Anxiety takes several forms and Anxiety disorders can be sub-divided for convenience. Phobias are regarded as a sub-group but will be treated separately.
Psychotherapy covers a multitude of methods all of which includes the use of words, so may be generally classed as ‘talking therapies’. They help sufferers overcome their problems and reduce or eliminate symptoms usually in a one-to-one format (although group therapy, couples, or family therapy are common alternatives). The particular technique used depends on how anxiety is viewed.
Historically, anxiety was first seen as representing unconscious unresolved conflicts and treatment aimed at revealing and dealing with these issues [Insight-orientated or Psycho-dynamic therapy].
Later, Anxiety was viewed as ‘learned behaviour’ not related to unconscious issues and treated directly by eliminating previous responses and learning new ones. The methods were derived from animal observations and experimentation and termed Behavioural Therapy.
In more recent times the thought processes involved in anxiety and which modify behaviour received attention and Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT) was instituted.
My view is that all these methods have their place and it is the individual history and presentation which might determine which approach is used. My training, and belief in flexibility allows me to adapt to each individual circumstance.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy. (CBT)
CBT concentrates on the here-and-now and the thought processes which then influence feelings and behaviour. Changing recurrent thought patterns, particularly negative ones, and learning new behaviours or coping mechanisms in certain situations reverses the ‘vicious circle’ many find themselves locked in. There is much evidence to show this approach can be highly effective in treating anxiety states.
Insight-orientated or Psycho-dynamic based therapy.
Much anxiety may be linked to internal conflicts rooted in the unconscious mind. Worries, guilty feelings and self doubt often have their origins in the past – events or upbringing. Sufferers may be dimly aware of them or not at all. Therapy exposes them in a controlled manner and allows the person to handle them positively and be free to develop. Several techniques might be employed amongst which is hypnotherapy which can enormously speed up the healing process.
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
Acute Anxiety Disorders
Panic Disorder is characterised by the sudden onset of an extreme high peak of anxiety. There may be no identifiable trigger or environment. All the methods previously noted are often used. Training to reduce the general level of underlying anxiety and to produce an instant relaxation response is a key component. ACT and CBT often useful and certainly a psychodynamically based approach may reveal an underlying cause. Behavioural methods can also help counteract the limiting effects of avoidance.
Generalised Anxiety or Chronic Anxiety
If your Anxiety is generalised you’ll often feel ‘on-edge’, constantly worrying, being ‘snappy’ with those around you and often withdrawing from meeting people. Your physical symptoms may include; feeling breathless, exhausted all the time, having palpitations, frequent headaches and difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
All treatment is based on an initial assessment and full discussion of past and current issues. Issues maybe work or family related. Treatment will generally involve one or more components;
Relaxation. Physical and mental relaxation is the exact opposite state to feeling anxious. The two are incompatible and it can be shown how brain functioning is altered positively by relaxation training.
Relaxation may or may not be produced using Hypnotic methods, but no matter what, the individual is shown how to produce a relaxation response more speedily and powerfully for themselves. Self-help is a key component in regaining control and developing self-confidence. Anxiety Control Training (ACT) is one format for this approach.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive Compulsive behaviour covers a multitude of presentations with the presence of particular recurrent thoughts (obsessions) and the instigation of repetitive behaviours (compulsions) which must be carried out to avoid overwhelming anxiety. Many have suffered since their youth.
Treatment by psychotherapy using both cognitive and behavioural approaches is the most effective intervention although many sufferers also are prescribed medication. Individual assessment and treatment planning are key factors allied to the motivation to break out of the destructive cycle.
Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD)
Post traumatic stress disorder is characterised by symptoms such as panic, distressing and intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares etc, all of which have been initiated by personally experiencing a terrifying, sometimes life threatening event (or repeated events).
Physical or sexual assault, major accidents, natural disasters, combat or warfare are frequent situations which are linked with PTSD. Witnessing horrific events as many police and medical staff and others do, may also create long lasting emotional turmoil. Whilst not everyone who experiences a deeply traumatic happening is affected in this way, or for whom it is short-lived, for over half of the others it becomes a major barrier to continuing with life as they had before. Avoidance of environments, emotional attachments, hyper-vigilance and many other symptoms such as self-harm, feeling unjustified guilt, keep recurring.
Extreme trauma may be so repressed that it cannot be recalled –and therefore cannot be dealt with by the sufferer.
Treatment such as the cognitive approaches change the way negative thoughts and images are dealt with and how intense feelings can be handled and diminished.
Hypnotherapy is uniquely effective in both accessing memories and emotions and dealing with them so that life can be tolerable again and the events managed even eliminated. I have long-experience in using hypnosis as a platform for treating post-traumatic stress.
Each presentation is different as is the character, strengths and motivations of the individual experiencing PTSD. For most, events can only be handled in small manageable fractions but by doing so strengths are developed to overcome the symptoms.