Anxiety, Panic and Phobias
Anxiety, panic and phobias are common concerns for people today. These conditions strike people of all races and backgrounds. These conditions can occur suddenly and at other times be a concern for years. Even if individuals understand why they experience these conditions - it just doesn’t make sense.
Medication usually relieves only the symptoms of the anxiety, and not always well. Additionally, medication does not treat the cause of the anxiety.
Most of the time you just can’t talk yourself or anyone else out of anxiety. You may have some relief talking to a friend, a counselor or therapist, and may have tried medication but, found the results didn’t last. A significant reason is that part of the brain, the conscious part, is not the part of the brain where the anxiety or panic gets formed. In fact, when the logical mind is active (for example, when talking about the problem with a friend, counselor or therapist) it makes the subconscious part of the brain, that part that stores the fear response, to temporarily calm down.
That part of the brain is called the Amygdala. The Amygdala connects stimulus (what you see, hear, feel, and smell) with negative feelings (fear, anger, sadness).
You may be familiar with the work of Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov trained a dog by ringing a bell when the dog ate. Soon, when Pavlov would ring the bell (stimulus), the dog would salivate (response) even when no food was present.
Anxiety and panic develop in a similar manner. This occurs when a particular stimulus (tight space, for example) is connected to a feeling (extreme fear) in the Amygdala. Thereafter, a situation that seems similar will produce a similar reaction - thus anxiety. When the stimulus is specific, such as a tight space, we recognize it as a phobia.
How can hypnosis help?
Hypnosis is successful when it allows the logical mind to relax and enable the therapist and client to access information needed to relieve anxiety and panic “ . . . traumatic Amygdala-based memories tend to pop into consciousness when we relax and allow our minds to wander . . .” 1 Hypnosis utilizes this opportunity to people in a relaxed state and inviting the individual to bring to mind events originally conditioning the response.
Further, researchers from Cornell University have provided “compelling evidence that humans can ‘unlearn’ an automatic process.”2 “This (research) means that, using suggestion – in this case post-hypnotic suggestion – we were able to ‘unring’ Pavlov’s bell,’ as Dr. Amir Raz said. He went on to say, “It also speaks, literally, to psychotherapy and the power of the spoken word. It means that words – talking to someone – can create profound brain changes. This seems to be a top-down effect that may be able to override a whole range of impulses. In this study, we show that a specific form of hypnotic suggestion is capable of targeting focal functional brain areas – something no current drug can do. I believe that when used responsibly and judiciously, hypnosis can be a great tool, not only to advance scientific inquiry but perhaps even for treatment in certain psychopathologies.”3
1 Rita Carter, Mapping the Brain, London, Oxford, 2003. 174-175
2 Amir Raz< Jin Fan & Michael I Posner, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences “Hypnotic suggestion reduces conflict in the human brain – 1-2 (28): 9978, July 12, 2005
3 Seak Keliher, Cornell University News Service, August 2005