Anxiety is defined as a feeling of unease. It’s normal to be nervous sometimes – if you are giving a speech for example – or feel a little anxious if you are due to take a test of some kind or have to meet a deadline. But severe, long-term anxiety can be debilitating and interfere with everyday life. For example, anxiety often leads to insomnia, which means sufferers feel constantly tired and are therefore quick to get annoyed or angry. Sufferers can find it difficult to concentrate and often have difficulty relating to their surroundings or the things that are going on around them, so, because of this, they fear they really are going mad.
The feeling of unease is caused by the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands in the body. This is one of the ‘fight or flight’ hormones and is the body’s normal response to a stressful situation. Constant release of adrenaline causes anxiety and the best way to switch off adrenaline release naturally is to relax. But when you are suffering from stress or anxiety, the body has learnt to be in a constant state of ‘readiness’ for some unknown foe (or stressor) and to continually release adrenaline; relaxing can therefore be a very difficult state to achieve.
Why the body continues to release adrenaline long after it is required is unknown, but there are some definite triggers. A stressful, life-changing event such as bereavement, excessive stress in the work-place, a serious accident or witnessing something traumatic; a physical illness such as thyroid disorder or a mental illness such as depression; alcohol dependency; use of illegal drugs such as LSD, ‘speed’ or ecstasy; withdrawing from long-term use of some medicines such as tranquillisers.
Release of adrenaline and other stress hormones such as glucocorticoids, can cause physical symptoms – a queasy stomach, diarrhoea and the need to urinate; dry mouth and difficulty swallowing; rapid heartbeat or palpitations; shortness of breath; dizziness and shaking. During ‘fight or flight’ the body concentrates on getting blood to the heart, shuts down digestion and tries to make the body lighter, so it is easy to understand how an anxiety attack would bring on these symptoms.
Anxiety disorders are a group of illnesses which are differentiated as panic attacks; phobias; obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). They can affect up to 30% of the population at any one time.
Hypnotherapy helps relieve stress and anxiety through two mechanisms. Firstly, it involves deep relaxation which reduces adrenaline release. Secondly, therapy involves ‘reprogramming’ the subconscious to stop the excessive adrenaline release and to take the mind to the future where there is no need to feel anxious. Hypnotherapists can use several techniques to ‘persuade’ the mind that life without anxiety is much healthier for the body and that lack of anxiety will improve well-being and happiness.
Linda Johnson is the ONLY Anxiety UK therapist in East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire. You can contact Linda on 07585 802035 or Anxiety UK on 08444 775 774.