage of mindfulness training these days. If you’ve a local yoga or meditation studio available near you likely there will be sessions or short courses available at them. The difficulty is not in learning mindfulness but in practicing it. Controlling your thoughts around anxiety and the symptoms you experience when it happens requires learned techniques and confidence you can control then, and this will take dedicated and focused practice. For this you may need professional help from a practitioner of mindfulness with experience in helping others with anxiety disorders.

Hypnosis:

I’ve written extensively about hypnosis in previous articles and covered its use in clinical and medical issues. When people describe hypnosis they usually also include the work done under hypnosis to make changes, but hypnosis is really a state separate from the therapeutic work done when in a hypnotic trance. Hypnosis then is “… a heightened state of awareness which means your mind becomes more focused. Individuals are able to shift their focus to specific qualities of an experience and hold them there. This allows people to place their attention on things they want to change and avoid focusing on the things they don’t want to think about. Wherever your thoughts go, this is what you’re going to focus on most, and continually bring it into your personal awareness” [11].

A patient, once in hypnosis, will receive therapeutic and post-hypnotic suggestions from a hypnotist while in a trance-like state to help control thinking of thoughts triggering anxiety. Self-hypnosis is often used to aid patients in controlling issues without the need for a therapist to guide the session. Most hypnotists can provide self-hypnosis training to a client in 2-3 sessions. This helps minimize costs and also provides empowerment to the client in dealing with any anxiety that may appear later.

While on the surface mindfulness and hypnosis share common characteristics, and sometimes even techniques of achieving relaxation and focus and an attention on breathing, the approach to obtaining outcomes is different. Whereas mindfulness promotes acceptance of the way things are through focusing on your state of awareness, hypnosis uses change and goal-orientated language in its suggestions to control symptoms. Hypnosis also benefits from the ability to address specific symptoms.

Hypnosis can be used as the sole treatment for anxiety disorder or as an adjunct to other psychotherapy treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBHT), or along with use of medication. I want to explore the use of hypnosis in treating anxiety disorders in more depth and so the next and final section will provide you realistic assessment of what we know today about its effectiveness, and what you can realistically expect from hypnosis as a treatment for anxiety disorders.

 

CAN HYPNOSIS REALLY HELP WITH ANXIETY?

Woman smiling after therapy sessionHypnosis offers an alternative therapy that can be used to tackle specific symptoms quickly and address anxiety over long-term.

It can also be used as an adjunct to medications and other therapies such as CBT (called CBHT), or mindfulness, to help speed up outcomes to experience relief and positive outcomes.

In my own practice, where my main focus is on providing help for people with smoking cessation, stress, weight loss and control, and phobias, I use hypnosis almost exclusively in my therapeutic sessions. While my client hypnosis sessions often include elements of neuro-linguistic programming or NLP [12], and where appropriate for client resources and homework Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT [13], the bulk of the change work achieving outcomes are in the hypnotic suggestion session work.

In clients experiencing trouble quitting smoking or with obesity, there is often an undercurrent of anxiety and stress blocking an effective outcome for them. Where this is the case addressing the anxiety is the first step before tackling any negative habit changes. As chronic anxiety is considered a mental illness and intervention is mostly at the hands of medical doctors, then the question for you is can hypnosis help you with anxiety and what proof is available it even can?

Where’s the Proof?

You can read studies and research on the medical use of hypnosis which has proven a viable and effective solution to treat chronic pain, pre- and post-surgery stress and discomfort and emotional upset, labor, sleep problems, dentistry-related procedures, and irritable bowel syndrome [19-26]. “Of note is that in the medical environment, clinical hypnosis is provided as an adjunct to medical treatment. Intervention is often provided at bedside, or in preparation and during medical procedures away from the usual office-based psychotherapy setting” [16].

Dr. David Spiegel – Medical Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine – is an advocate of hypnosis and used it on himself for pain management after surgery. Spiegel says “Hypnosis can be an effective method for managing pain and treating anxiety and stress-related disorders” [14].

In another study on “Hypnosis in the Treatment of Patients with Anxiety Disorders”, the authors conclude, “The obtained results reflect the fact that both the intervention based on cognitive-behavioural methods and the one using specific hypnosis strategies and cognitive-behavioural techniques have led to reducing the anxiety, the level of depression and the level of negative mood into the experimental groups” [28].

But Will Hypnosis Work for Me?

Most people can be hypnotized as it happens to us naturally regularly. Being relaxed and focused is all it takes. If you’ve ever been absorbed in a book or movie to the extent of being oblivious to other people or what’s going on around you, then you’ve been in trance. A small percentage of people are poor candidates for hypnosis, and if you fit in this category, then, this will become apparent to the hypnotherapist during your first session. There are no guarantees for any therapy treatment or medications for that matter.

Whether you’re taking medications or currently in therapy, such as CBT, then hypnosis may be able to help you get to faster and better outcomes. There’s enough evidence to consider hypnosis as a serious alternative, or adjunct, to your current treatment for your anxiety disorder.

How Do I Get Started on Hypnosis Therapy for My Anxiety?

Getting started with hypnosis is about finding a local hypnotist you can work with and this will involve interviewing a few to find one who has experience in anxiety disorders. Do your research and take some time choosing. Experience and trust should be your guiding beacons in choosing somebody to work with you. You’ll find an array of people who practice hypnosis and these include licensed psychologists who also have training in hypnosis, to professional therapeutic hypnotists. Generally, professional therapists will offer you a free consultation where they can discuss your case and symptoms and you can ask them about their experience and methods, and of course timelines and costs. I’ve found confident and experienced professional hypnotists are not threatened by these questions and welcome them because it conveys you’re serious about achieving outcomes.

Finally, I want to expand further on self-hypnosis as it provides ongoing therapy for your anxiety without the need to see your therapist regularly. A professional hypnotherapist can teach self-hypnosis and/or provide custom-tailored recorded sessions for you. Learning self-hypnosis can take a few sessions but like mindfulness it provides a practical way of controlling situations that normally cause anxiety by bringing quick relief. When interviewing your hypnotists be sure to discuss this and choose one that advocates for self-hypnosis and a willingness to teach you. If you’d like to work with me directly on learning self-hypnosis either online or through my in-office sessions then check out my Hypnosis Services or you can contact me here.

I hope this article has provided you further insights into anxiety disorders and options available to you to get relief.

 

CONCLUSIONS:

While we all get anxious and stressed at various times in our life and work, having an anxiety disorder impacts your life daily and is a recognized mental illness. The disorder can range from causing panic attacks, phobias, OCD, PTSD, social anxiety where we avoid any contact with others, to Generalized Anxiety (GAD) where you worry constantly about many different situations and activities.

Treatment for these disorders includes medications and various therapies and most people are prescribed both. Typical medications include antidepressants and specific anti-anxiety prescriptions. The most common therapy used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but more recently other therapies have met with success either as an alternative therapy or in combination with CBT. These include: Exposure Therapy, Mindfulness, and Hypnosis.

Whereas many of the therapies can require significant numbers of sessions before improvement is seen, hypnosis can help provide quick relief from your symptoms and also provide ongoing help by learning self-hypnosis under the guidance of a professional hypnotist.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES RELATED TO ANXIETY DISORDERS:

[1] Anxiety Disorders: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) >>>

[2] DSM-5 – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – APA >>>

[3] Stress vs Anxiety: How to Tell the Difference >>>

[4] Why is it So Darn Hard to Cope with Stress? Ways to Reduce It >>>

[5] Can Hypnosis Really Help with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – OCD? >>>

[6] Common Medications for Anxiety Disorders >>>

[7] The Benefits and Criticisms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy >>>

[8] What is Exposure Therapy? – APA >>>

[9] Hypnosis and Mindfulness for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: Empirical and Applied Perspectives >>>

[10] Introduction to Mindfulness – 4-Part Series >>>

[11] What is Hypnosis and How Does Hypnosis Work? >>>

[12] Introducing a Primer for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) >>>

[13] 5 Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT Tapping Benefits for Stress, Pain & More >>>

[14] Transformation – David Spiegel on how hypnosis can change your brain’s perception of your body >>> 

[15] Therapy Session Case Study: Dealing with Anxiety, Stress and Poor Self-Confidence >>>

[16] Using Hypnosis in the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: Pros and Cons >>>

[17] Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Kids and Teenagers >>>

Library of Self-Hypnosis Downloads Products >>>

 

CITATIONS:

Access to the full text of these medical journal articles may require a free membership account to journal websites:

[18] New Uses of Hypnosis in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Spiegel D, Cardena E.

[19] Neron S, Stephenson R. Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy with Cancer Patients’ Trajectory: Emesis, Acute Pain, and Analgesia and Anxiolysis in Procedures. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2007;55(3):336-54.

[20] Montgomery GH, Bovbjerg DH, Schnur JB, David D, Goldfarb A, Weltz CR, et al. A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Brief Hypnosis Intervention to Control Side Effects in Breast Surgery Patients. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2007;99(17):1304-12.

[21] Snow A, Dorfman D, Warbet R, Cammarata M, Eisenman S, Zilberfein F, et al. A Randomized Trial pf Hypnosis for Relief of Pain and Anxiety in Adult Cancer Patients Undergoing Bone Marrow Procedures. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology. 2012;30(3):281-93.

[22] Lang EV, Berbaum KS, Faintuch S, Hatsiopoulou O, Halsey N, Li X, et al. Adjunctive Self-Hypnotic Relaxation for Outpatient Medical Procedures: A Prospective Randomized Trial with Women Undergoing Large Core Breast Biopsy. Pain. 2006;126(1-30:155-64.

[23] Jensen, MP, Gralow JR, Braden A, Gertz KJ, Fann JR, Syrjala KL. Hypnosis for Symptom Management in Women with Breast Cancer: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2012;60(2):135-59.

[24] Harandi AA, Esfandani A, Shakibaei F. The Effect of Hypnotherapy on Procedural Pain and State Anxiety Related to Physiotherapy in Women Hospitalized in a Burn Unit. Contemporary Hypnosis. 2004;21(1):28-34.

[25] Landolt AS, Milling LS. The Efficacy of Hypnosis as an Intervention for Labor and Delivery Pain: A Comprehensive Methodological Review. Clinical Psychology Review. 2011;316(6):1022-31.

[26] Mackey EF. Effects of Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Intravenous Sedation for Third Molar Extraction: A Randomized Blind, Controlled Study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2009;58(1):21-38.

[27] Lynn SJ, Green JP. The Sociocognitive and Dissociation Theories of Hypnosis: Toward a Rapprochement. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2011;59(3):277-93.

[28] Hypnosis in the Treatment of Patients with Anxiety Disorders. Holdevici I, Craciunb B.

 
Erika Slater CH
Director
Free At Last Hypnosis
Massachusetts

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Coping with Being a Caregiver for an Adult Family Member with a Serious Mental Illness

By Erika Slater
Couple coping with unhappy situation

Couple coping with unhappy situation

Developed countries are shifting their mental health policies
away from hospital-based care towards community-based care,
and family caregivers play an essential role in making living in
the community with a severe mental illness possible.”
LUCAS KU Leuven/EUFAMI Survey 2015

In this article you’ll discover:

  1. Practical ways of coping with being a family caregiver for an adult with a serious mental illness to reduce stress, avoid burnout, and achieve a balanced life.
  2. The benefits of support groups for caregivers and the leadership role you play in the professional team supporting your loved one.
  3. How to work with medical professionals and other service providers so you get access to information and seen as a member of their team.
  4. Further reading and resources around caregiver coping strategies, support groups, and life balance so you provide quality care without burning out.

If you’re a caregiver for a family member with a serious mental illness, then you know it can be a demanding and stressful role leading to burnout and negatively impacting both your life and that of your loved love. I know this from personal experience.

More is expected of family caregivers, who’ve become a pillar in the recovery of their patient alongside formal caregivers. There’s no greater stress than caring for a loved one with mental illness. So, anything you can do to reduce your stress and burnout potential is of paramount importance in helping to provide quality of care to your loved one.

As a family caregiver survey cited later says “The balance between taking on the role and responsibility as a carer for a relative with severe mental illness and preserving one’s own quality of life is fragile.”

The unpredictable nature and actions of those with mental illness, even when on medication and in treatment, keeps your anxiety level high. But to throw your hands up when the going gets tough isn’t an option, as that’s when they need your help the most. I’ve also seen the negative impact of being a martyr and trying to do all the caregiving oneself. This has its own set of problems and impact on your loved one.

Your caregiver role is critical but at times it can seem your input to treatment is ignored by medical professionals and access to critical information is barred, which only increases your stress and anxiety level.

In this article I’m going to offer suggestions that have worked for me and others dealing with your situation. I’ll discuss practical coping strategies you can interject into your life daily to help reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed, overburdened and in danger of burnout.

 

COPING SKILLS FOR FAMILY CAREGIVERS AND HOW TO LEAD A BALANCED LIFE:

Unhappy and crying womanThe amount of effort put into supporting someone with mental illness can be taxing on a caregiver. Stress comes in all shapes and sizes, and can affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally. We are still learning from scientific research the negative impact on our immune system from chronic stress, especially as we age and our organs become more susceptible to breakdown. [Suzanne C. Segerstrom and Gregory E. Miller – Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry] – see link in resource section at end.

Enduring stress over a prolonged period will affect one mentally. Simple mental tasks become more difficult to complete because your circuits become over-ridden with worries.

It’s not uncommon to begin forgetting the simplest tasks or get side-tracked, even overlooking important appointments.

Being a caregiver to a loved one who’s suffering from mental illness can be debilitating emotionally. Many caregivers develop feelings of helplessness, haplessness and hopelessness which start to facilitate the phenomenon of depression. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to experience crying spells on a regular basis. Often, caregivers will break down and become overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, and this can lead to burnout.

Signs of Burn-Out and Depression:

According to Dr. Peter Sacco, “Burn-out occurs when highly committed people start to lose interest and motivation due to physical, emotional, or psychological exhaustion.” This most often happens under the following conditions:

1. You’ve been under very intense pressure for a long period… way too long!
2. You find it impossible to say no to others and additional responsibilities. You feel you owe people or must help them.
3. You possess a perfectionist personality and the need to do things 100%.
4. You’re biting off more than you can chew, in that you’re trying to do too much while lacking too little resources.
5. You’re emotionally drained because you’re letting those around you suck the life out of you.

When burn-out leads to depression, then the caregiver has taken their condition to a higher and dangerous level requiring their own treatment. Links to two articles for further reading on this topic are “Depression and Caregiving”, and “The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout… Do You Have Them?”, can be found in the resource section below.

Managing Your Self-Care:

Mature woman chatting with friend in coffee shopNurses and health care aids are trained to deal with others and taught to be objective. When you are caring for a loved one, it’s hard to remain objective and disallow your personal feelings from creeping into your frame of mind. Professionals can walk away from their jobs and enjoy their personal lives. However, when you care for a loved with a mental illness, your personal world literally becomes re-created by the mental health status of your loved one!

Family caregivers are under a constant barrage of trying to establish a routine of caring and having a life of their own, battling to get services for their loved ones, fighting with them to take treatment, turn-up for appointments, and relapses.

It’s stressful regardless if your loved one lives in your household or they live independently. Out of sight isn’t “out of mind” when it comes to providing caregiving. So, managing your own self-care is important to provide a balanced life.

In a booklet put out by NAMI Cape Cod it discusses the value of self-care (as they say – often referred to as ‘Put the oxygen mask on yourself first‘) and offers a set of suggestions to ensure you’re creating your own self-care program. (See link in resource section to contact NAMI Cape Cod to obtain your own copy). I’ve extracted some of their suggestions here:

  • Maintain your friendships or develop some new ones.
  • Indulge and nurture your hobbies such as: exercising (walking/running with friends, biking, gym workouts), reading fun books, seeing movies, building things/woodworking, cooking/baking, knitting/quilting, eating out.
  • Accept all invitations for parties and celebrations. Don’t isolate yourself.
  • Identify and express your feelings through journaling.
  • Make getting enough sleep a priority.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Become active in the community and/or in your church

There must be time for yourself. If you don’t manage your stress, then, no one else will. So, choose a few activities from the list above.

Reduce Confrontation by Learning New Approaches with your Loved One:

Dealing with a person with mental illness isn’t a cake-walk. Logic and reasoning with them can be futile at times causing frustration and harsh words on both sides. The fact is, they don’t see the world the same as you do, and frankly, you’re in a better position to adjust your perspective than they are, and in effect relieve the tension and your stress, and likely get a better outcome.

In Dr. Xavier Amador’s excellent book “I’m Not Sick I Don’t Need Help!” he discusses approaches and the words to use when dealing with somebody with mental illness. Dr. Amador had a brother with a mental illness and developed his approaches based on personal experiences and dealing with his patients. The aim is to diffuse confrontation and it offers ways to adapt your perspective to those of a person with mental illness, so they feel they’re listened to and respected. The approach takes practice and a willingness to see the illness through their eyes even if their logic and reasoning is flawed to you – to them its their reality.

Mindfulness, Meditation and Hypnosis:

Hypnotist hypnotizing womanI put these three together because they’re different aspects of self-care and not mutually exclusive. While mindfulness has become “avant garde” these days don’t dismiss it as a personal therapy approach. There’s a reason why its become popular. Mindfulness can be a quick win for you at times of stress and frustration when free time is limited.

The concept of closing your eyes and centering yourself in the present without wearing critical sensors or blinders, and where the mind can be in a state of tranquility reduces stress quickly and allows a fresh start to the rest of the day.

I’ve included a link below to an introduction to mindfulness resource “Introduction to Mindfulness – 4-Part Series.”

Wikipedia defines meditation “as a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.” Meditation, then, can be used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, and increasing peace, perception and wellbeing. I’ve generally found meditation requires more practice than mindfulness and so attending some classes helps.

In the context of coping skills for family caregivers then hypnosis can provide relief in both stress and improving outcomes with the mentally ill. Hypnosis, then, can provide aspects of both mindfulness and meditation but also provide resources and tools to help with interactions with your loved ones and others. Often, our habits dictate reactions to events, people, and situations. If these learned reactions don’t help the situation or cause you to be frustrated or stressed, then hypnosis can help change outcomes.

Generally, most folks benefit from seeing a hypnotist for a few sessions to get started and learn the skills of self-hypnosis, so they’re able to perform hypnosis on themselves without ongoing visits to a hypnotherapist. If you’re new to hypnosis, then check out the link in the resource section for my introductory article called “What is Hypnosis and How Does Hypnosis Work?

 

SUPPORT FOR FAMILY CAREGIVERS AND PLAYING THE TEAM LEADER:

Members of support group sitting and discussing issuesAlways keep open the network of support systems you already have. Whenever family and friends offer to help, seize it! It’s common to become so fixated with caring for your loved one you lose track of the boundaries which separate you from them. Some individuals develop a “martyr” complex sacrificing their lives for their loved one, believing they should be the only ones offering care and not ‘burden’ others. In the long-term this is a mistake. Accept help from others and be humbled enough to reach out for support!

There are support groups for families dealing with mentally ill members. There are plenty of people in your shoes, and in my experience, I’ve found just being able to talk to folks dealing with similar situation helps to ease the burden.

There are several support groups in North America and Europe. If you live in USA, then the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is nationwide and provides local support. NAMI also runs free programs and one of these is the Family-To-Family Program. While a commitment of time it provides education about mental illness and practical advice on coping. You also get the opportunity to meet and hear how others are dealing with illness in their family. NAMI also runs local support groups for family caregivers that meet regularly and offer an ongoing opportunity to have an empathetic ear to your situation. For more information about your local chapters and programs see the NAMI link in the resource section below.

I include here a reminder to manage the healthcare team of your mentally ill family member. You should consider their primary physician, psychiatrist, therapist, nurses, etc., as part of your team, which could also include other professionals. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them as support for you. Of course, tap into your primary physician, therapist, counselor, or hypnotherapist to help balance those focused on you, rather than your loved one.

Getting medical professionals to view themselves as part of your team can be tricky and at times frustrating. But, for your long-term well-being and that of your ill family member, it’s critical you’ve a group of medical professionals that recognize the importance of your role and treat you with respect and embrace your input into the medical welfare of their medical patient. Don’t hesitate to move on from providers who ignore your input.

 

WORKING WITH MEDICAL PROFESSIONS AND OTHER SERVICE PROVIDERS:

Mature woman chatting with counselorHIPAA has introduced an unnecessary barrier between family caregivers and the medical community. Professionals, to protect themselves, often interpret Federal and State medical privacy laws conservatively, so you end up feeling “shut out” of the conversation of what is going on, and the treatment prescribed. This can lead to tension and frustration with those who are supposed to have your loved ones best medical interest at heart. The fact is there’s nothing in HIPAA, or any state laws, prohibiting medical professionals from listening to information you have about your loved one. While they may choose not to release information to you, they have to listen to you.

However, being confrontational all the time isn’t going to endure you to any professional.

Better you adopt a stance to be a constructive part of the team and offer information and help. At the end of the day you’re the overall leader of your loved one’s team. The medical team is just one aspect of the care they need.

If possible get your loved one to sign medical release forms so you can be present in medical visits and consultations, and receive copies of any records and documents. By having this at the start it helps avoid absence of communication and reduces your stress and frustration level. States differ on the process and terms but consider guardianship if this helps you with ensuring ongoing care for your loved one. This requires their consent and you’ll need the help of a lawyer. In Massachusetts, you have the option of being a “Roger’s Monitor” covering the medication as part of the guardianship.

Keep a journal of visits containing dates, names and telephone numbers, and list of medications and details of treatments agreed. This way you’re not relying on memory and have a permanent record of everything in one place. This may seem trivial but it’s important to you and is helpful information to share with any new medical professional joining your team.

Sooner or later you’ll encounter the police. Anticipate this and make yourself and loved one known to the local police before an event happens. In Massachusetts special training is offered to police on dealing with people with mental illness. If you call when a crisis occurs request a CCIT or CIT-trained officer to be dispatched, or at the minimum explain you’re dealing with a mental illness issue. The police are there to help you, and your loved one, and to avoid a tragedy. When they arrive stay calm, provide them useful information, and then step back and let them do their job. They can escort your loved one to hospital if necessary.

Let me conclude this section by citing from the LUCAS KU Leuven/EUFAMI Survey 2015: “The greatest need of family caregivers lies in the recognition they’re a full partner in care, and in the need to be listened to and taken seriously by professional caregivers. Family caregivers know what it is to live with mental illness through their daily experience with the patient. They especially worry about the future and what will happen with their ill relative in the long-term. These worries need to be taken seriously.” The survey is called “Experiences of Family Caregivers for Persons with Severe Mental Illness”, and I’ve put a link to it in the resource section below.

Another excellent resource for you which although focused on providing a manual for a family dealing with a schizophrenic member is applicable for other disorders is “Surviving Schizophrenia – A Family Manual” by E. Torrey Fuller. His words and explanations have helped me through many worrying times.

I set out to provide you practical ways to cope better being a family caregiver and managing your stress through interactions with your loved one, and medical and other service providers. But, it’s primarily about having a balanced life beyond your role as a family caregiver. Remember… You’re not alone.

 

CONCLUSIONS:

There are no clear-cut strategies for being ‘the perfect caregiver’. Simply put – you need to keep your life in balance. You need to learn to keep things in perspective and keep stress in check before it overwhelms you.

At the center of coping skills is having a activities that keep fun in your life. Avoid isolation from friends and other family members and take care of your own mental and physical health. Adopt the airline tag line of “putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others.” A positive and healthy you are the best way to provide ongoing quality care for your family member.

Seek out help and support for your caregiving role. Contact NAMI, or similar organizations, to find a local support group and education programs and attend them to gain insight into how others are coping with similar situations. Build your own support team of friends and relatives who you can lean on to help in times of additional stress or when you need a respite.

Look at medical professionals and service people like the police as team members and managing the encounters by building a positive rapport with them so you get access to information about your loved one, and setup for positive encounters in times of crisis.

Consider therapy for yourself to cope. This could include mindfulness, counseling, hypnosis, or all of these. Self-hypnosis can be learned and so seek out a local hypnotist who can help you benefit from its control of your stress and anxiety and achieve a life balance. You can check out my various Hypnosis Services I offer here or contact me directly if you want to learn more about hypnosis and how it can help you by completing the form here >>>

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES RELATED TO BEING A CAREGIVER:

Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry >>>

Depression and Caregiving >>>

The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout… Do You Have Them? >>>

Experiences of Family Caregivers for Persons with Severe Mental Illness >>>

NAMI Cape Cod & Islands >>>

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Main Site >>>

I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help! How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment. – Dr. Xavier Amador >>>

Surviving Schizophrenia – A Family Manual – E. Fuller Torrey >>>

Introduction to Mindfulness – 4 Part Series >>>

What is Hypnosis and How Does Hypnosis Work? – Erika Slater CH >>>

Library of Self-Hypnosis Downloads Products >>>

 
Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis
Massachusetts

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Can Hypnosis Really Help with Depression and How Does it Work?

By Erika Slater
Sad and depressed young woman holding a pillow sitting on a bed

Sad and depressed young woman holding a pillow sitting on a bed

In this article you’ll discover:

  1. The different forms of depression and common symptoms impacting those who suffer with it.
  2. Common treatments used to help with the symptoms covering medications and traditional therapies including the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  3. Use of hypnosis as an alternative or supplemental treatment to answer the question can hypnosis help with depression.
  4. Further reading and hypnosis resources around depression covering the treatments, research, and information with this mental health disorder.

Depression is a recognized mental health disorder affecting millions of people on a daily basis.

It can happen as a secondary diagnosis of another issue such as Schizophrenia or be the primary diagnosis. We’ll discuss different types in this article.

Unfortunately for many, it can affect them for years, and even their entire lives. Depression comes in various types, so, finding the actual cause and proper form of treatment for each person may vary. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment for depression can take a while.

In this article I’ll focus on the current thinking around questions such as can hypnosis help for treating depression? Can it help alleviate the symptoms or the causes? Hypnosis is being used to treat a variety of other mental health issues so, can hypnosis cure depression?

Cure” is a strong word and avoided by most of the medical world when it comes to mental health. Serious mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia and bi-polar have treatments but not cures. So, for some types of depression we’re not talking about cure but that doesn’t mean the impact on a personal life can’t be helped.

Let’s begin by covering some different forms of depression…

 

DIFFERENT FORMS OF DEPRESSION:

Grieving sad and crying friends embracing each otherThe type of depression most people are familiar with is ‘Major Depression’ also known as Major Depressive Disorder, clinical depression or MDD.

This is the most serious primary type of depression, in terms of number of symptoms and severity of them, but there are significant individual differences in the impact on a person as the length and frequency of the bouts of depression. People suffering have trouble identifying the cause but have low-esteem, low mood and loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities.

Genetics, biological and possibly environmental causes can bring the onset of this illness. However, there’s no lab test to identify major depression.

Its identified by the completion of an evaluation and examination by a qualified professional. During this review physical conditions that could contribute to depression are ruled out.

While many people consider suicide as being one of the outcomes of depression the fact is you don’t need to feel suicidal to have major depression, and you don’t need to have a history of hospitalizations either, although both of these factors are present in some people with major depression.

Persistent Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia or dysthymic disorder is often times mistaken for a major depression but when the duration isn’t consistent or long, it’s easier to discern. It’s a low to moderate level of depression that persists for at least two years, and often longer. While the symptoms are not as severe as a major depression, they’re more enduring and resistant to treatment. For more information about these types of depression see the link in the resources section to the Mayo Clinic article covering Persistent Depressive Disorder.

Bi-Polar Disorder, also known as ‘manic depressive’ is one of the more difficult types of mood disorders to treat. This type of depression includes both high and low mood swings, as well as a variety of other significant symptoms not present in other depressions.

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder both can contain symptoms of depression. It’s medically accepted now through studies that close to 50% of folks with schizophrenia are not aware they have an illness, and this poses a challenge for those trying to help get treatment for these people. However, that doesn’t mean those with poor insight don’t suffer with depression with their illness.

Yes, depression can be complicated in mental illness.

Situational depression is one of the most common types of depression affecting the majority of the North America population throughout the course of their lives. At some point individuals are most likely to experience this kind of depression. This can range from a spell of sadness, which we’re all subjected to after a loss of something dear to us, to a feeling of hopelessness that persists beyond the event and “normal” acceptable grieving period. A loss of a parent, sibling, or close friend can invoke sustained situational depression.

This category of mood disorders describes depression that occurs in response to a major life stress or crisis. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Adjustment Disorder’. In this type of depression, an individual may experience a sudden loss or change in their life which leads them to become stressed, sad, and depressed, potentially leading them to feel hopeless and helpless.

There’s a wide range of symptoms associated with depression and used by people in describing how they feel. The include some of the following:

  1. A general feeling of hopelessness, numbness and helplessness. The joy of life evaporates and a feeling of sadness prevails causing each day to seem dark and overwhelming.
  2. Getting out of bed and starting the day takes an immense amount of effort. Sleep problems often accompany depression and a feeling of exhaustion even on waking.
  3. Lack of interest in doing anything that involves fun or interacting with people. Isolation and food can become a focus and cause weight gain and/or slipping into unhealthy eating habits. On the other end of spectrum can be a loss of appetite.
  4. Emotional triggers can be frequent and seemingly uncontrollable with frequent crying bouts. A feeling of “falling apart” and spiraling down towards a bottomless pit.

Any of these symptoms justify a discussion with your primary physician to determine a treatment plan moving forward.

 

TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION:

Depressed young woman looking at pillDrugs prescribed by a doctor are usually first line of defense for those suffering with depression. Anti-depressants and sleep medication can help with the symptoms and for many people this is enough to help them out of situational depression.

For those with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bi-polar, and when the depression has a biological or environmental cause then as likely these people will already be on medication, and the choice of additional medication to combat depression should be undertaken by the attending psychiatrist.

As noted prescribed drugs can help with the symptoms, but if its required to get at and heal the underlying causes then beyond medication there are additional treatments covering counseling, psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and hypnosis.

Counseling and psychotherapy include traditional talk therapies where the patient discusses their feelings with the therapist to work through solutions and positive thoughts along with positive affirmations and using other techniques.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective because it does three important things for clients or patients using it. First it helps teach individuals to assume a sense of self-empowerment – that is assuming responsibility for thinking the thoughts that lead to the feelings they’re experiencing. CBT asserts that thoughts lead to feelings.

The second aspect of CBT is the emphasis it places on the client’s self-efficacy. The individual assumes all responsibility for not only what they think leading to what they feel, but also who and what they want to become. CBT teaches individuals they have the accountability to choose whatever they want to think and feel.

The third aspect of CBT is that it teaches individuals to live in the here and now. As they think so will they feel. So, it helps in changing their mindset.

If you’d like to read more about CBT then I’ve provided a link in the additional resource section to an article called “The Benefits and Criticisms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.”

A number of the treatments mentioned above can help with depression but as with many issues a combination can provide relief and stabilization. Hypnosis can be used to help augment other treatments such as medications, psychotherapy and CBT in treating depression. I want to spend rest of this article talking about hypnosis and when it can help with depression.

 

CAN HYPNOSIS HELP WITH DEPRESSION?

Hypnotherapist holding patient wrist in her office during sessionHypnosis in itself is not a therapy. Some hypnotists describe it more as a delivery system for treatment. Hypnosis can be considered then as various techniques to help put a patient into a relaxed and focused state. In this state it is possible to work directly with the client’s unconscious mind. Once in this state a skilled therapist can then perform the work to help a client.

Hypnosis is most likely to be effective with those suffering from dysthymia, situational depression and adjustment disorder as these are brought on by life changes and stressful times in an individual’s life. As these forms of depression don’t tend to be brought on by genetics or biological aspects of an individual then relief is more likely to be provided by therapies used while in hypnosis.

Mark Tyrell of Uncommon Knowledge discusses the use of hypnosis in depression in an article I’ve linked to in the resource section below entitled “Should Hypnosis Ever Be Used to Treat Depression?” Mark maintains “… if the therapy is focused on bringing up lots of painful memories, essentially giving their feelings of misery a ‘booster’, it’s no wonder depressed clients could suffer.”

Here Mark is not talking about hypnosis itself but the therapy used by the hypnotherapist when the patient is in hypnosis, which if focused on bringing up painful memories and reliving the past can be toxic to their depressed state. He says “hypnosis simply powers and magnifies whatever therapy is being given through it.” Tyrell adds, “When the aim of therapy was to find out what happened or ‘release suppressed memories‘, there was no way applying hypnosis could turn out well.” After all he says “…there’s no evidence that hypnosis can be used to ‘find out what happened’. And second, there’s no evidence that finding out the cause of a problem solves the problem anyway.

Tyrell argues hypnosis mirrors two primary trance-like states people with depression experience; catalepsy and an inward focus. Depressed people can exhibit emotional numbness or sit almost motionless for hours, and in addition appear withdrawn and disconnected from the outside world.

Tyrell concludes in his article, for those depressed people who are already experiencing the features of the trance state then hypnosis as a mechanism can resonate strongly. In the hands of a skilled hypnotherapist who can deliver “… positively orientated therapy enabling, constructive, and solution-focused outcomes, then hypnosis can magnify those benefits hugely.”

Some factors to consider before embarking on hypnosis. Hypnosis isn’t something “done to you.” It’s not a magic bullet for resolving issues but done in partnership with a willing, motivated, and open-minded subject. For something like situational depression, it will take multiple sessions and so you’ll need to stay with it to see results.

Check out the experience and qualifications of hypnotists you may be considering to help or better still ask for a referral from a medical practitioner. There are many hypnotists these days who specialize in medical hypnosis and they make themselves known to providers. Skills in hypnosis and client interactions vary regardless of background and training in hypnotherapy. Choose somebody you feel you can work with and trust. If you’d like to consider working directly with me then check out all my online and in-office Hypnosis Services here or for specific help then contact me here.

Use the resources below to get further background information and talk with your primary physician and/or treatment provider about your current condition before supplementing your current treatment plan.

 

CONCLUSIONS:

There are many forms of depression, some categorized as serious mental illness such as major depression and bi-polar, and brought on and influenced by genetic, biological and environmental aspects. Other forms of depression are more situational and happen due to major life changes and stresses.

Depression caused by those suffering from dysthymia, situational depression and adjustment disorder can benefit from hypnosis. In these instances, hypnosis can be used to supplement other treatments such as medication, psychotherapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Where hypnosis is used to provide relief, the focus is on the present and future rather than attempting to understand the past and causes of depression which can lead to a more toxic state for the patient. Hypnosis used as a delivery system for therapies can mirror the current trance-like state the depression causes in a patient making the client feel more at ease during the sessions.

If you want to learn more about how hypnosis could help with your depression then you can check out this self-hypnosis program on depression which you can try the first module for free here >>>

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES RELATED TO HELP FOR DEPRESSION:

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) – Mayo Clinic >>>

The Benefits and Criticisms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Erika Slater >>>

Summertime SAD – Summer Depression and What to Do About it! >>>

Five Ways to Treat Depression with Hypnotherapy – Diane Zimberoff >>>

Should Hypnosis Ever Be Used to Treat Depression? – Mark Tyrell >>>

Library of Self-Hypnosis Downloads Products >>>

 
Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis
Massachusetts

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Can Hypnosis Really Help with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – OCD?

By Erika Slater
Woman with obsessive-compulsive order scrubbing a spotless floor

Woman with obsessive-compulsive order scrubbing a spotless floor

In this article you’ll discover:

  1. What Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is about and how it manifests itself in patients with it, and what we know today.
  2. Common treatments used to help with the symptoms covering medications and traditional therapies including the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy technique called ERP.
  3. Introduction to use of hypnosis as an alternative treatment to answer the question can hypnosis really help with OCD.
  4. Further reading and hypnosis resources around OCD covering the treatments, research, and information with the disorder.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder affecting about 4.3 million people of all ages in the U.S. The condition if severe can render some helpless, leaving them unable to live comfortable and productive lives.

It’s usually treated today with the help of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and other alternative and complimentary therapies including hypnosis. I’ll discuss all of these in this article.

Currently, there are no medical tests that can be performed to diagnose the condition, and so it’s determined by a doctor’s assessment of the symptoms and behaviors, and the impact on the patient.

Like many mental health conditions these days the professional consensus is biological and environmental factors most likely contribute to the condition, or at least place a person at risk of obtaining the disorder. There is some evidence it can be hereditary as well.

OCD cannot be prevented but early diagnoses and ongoing treatment can help provide most inflicted with the condition relief from their symptoms, and provide the opportunity for a near-normal life.

Now let’s start with understanding what is OCD and then move into current treatments…

 

WHAT IS OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER, OR OCD:

person washing hands with soap in vanity sinkAnthony at an early age exhibited ritualistic behaviors, asking his mother the same question twenty or more times in the space of 2 minutes, and then eventually seemingly satisfied started the same sequence all over again a few minutes later, and continued this pattern for hours of the day. He would enter and exit doors repeatedly, and turn on and off water facets for hours on end.

Anthony had to have things done in a certain order, or things in a certain place, or he would become extremely agitated or in parent speak… have a meltdown.

In another case documented by Mark Tyrell, “A married woman called Sheila felt that if she didn’t check taps by turning them on and then off again then ‘something terrible’ would happen to her kids or husband.

Once they were turned on, she could never feel completely sure she’d turned them off properly. Sometimes she would spend up to four hours checking – over and over. This OCD checking was meant to be an anxiety reducer, meant to give her a sense of control over events, meant to help her. But in practice it was doing the opposite.” For more on this case and Tyrell’s thoughts on hypnosis and OCD read the article linked to in my resource section.

These are common stories of somebody living with OCD, and the impact of life for others around them as well. Stuck in a loop for hours on end and robbing them of time in their day and forcing them to continually living in an anxious world.

So, what’s going on here?

In a nutshell, OCD is based on two facets; obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are intrusive or uninvited thoughts, images and urges that continually occur over and over again. Individuals with OCD know these thoughts and images are not real. In fact, most will tell you they created them but can’t get rid of them, ignore them or control them.

They feel stuck drowning in these vicious cycles of negative thinking.

Compulsions are the by-product of the obsessions. What happens here is individuals create compulsions to try and reduce the stresses of their obsessive thoughts. They carry or act out certain rituals hoping to reduce or relieve the tension.

In fact, some individuals hope by engaging in the compulsions, their obsessions will eventually go away.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work, instead it usually perpetuates the obsessive thinking. When one’s obsessions and compulsions are combined, fester and grow out of control, they’re said to possess OCD.

Roughly two thirds of people develop their OCD in their adolescent years or early adulthood.

Often times, it’s a drastic change that occurred in one’s life, or prolonged stress that started the ball rolling. The obsessive thoughts start to take over and then one begins to use compulsions created as a means for trying to reduce the symptoms.

The most common types of obsessions include; fear of germs or contamination, fear of harming oneself or others, obsessions with perfection and order, preoccupation with religious images, or forbidden and unwanted sexual thoughts as well as other negative thoughts.

When the obsessions start to become so intense, the need to act out these compulsions begins to kick in. They often include behaviors or acts that one believes will eliminate the worries and stresses.

These could include; excessive hand washing, germ phobias, doors and lock checking, pacing, counting, excessive chanting/praying, etc. The problem with the compulsions is they become time consuming and disruptive on the patient.

There isn’t any evidence that adults with OCD are in denial of their symptoms or unaware, but younger children may not understand what’s going on, and so not be able to make the necessary connection of dots.

Adults are “… able to separate their obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors from normal, healthy thoughts and behaviors, which is considered the first step on the road to recovery. Children, however, generally do not have enough life experience or self-awareness to make this critical distinction. When they find themselves performing bizarre or repetitive rituals, such as washing their hands over and over, they are ashamed and feel like they are going crazy.” Excerpt from “When Your Child Has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” reference, which is linked to in resource section.

There was a study in Denmark supporting mounting evidence autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) share genetic roots. The study noted “compared with their typical peers, people with autism are twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of OCD and people with OCD are four times as likely to also have autism… when OCD runs in a family, autism does too.”

For most individuals with OCD, the compulsions are embarrassing for them!

So what treatment reliefs are there for those suffering with this disorder?

 

TREATMENTS FOR OCD:

Prozac pills green and white packagedThere are a number of treatments for OCD including medication and therapies discussed here. When it comes to the therapies perform your own research before embarking on a chosen path, and discuss a therapy treatment with a specialist first, as some of the therapies can appear frightening.

Medication is usually the first stop for OCD. Doctors tend to prescribe anti-depressants as they’ve found they help to reduce symptoms more consistently. Common drugs include “Prozac” and “Zoloft” but there are others and a doctor can monitor and provide other alternatives if the patient doesn’t respond to more common drugs.

These drugs all fall under the banner of Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SRI) as research has shown these to be most effective in helping the OCD condition.

Medication can help between 40-60% of OCD sufferers with their symptoms. I’ve provided a link in the additional resource section below for more information around medications. As usual discuss with professionals and understand about the side-effects, and of course monitor. These are serious drugs and their use is not to be taken lightly.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, where the therapist helps a patient gain insight into their condition, and effectively helps the patient help themselves to lessen the symptoms by their own understanding of the triggers, has so far had limited success in its usefulness in helping those with OCD. But this isn’t to say initially it shouldn’t be pursued as like all therapies the experience and knowledge of the therapists comes into play on the success.

A common second-line of defence is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This can be used instead of, or in compliment with, drugs. There is one form of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) which has proven beneficial in treating OCD.

ERP therapy requires the patient to expose themselves deliberately, under the guidance of a trained therapist, to whatever triggers are making them anxious to engage in their obsessions.

The expectation is “when you make the choice confront your anxiety and obsessions you must also make a commitment to not give in and engage in the compulsive behavior. When you don’t do the compulsive behaviors, over time you will actually feel a drop in your anxiety level.”

To be sure “… starting Exposure and Response Prevention therapy can be a difficult decision to make. It may feel like you are choosing to put yourself in danger. It is important to know that Exposure and Response Prevention changes your OCD and changes your brain. You begin to challenge and bring your alarm system (your anxiety) more in line with what is actually happening to you.” Both quotes are excerpts from “Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy – ERP” reference which is also linked to in the resource section below.

The one thing to remember about talk therapies and CBT is they’re all focused on working with the conscious mind which is considered to about 10% of the human mind, ignoring the triggering of the obsessions and compulsions ingrained in the unconscious mind.

So, while medications and ERP can help symptoms for many patients with OCD, there’s still a lot left suffering and seeking other alternatives.

The alternatives though are considered controversial by some Doctors and therapists who only rely on medications and/or CBT, or are generally at a loss to help beyond those treatments. These same people would rarely mention other treatments. However, this is a disservice to the patients they can’t help or frightened to experience ERP therapy.

Hypnosis is one of the alternative therapies to be considered as it focuses on the unconscious mind.

In the next section I try to answer for you if hypnosis can help treat OCD.

 

CAN HYPNOSIS REALLY HELP TREAT OCD?

Break bad habits handwriting on sheet of paperIf we accept there is no cure for OCD and the word recovery really means remission or reduction of symptoms, then, hypnosis is a viable therapy to help achieve remission for some people.

Let’s explain how it works.

At the root of obsessions leading to one’s compulsions are negative thought patterns. These negative thought patterns started to occur because of perceptions which were misrepresented or misperceived during intense periods of stress.

From that, individuals created and got ‘hooked’ on negative thought patterns that became obsessive…their obsessions!

Obsessions are seeded in the unconscious mind. Because the behavior is rooted in the unconscious then just understanding the triggers in OCD doesn’t change the behavior. So, the behaviors get played out over and over, leaving the patient trapped in this miserable cycle.

Hypnosis can help release, delete and replace negative thought patterns in the unconscious mind.
Once these patterns of negative thoughts are modified and/or deleted, then the obsessions can stop.

There are different techniques hypnotherapists use to help with OCD and one involves regression therapy. In this an attempt is made to take the patient back to the event that triggered the original obsession. So, if the patient is forever washing their hands for fear of germs or contamination, then the therapist attempts to take the patient back to the original event where the hands got dirty and created the obsession.

Once the original event is found, then, simply put, the work is focused on removing the feeling it triggers from that event.

However, regression therapy doesn’t work for everybody.

Genuinely, some people can’t get back to the one thing that caused the current obsession. Professional hypnotherapists should have more than one hypnosis technique available to them otherwise “everything starts looking like a nail!” Instead, many hypnotherapists don’t focus on finding the past trigger event, but on taking the fear out of not carrying out a compulsive behavior.

One method for achieving this is by interrupting the pattern leading to the behavior. There are other hypnosis techniques in the hypnotist’s toolbox to avoid the “hammer metaphor” once again. You can read more about general uses and benefits of pattern interrupts in an article I wrote and linked to in the resource section below.

So, advice is to seek out a hypnotherapist with experience in helping people with OCD, and ask specifically the techniques they’ll use to help, to see if they seem like somebody you want to work with. You should choose your hypnotist, to help with any challenge you have, the same way you’d chose your doctor.

Obsessive-Compulsive disorder is a miserable tyrant and a thief of a patient’s time, and there is no reason to rely on one treatment but to explore a combination to control the OCD symptoms, and this includes using hypnosis.

 

CONCLUSIONS:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can manifest itself in different compulsive ritualistic behaviors repeated sometimes for hours on end and disrupting the afflicted individual’s life. Adults with the disorder are usually fully aware of what is happening, and even embarrassed about it, but struggle to control it without treatment.

Treatments include medication – often anti-depressant drugs – and a form of cognitive behavioral therapy called ERP. The medication helps with the anxiety, and ERP therapy is focused on changing the response of a patient to whatever is triggering the behavior.

Hypnosis offers a complimentary therapy to the other treatments mentioned in the article, and shows promise of providing more options for the OCD sufferer, especially where drugs and other treatments have failed to reduce the OCD symptoms.

If hypnosis is something you want to explore further directly with me then you can get more information on my Hypnosis Services here or contact me directly here. in addition to reaching out to local hypnotherapists you can check out this self-hypnosis session to help with overcoming OCD here >>>

Please let me know if this article was useful to you in the comment section below, or contact me through my contact page.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES RELATED TO OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – WebMD >>>

3 Vital Reasons Why I use Hypnosis For Treating OCD – Mark Tyrell >>>

Pattern Interrupt – Breaking the Habit – Erika Salter CH >>>

All About Facial Tics and Remedies >>>

When Your Child Has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder >>>

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy – ERP >>>

Medications for OCD >>>

 
Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis
Massachusetts

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