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The relationship between stress, anxiety, habits and phobias Essay

In This essay I shall describe in detail the individual elements, Stress, Anxiety, Habits and Phobias. Firstly I shall describe how these issues manifest within the subconscious, and then I shall address the relationship between the conditions, and how these can come about. Following this I shall discuss the treatment process of my chosen element in more detail (anxiety).

Beginning with Stress. Stress can often over lap with anxiety, but I shall try to describe them individually before divulging into their inter-relations. The dictionary describes stress as “ a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” Stress is linked to our ‘fight of flight’ survival instinct; it has been present from our prehistoric ancestors, as a survival technique. This technique created a sense of fear, and arousal in the subconscious to help flea from harm. Nowadays, we face different threats, as modern day survival depends on our placement in society, and the role of hunter-gatherer has been replaced by earning through means of occupation to supply for our families.

This modern day way of life has created more complex threat, and a more deep-rooted variety of stresses such as our social standing, job status, high expectations and other modern day pressure filled tasks. Unlike our prehistoric ancestors, running from our problems is not a beneficial solution. We have to deal with our ‘monsters’ and work through problems, as more stress and or anxiety can be caused by loosing control, along with the potential consequences that could follow on from such a situations e.g. loose homes, belongings, family issues etc. Furthermore, the more we allow ourselves to experience such stressful situations, the more sensitive our fight or flight mode becomes, which means we end up constantly ready for battle, constantly on edge as if “perceiving potential threat everywhere”. Therefore we can see that stress is formed from situations one is experiencing presently, whether they are experiencing feelings of fear, feelings of anger or feelings of anxiety, and not dealing with these issues can be severely detrimental causing a cyclical deterioration.

Leading on from stress, I shall now explore the issue of anxiety. Anxiety manifests itself from the minds creativity; it is an individual’s apprehension of events to be. In the build up to change, our minds create all sorts of conclusions from the ideal scenario to the worst scenario. Each of these scenarios fills us with a type of anxiety, whether it is tingles of excitement, or dread. We get these feelings as we start a new job, before we do a presentation at school or at work; we get them when we get bad news, maybe news of our health deteriorating. There can be long of short term causes of anxiety depending on the event you are about to endure, or are going through, and we all deal with different situations differently. Moreover, how you deal with these issues can be dependent on your environment, and some can be part of your genetics.

Stress like anxiety, is not all bad, stress can be positive.It is good to have stress to motivate, and prepare individuals for repercussions of events and deal with change as it happens knowing that a number of outcomes are possible, this is known as Eustress. Self-preparation in a way, it is just the overload of stress, a stress that is consistent in someone’s life that is detrimental, such as dealing with a terminal illness like cancer, this is known as Chronic Stress. Stress has been catergorised into six categories, and having mentioned Chronic, and Eustress, I shall briefly explain the other four. Hypo stress, which can occur due to lack of motivation, doing a repetitive and un-motivating job, may cause someone to suffer from this.

Acute, which can be described as ‘typical’ stress, and can be helped within a six week program though various treatments, Episodic acute stress, this type of stress can be treated but can take up to six months, it can produce migraines, strokes, heart attacks etc., and finally there is Traumatic stress, post traumatic stress can be put into this category, it’s a stress that is so severe that it will seem to increase for the individual, therefore this type of stress can only be treated by qualified professionals. It can occur from extreme physical or mental trauma such as a natural disaster, or extreme physical peril.

I shall discuss the signs to look out for in clients who may be suffering from anxiety or stress, and the treatment methods later in the essay, firstly I shall explore Habit and Phobias.

We use habits as coping mechanisms, they may originally of helped you cope with an issue when you were very young, the mind is so busy dealing with our current and ever changing environment and the events that take place, that a lot of the things we do are stored or on ‘auto pilot’, for future use in similar situations. An example of Auto pilot is driving, some journeys we have gotten from A to B and our minds have been elsewhere for most of the time, yet we have changed gear, stopped at lights, allowed traffic to pass at roundabouts and made it to our destination.

Other habits include comfort eating, smoking when feeling stressed, and loosing control by lashing out or shouting when angry, all on an ‘auto pilot’. The brains extraordinary problem solving skills and storage system has adapted to recognize behaviors linked to negative and positive outcomes, behaviors that bring us comfort and happiness, and it can be very hard to change or break these behaviors (habits), that are so deeply ingrained. Examples of these are thumb sucking for comfort, nail biting when tense, or anxious, and using food or drink as a comfort or control mechanism.

As therapists we need to encourage habits that are needed in the clients day-to-day life, and highlight and work on habits that are no longer necessary in a client’s life. To do this, its important to understand why these habits have come about, and looking at hidden agendas such as stress, anxiety and phobic issues can help bridge the gap between the root of the habit and enable the therapist to work on breaking the habit, and curing the root ailment. Like all the ailments we are discussing in this essay, commencing treatment with an adequate notation, and finishing the first session with a screed to relax the client can be very beneficial, and aid the client by teaching them new tools to extract the habits, and replace them with more positive coping mechanisms, such as relaxation, and then further sessions will help you establish any further underlying issues and hidden agendas.

Finally I’d like to discuss phobias. Phobias are irrational fears. Some phobias are learnt others inherited. A phobia itself is created in the subconscious mind, and they tend to be quite intense fears of items, animals, individuals or anything really. Phobias can range, from simple phobias i.e. heights, and small spaces, to Complex phobias such as losing control, being in an accident, then there is Social Phobias, fearing social situations and what others may think if you are blushing, or say the wrong thing, linked to social phobias are Panic attacks, which are a result of severe anxiety, which has a physical effect on the body, and finally there is Agoraphobia, which is fear of being away from the comfort of ones home, out in the open environment, an environment out of an individuals control.

A note to mention when treating Phobias is on the subject of ethical issues, however bizarre a phobia is to another person, as a therapist, it is very important to be professional whilst dealing with a client with a phobia, as looking amused or shocked, could be detrimental to the rapport you are creating and also the clients comfort level. I shall now briefly look into treatment methods for Phobias. Similar to habits, I believe it is important to use a relaxation to begin with, then on the next session begin to explore the fear, and the use of ideomotor signals can help identify where the phobia began, the use of regression therapy to take the client back to where it began can then be used, and suggestions given to the client to help renounce the phobia. Other methods could include making the fear seem irrational and empowering the client to see that there is no need to be afraid.

Having looked at each condition it is clear that there are definite overlaps, where anxiety build up can lead to stress, or fear of an event. And habits can be used as a coping method to deal with stress and anxiety issues. All of the above can be helped with hypnotherapy. However some conditions would need to be used in collaboration with other professional help, (in order for treatment to be ethically sound) such as people suffering from panic attacks and Post traumatic stress disorders, to name a couple. One must be aware that as well as helping, hypnotherapy could hinder if the therapist isn’t mindful of a client who may be suffering more deep rooted issues, (where more than Hypnotherapy may be necessary) such as continuous anxiety, some forms of depression, neurotic disorders etc. These more acute psychological or physical issues need to be further investigated through means of GP consent and discussion with supervisor.

Continuing on, I would like to discuss symptoms to look out for when with a client suffering from stress and anxiety. Stress can be both mental and physical. The most common are clients saying they are suffering from depression or severe anxiety and they cannot put their finger quite on why they feel this way, (confusion, and lack of organization in their current day to day life due to lack of concentration may be occurring). There is also insomnia, sleep deprivation, broken sleep, and perhaps problems in their sex lives. The stress will be apparent in many different ways in your client, either easily identifiable, constant and therefore identifiable through lack of self-esteem, or possibly related to another ailment such as IBS, depression etc.

(Here a more detailed exploration of the actual issue is definitely necessary, perhaps seeking advice, referring, or GP consent, depending on the issue). Their are crossovers when looking for signs of anxiety in a client, as this ailment affects the entire entity, and can create phobia like symptoms, as it can create fear in the client, who will avoid the subject which causes the anxiety, which will cause more negativity, and this negative cycle can lead to feelings of depression, and isolation. Other physically visible symptoms, are linked to the ‘fight or flight’ mode, and they are ridding the body of unnecessary waste, so the body can produce more oxygen to flea or defend, such as sweating, diarrhea and trembling.

Having discussed the above conditions and having delved into their roots and inter relations. I shall conclude with a paragraph on how to deal with a client who claims to be experiencing anxiety. Treating anxiety with hypnotherapy is very effective, and as a therapist we hope to change an individuals perception of a past event or release emotion from it in order for them to be able to cope better. As a therapist it is important to put your client completely at ease to gain rapport. Making sure your voice is calm and welcoming, you make eye contact, and your body language is warm and welcoming, and your mannerisms and conversation must always come under the ethical code.

Obviously all clients differ, but in the case of anxiety one would tend to use a more authoritarian script, as the clients anxious imagination is obviously running wild, and in order to collect their thoughts and help them relax, I believe taking control of the hypnotic journey would be most efficient. Working with the notation one will have collected, and having done a PMR or other relaxation on the first session (and adding a trigger induction), one would use the clients modality and work to the clients comfort levels to ensure the script was completely suitable for them, making the client feel safe and secure and watching the paralanguage of the client to ensure the client was not becoming physically anxious whilst under. Examples of script suggestions for anxiety would include empowering the client, making them feel in control and free, but always giving them a devise if they felt they needed support.

A script in the module notes uses a shield, and others I have explored and would be prone to use are ones that include vulnerable animals such as rabbits to really delve into the fight or flight mode, and making the client aware of why these anxious tendency occur, and suggesting to them to be mindful, and know that they are ok, and proud to recognize and deal with such situations. Briefly, when treating stress one must prepare a script to change the reaction to a particular situation during hypnosis to a more positive one, the feelings about that situation can also become more positive. When an individual then experiences that situation in real life, their reaction will often be much different.

Module Notes
Hypnotic World
Hypno directory (online)

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