Can hypnosis work for anxiety?

Can hypnosis work for anxiety?

Table of Contents

What is anxiety?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders version 5 there are 7 Anxiety disorders. Because the DSM is a copywrited publication I cannot link directly to it, but here is a link to the Word Health Organisations definition of anxiety.

The 7 anxiety disorders are: Separation Anxiety Disorder (mostly present in young children), Selective Mutism (not wanting to speak in certain situations), Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Substance/Medication Induced Anxiety Disorder, the last one is outside the scope of most hypnotherapist training and will require qualified medical help.

The DSM 5 describes anxiety as ‘an anticipation of a future threat‘.

Anxiety is a normal human reaction, it is in built as it were. A certain amount of anxiety can keep you safe from harm and help you be more focused and alert in certain situations. However, if you have a persistent feeling of anxiety then it can become a problem.

I remember a time, long before I discovered hypnosis, when I was doing an 18 month training course. During the first 4 months, which had to be passed in order to progress to the next stage, I was constantly feeling nauseous because my future professional development depended on it. My thoughts were dominated by a fear or anticipation of failure; I was focused on the possibility of failure rather than the possibility of passing. I do believe that had I gone to a Doctor at that time I would have been diagnosed with GAD.

Notice that in that last paragraph I said for the first 4 months I was suffering the physical effects of anxiety. What happened after that? Well I did pass and my confidence in passing grew and, as my confidence grew the anxiety dwindled. And without being too modest, I ended the course at the top of the class!

Now, with my recent research and training my mind was ‘seeing’ the course as a threat and because of that my flight-flight-freeze mechanism was in overdrive, causing the bodily response of constant nausea. It was my prior programming about my perceived limited abilities that was causing the anxiety. Essentially my subconscious was signalling to me that it was dangerous and I should run for the hills. But over time that programming was overwritten by passing all the required exams.

Why is it that some people get anxious and others don’t appear to?

I guess the main reason for that is their prior programming. Maybe they were brought up in an encouraging and supportive environment or maybe their self-talk (self-hypnosis) is such that they are always telling themselves that everything will be OK. The fact is, everyone has an amount of anxiety in certain situations, but no one has anxiety all the time.

Wait, what, no-one has anxiety all the time? Well to some it may feel like that, but in my view anxiety is situational, it’s context driven. What do I mean by that? Well, if you struggle with anxiety, think of times when you aren’t feeling anxious, maybe you got engrossed in a good movie, or enjoying a lovely meal, or doing the dishes. There are always going to be times when you will not be feeling anxious.

Can hypnosis work for anxiety?

Absolutely, but with a caveat. The caveat being you have to believe it will. If you don’t believe in this thing we call hypnosis or you believe that you’ll never reduce your levels of anxiety to manageable level, then it most likely won’t work for you. As the famous Henry Ford quote says ‘If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right’.

Can you get hypnosis for anxiety?

Yes. If you think about it, thinking is a form of hypnosis and anxiety is brought about by thought. The stories we repeatedly tell ourselves are sending messages to the subconscious mind and programming it to respond in a particular way to a particular situation or set of situations. Hypnosis is about reprogramming the subconscious to respond to the situation(s) in a different way, letting go of the original programming and installing new programming.

How does hypnosis for anxiety work?

As previously mentioned, hypnosis can replace the old programming with new, more resourceful programming. With these resourceful programs running, the anxiety levels will reduce to manageable levels.

How effective is hypnosis for anxiety?

Hypnosis can be very effective at reducing levels of anxiety and many scientific studies have been carried out and ones like this one reported a 79% reduction in anxiety levels for the participants, when compared with a control group.

How to use hypnosis for anxiety?

As already mentioned, by changing the self-talk to a more resourceful way of thinking, we can, over time, reprogram the subconscious response to create lower levels of anxiety. You can listen to recordings to reduce your anxiety and they may help. But these are often general in nature and may not be appropriate for your specific situation. You may overcome excessive anxiety faster if you seek the guidance of a qualified and competent hypnotherapist.

How to do self hypnosis for anxiety?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Here I am going to outline a process for doing self hypnosis. However, please do not use this if the situation that you want to feel less anxious about is in anyway going to put you danger. For instance, if your anxiety is related to an abusive or controlling relationship for instance, then reducing your anxiety will not be good for you and other courses of action are needed.

Before I show you a process for self hypnosis I must mention you should NEVER attempt to do self hypnosis whilst driving, operating machinery only ever do it when you are in a safe environment where you won’t be disturbed for 15 to 20 minutes.

If you consider that all hypnosis is self hypnosis, then this will be fairly easy to do. But remember, everyone has blind spots, things in themselves that they can’t see or don’t notice about ourselves. So if you find this doesn’t work for you, it’s not because hypnosis doesn’t work, it’s possibly that you have these blind spots and for self hypnosis to work for you, you may need to address those blind spots first, maybe with the support of a hypnotherapist.

When doing self hypnosis on your own, the first thing to do is write down a short statement of your intention for the session, making sure that it is stated in the positive. Writing ‘I don’t want to be anxious’ won’t help! Instead write down something along the lines of ‘in situation X I am courageous and confident’ (note the present tense).

It is best to do this sitting as people often tend to fall asleep if they are laying down and hypnosis is not sleep! Maybe put on some relaxing music (if you find heavy metal relaxing, then go for it!).

Next, as you settle into the chair with your feet flat on the floor, take a few deep breaths and then just imagine that all your muscles are beginning to relax. Move down your body and say to yourself ‘relaxing my face’, ‘relaxing my jaw’, ‘relaxing my arms’, repeating these statements as you go all down your body.

When you feel totally relaxed, look at what you wrote down and repeat it, either in your mind or out loud. Repeat it multiple times until you feel that it is true.

When you feel that what you wrote down is true, in your minds eye, picture, imagine or think about a future event where if it were in the past you would have felt that old way. Imagine it going great, imagine others giving you praise for how well you handled that situation. Repeat it over and over and each time feel in your body how great you will feel once that event is concluded.

And then, when you have done enough, come back to the room or place you are in. Notice how great you feel, know that that situation is handled well.

That’s it, that’s all there is to self hypnosis. If you can, do this practice daily, if not make a commitment to yourself do do it at least three times a week until your anxiety levels drop to a manageable level.

How many sessions of hypnosis for anxiety?

That’s a hard question for anyone to answer. If you are told by a therapist that it will take 6 sessions then find another therapist! I’m not saying that the therapist is not good, I am saying that there is no way of knowing! You may reduce your anxiety in just a single session. Anxiety is personal to you, not the therapist.


hypnosis for anxietyHypnosis is a great therapy for reducing your anxiety to manageable levels. Hypnosis should never be used to try to eliminate anxiety all together, think of a skydiver who isn’t anxious about the fact they didn’t put the parachute on before jumping!

There are a number of other tools and techniques that have proven to be effective for reducing anxiety including NLP, EFT, EMDR, that you may want to explore.


If you try self hypnosis and are still not getting the results you want, book a call and let’s explore this together.


Image credits:
Top photo by  Photo by Langa Hlatshwayo on Unsplash
Bottom photo by Photo by BĀBI on Unsplash

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