Yearly Archives - 2021

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Revenge bedtime procrastination: Does this sound familiar to you? You’ve just finished your day’s work, whether it’s a homework assignment, a work-related project, parental responsibilities or a combination of all. It’s time to go to bed and go to sleep. When you check the clock you know that it’s late and your much-needed sleep quota will suffer if you delay. But instead of calling it a night, you decide to open your laptop, browse through social media, watch another episode of your favourite show or play a few games on your phone. Before you know it, you’re into the early hours of the morning.

Revenge bedtime procrastination tiredness
Is it time to go to sleep? Just one more episode...

This might start as a harmless habit, but it can soon become a destructive cycle that can affect your mental and physical health. It can be frustrating enough battling with sleep problems when you’re suffering with anxiety you try, “you just can’t sleep”.

When you are actively postponing settling down to sleep, some might consider the delay more akin to a stubborn “you just won’t sleep”. But maybe there’s a much deeper issue behind this delay. Is it such a conscious act of delaying bedtime? It can be agreed that in both situations, you end up with insufficient sleep that ruins your day ahead. The “can’t sleeper” deserves empathy but maybe the “won’t sleeper” is struggling with their emotions too?

A psychological phenomenon called revenge bedtime procrastination has been used to describe this failure to go to bed at the intended time. So what causes this postponement and what is it a revenge on?


What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

In its basic form, revenge bedtime procrastination is the habit of delaying going to bed (and going to sleep) for no apparent reason even though you are aware it will have negative consequences on your day ahead.

Distinctions can be made about bedtime procrastination (delaying getting into bed) and whilst in-bed procrastination (delaying going to sleep), but both ultimately result in the deprivation of your sleep.

Bedtime procrastination is considered a form of revenge on your sleeping hours due to not having had enough pleasure, fun time or “me” time (in whatever form that might take) in your daylight hours. The perceived control that you lose from one or several areas in your life (e.g. the day’s working obligations) is balanced by removing it from (or in this case inflicting harm on) another area of your life (your sleep).

Although procrastination is not a new concept, with the rise in electronic gadgets and social media, they have become one of the most common modern methods of procrastination including activities such as binge-watching your favourite series, playing games, online shopping and keeping up with your peer group on social media apps. These electronic-based activities (also known as cyber leisure) can be enjoyed during your free time. It’s when they replace time doing something more important like sleeping that it becomes a destructive activity.

Is it necessarily an online problem? Not always. Some people find an escape in reading fiction until early morning, whilst others take up their creative knitting hobby or watch TV for endless hours.

The term bedtime procrastination was proposed by Dr. Floor Kroese et al. They investigated how procrastination can transfer into other important life domains such as health behaviours (e.g. sleeping, healthy eating, exercise, relaxation time, etc.) and consequently damage your well-being.

Whilst other studies gave emphasis to sleep deprivation being connected to sleep disorders, the psychological phenomenon of bedtime procrastination aimed to highlight that sleep deprivation could “simply” be caused by the act of going to be late. The study reinforced that bedtime procrastination is a problem of emotional self-control (or self-regulation) in common with the general form of procrastination.

By 2020, the term developed the additional revenge theme in East Asia by Daphne K Lee. Revenge bedtime procrastination was given prominence possibly due to the harsh “996 working routine” in China, in which some organisations enforce a 72 hour working week, consisting of 12 hour days (from 9 am to 9 pm), 6 days a week. By vengefully suffering through the night, employees were refusing to sleep early to recover a sense of freedom during their late night hours.

Revenge bedtime procrastination tiredness
Sleeping can seem like wasting time when there’s work to do

Without having “control” of the working day and recreational time in the evening, going to sleep can seem like “wasting” time. Of course, the act of delaying bedtime offers no obvious long terms benefits to one’s health. If anything, it deepens the feelings of powerlessness and disappointment of one’s lifestyle. Some may see it as a type of compensation, a defence mechanism or an act of resistance to redirect one’s frustrations, inadequacies and possible loneliness from one area of your life into another.

Another feature of revenge bedtime procrastination can be connected to an increasing cultural emphasis on “active leisure”. For those who want to impress others that “life is interesting” and having something to talk about in work the day after, working and sleeping with nothing in-between may be viewed by others as dull and likely to disappoint them.

With little time to engage in something “active” late in the evening, filling it with what’s easily available like online activity may be the only way to impress others and talk about what’s vogue. Sleep can seem like an inconvenience to what’s “hot” or yet another obligation to fulfil on your priority schedule.


The Signs of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Bedtime procrastination is a common feature of modern living. In the study by Floor Kroese et al, 74% of those surveyed indicated that they delayed going to bed later than they planned at least one or more days per week without having a good reason.

Just because you are staying up late to complete a work deadline or taking care of your child, does it mean that you are participating in the phenomenon of revenge bedtime procrastination? No, this concept should not be confused with sleeping late when you have good reasons to do so, but the psychology behind it can be subtle.

Revenge bedtime procrastination has distinct behaviours. They include:

You delay – Bedtime procrastinators consistently go to bed later than originally intended. Non-bedtime procrastinators have the intention to delay bedtime to catch up with some work, are planning to sleep in the day after or by chronotype are typical “night owls”.

You lack valid motives – Bedtime procrastinators don’t have a credible reason for staying up late. You find something “trivial” to do that could easily have been done at an earlier time. Non-bedtime procrastinators stay up late for important reasons like caring for someone who is ill or waiting for an urgent call from a family member who has forgotten their front door key.

Is there a difference between a valid reason and an excuse? Yes, the bedtime procrastinator will kid themselves that staying up late was justified to watch the important “hot” series that everyone is talking about or to shop for that urgent sale item.

Awareness - Bedtime procrastinators recognise that actions will have negative consequences in the morning accompanied by feelings of guilt, but yield to the delay nevertheless. Non-bedtime procrastinators are aware of the need to sleep and will be confident of the decision the following morning.

Although a lack of self control is common with general procrastination, there are other notable features of bedtime procrastination that could make it distinct from general procrastination e.g. perfectionism, fear of judgement and task aversion. Some might argue that the issue of perfectionism (common with the general form) doesn’t apply at bedtime. However, the bedtime procrastinator could be trying to perfect the mood of “readiness” to then surrender the control of the delay. Similarly, fear of negative feedback may not apply to the bedtime procrastinator. But the bedtime procrastinator may keep the delay a secret due to the embarrassment of what seems a simple solution and judgement to just “just go to bed earlier!” Furthermore, task aversion (common with the general form) may not apply to the bedtime procrastinator. However, anticipating that you will struggle to have self control and discipline to switch off in the night ahead can convert the night time routine into a dreaded “task” that you “hate” doing.


What causes revenge bedtime procrastination?

People engage in this psychological phenomenon for a variety of pressing causes rather than for radical vice. The primary cause of general procrastination is a lack of self-regulation or self-control.

procrastinating bedtime using phone
Procrastination is caused by a lack of self-regulation

What makes revenge bedtime procrastination prevalent is the lack of self regulation in your daily routine. The daily actions and activities that you undertake can generate long-term or short-term benefits to your well-being. But, if you lack self-regulation, your intentions and plans won’t match what you end up doing throughout your day.

Instead, you succumb to pleasures, forget or displace your tasks, or delay the important things for later. This results in a disorganised routine and accommodates your pleasures after midnight as a reward. Furthermore, these pleasures may seem even more exciting and rebellious in the moment because you are “stealing” or reclaiming time back from what has been “taken away from you” in another area in your life.

There is some evidence that the self-control mechanisms that procrastinators struggle with are exacerbated at a time when you lack the mental energy to apply the willpower needed to switch off electronic devices. Additionally, whilst tiredness or exhaustion in the evening is a common motivator to go to bed, bedtime procrastinators who are sat in the living room watching TV might be too tired and apathetic to overcome the inertia to leave the sofa and prepare to go to bed.

An alternative view to the lack of self-control explanation of revenge bedtime procrastination is one related to inter-individual difference in biology. One study emphasises that bedtime procrastination can be attributed to those who have the evening “night owl” chronotype as opposed to the early bird or “lark” chronotype.

“Night owls” are forced to accommodate lifestyles or biological clocks that suit “larks”. This creates circadian misalignment stress for the “night owl” who will then attempt to recover time by delaying bedtime to balance this stress. This process can become habit-forming.

Lastly, with revenge being a cultural buzzword for defence strategies, can anxiety also be a cause of bedtime procrastination and a reason for which you also seek self-revenge?

Revenge bedtime procrastination anxiety
Are you taking revenge on anxiety when you can’t sleep?

Anxiety and the potential to ruminate on your problems is often worse at night when you are trying to settle down to sleep. Unless you are exhausted, many people find this night time phase typifies when those anxieties demand attention. This ultimately contributes to sleep problems and insomnia. When you “can’t sleep”, it’s easy to lie there mulling over your worries. It can be frustrating and wasteful of those precious hours.

When you form these insomnia habits, you begin to anticipate an anxious night ahead and rather than waste time being anxious, it can seem more fruitful to be doing something rather than nothing. Cyber leisure can be the momentary “distracted” alternative to laying there worrying. So instead, you fill the “anxiety window” with activity until over-tiredness and sleep eventually replaces the ability to focus on the next cyber task.

Is this revenge? When you “can’t sleep”, it may not start with the intention to delay bedtime, but it soon develops as a coping strategy to take revenge on anxiety when you persistently struggle to sleep.

Why it develops can be related to “distraction” strategies being the (very limited) solution to anxiety. During the day, you are habitually task-focused. This can serve as a distraction from your anxiety and the belief that you are managing your anxiety effectively. But this “distraction” solution is temporary. When you are doing routine activities or have nothing but your mind to work with at night, anxiety can win and disrupt your sleep.


Who is most affected by this psychological phenomenon?

Anyone can experience revenge bedtime procrastination. The more you dislike the activities in your daytime, the more likely you will struggle to detach from work and attempt to attempt to reclaim the night time with pleasurable activities. Your negative daytime activities can include the type of work that you do, the control you have over that work, the number of hours you work, the additional obligations that you have in your free time etc.

These factors contribute to or take away from the balance of (perceived) “me” time. For example, working in a caring role can be a passionate vocation for some and would lower your need for revenge in the night because you go home feeling fulfilled. For others, it’s a vocational “trap” and increases the need for revenge.

Stress can also create intermittent periods when you seek revenge. Being a student, having a high-pressure job and working shifts can have revengeful periods when demands are high. One study suggests that woman and students are particularly prone to bedtime revenge when under stress.

As previously mentioned, general procrastinators and “night owls” can be prone to this phenomenon. Additionally, those with sleep disorders and generalised anxiety can also divert the frustration of not sleeping into cyber leisure.

Use of blue light emitted from electronic devices when you have not been able to access natural daylight in your day may add an additional factor into sleep deprivation. According to this study, “blue light” activities can further disturb the quality of asleep rather than help it. So even though you believe you are achieving your delay strategy, it is having a deeper negative effect on the quality of your sleep (when are able to fall asleep).

More recently the effect of the Covid global pandemic has further blurred the work-home life distinction and increased revenge bedtime procrastination. It has had a notable effect of reducing women’s leisure time hours and the ability to balance “me” time. It has been noted in another study that nearly 40% of the research sample had sleep problems during the Covid work-from-home mandate increasing the prevalence of this psychological phenomenon.

This suggests that those affected by revenge bedtime procrastination cannot be explained by one factor alone. Who is affected by this psychological phenomenon involves a number of interlinking factors.


How revenge can revenge bedtime procrastination affect your health?

Staying up late once in a while may not have drastic consequences to your health but it can be problematic in the long term. Regardless of your method of distraction (i.e. cyber or non-cyber activities), sleep deprivation will lead to fatigue. It can then affect your work concentration and your work performance in your day ahead. In the long term, sleep deprivation can also cause an increase in stress responsivity, mood disorders and memory loss.

Revenge bedtime procrastination couple on phones
These late-night acts of indulgence can seem like normal behaviour, even for couples

With continuity, these late-night acts of deserved indulgence can seem like normal behaviour in which you lose the motivation for maintaining a sleep pattern. People want to believe that they can cope with minimal sleep, but it inevitably impacts on your irritability, decision-making ability and physical health. Taken to the extreme, the compensation to delay bedtime can become an overcompensation in which you enter a deeper cycle of self hatred.


How can you prevent revenge bedtime procrastination?

If revenge bedtime procrastination has become a bad habit that is affecting you your day-to-day life both mentally and physically, the following tips can help you reconnect with good sleeping habits.

Reappraise how you spend your daytime obligations – How much control do you have over your working life? Are you in the right career? Changing your work situation won’t happen overnight, but finding your passionate vocation in the long term can balance the scales of leading a satisfactory life on one side of the equation and the need to compensate it on the other side when going to bed. Practising gratitude can shift some of the emotional negativity in your work.

Identify some new relaxing activities - If you cannot control your hours of work, review how you spend your leisure time. Do you feel like you have achieved anything when you have spent a few hours on social media? Does reading a good book or having a brisk walk offer a better solution to social media? Schedule some down-time associated with something that you do each evening to anchor the habit and help to separate your work and sleep boundaries. Even better, learn breathing techniques with affirmations or other mindfulness activities to guide or direct your mind into relaxation.

Re-evaluate how you perceive sleep – When an activity has become something to avert, rehearsing a positive meaning can change the experience. Learn self hypnosis to validate sleep as a healthy and beneficial part of your life rather than a chore.

Rehearse a new bedtime routine – Waiting until the moment to change the routine can be too late to be effective as you are swayed by the expectations of habit i.e. repeating what you did last night. Visualising your sleep routine can help you plan your new sleep hygiene rituals. A wind-down routine helps you to trigger your natural sleep cues. Practising breathing techniques can help you to relax in bed.

Give electronic devices their bedtime too – Powering down your devices and turning off auto-play at least half an hour before going to bed will initially feel discomforting. Persist with your new habits and it will empower you to open your mind-space to the new sleep rituals that will revitalise you.



How can hypnotherapy help your revenge bedtime procrastination?

Some ingrained night time habits can be challenging to change when you are dominated by your internal beliefs to fulfil these rituals. When your health is suffering professional help can assist your changes.

Hypnotherapy to break bad habits can help explore and treat your underlying motives, goal-formation strategies, background causes, stress triggers etc. It can help you develop self hypnosis ( to disconnect your bedtime procrastination and your revenge strategies.


For more information treating revenge bedtime procrastination contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Social Anxiety Treatment

Social Anxiety Treatment

Social anxiety treatment: Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder characterised by an intense and persistent fear of one or more social situations. Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder and a fear of embarrassment, it is one of the most common phobias in UK, affecting about 10% of the adult population. Social anxiety usually starts in childhood and adolescence, with the majority developing the condition by the time you reach your twenties. Very few people develop the condition later in adulthood.

Social anxiety treatment phobia word cloud
Social anxiety is one of most common phobias in UK

Most people can recall a social anxiety triggering event or situation e.g. when being taunted at school or changing schools. Others believe that it has always been there, varying in intensity or gradually increasing depending on your level of social interaction and social anxiety.

As you reach your adulthood, you can outgrow your social anxiety, but the severity of social anxiety rarely eases without social anxiety treatment. The majority of those suffering with social anxiety will have other associated mental health disorders (co-morbidity)  like panic disorder, low self esteem, generalised anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, health anxiety and a level of substance dependency e.g. drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, using recreational drugs. By the time that someone seeks social anxiety treatment, many of these associated conditions will be salient.

Social anxiety treatment: Social anxiety as a phobia and a disorder

Simple phobias tend to affect how you respond to particular objects or situations e.g. fear of spiders or dentists. Social anxiety can be specific too, impacting on how you deal with one situation e.g. when you have a fear of public speaking yet have an enjoyable and active social life.

As a generalised condition, social anxiety more commonly disrupts several situations or triggers that can be classified into:

  • Interaction: such as starting spontaneous conversations, speaking with strangers, making eye contact, dating, speaking (in class, meetings or in groups), talking with (aggressive) authority figures or extroverts, socialising in large social gatherings e.g. parties, attending concerts, sports events, night clubs, bars, etc., coping with being teased, being assertive, returning items to a shop, etc.
  • Observation: being in view of others when performing new or unfamiliar everyday tasks, such as when working, eating and drinking in public, attending school, walking in public, shopping, exercising in gyms, physical examinations, security checks, entering a room in which other people are already seated, entering a bar/restaurant by yourself, etc.
  • Performance: such as using public toilets, public speaking, speaking on the phone or by video call, giving an artistic performance, being interviewed, introducing yourself and speaking in class and meetings, completing practical tests or exams, etc. Many of these situations can be considered as a category of performance anxiety.

Further categories of specific and general social anxiety distinguish between those who fear social situations (e.g. public speaking, dating, exams, parties, etc.) and those who fear their anxious outcomes (e.g. fear of blushing, fear of sweating, fear of stammering, fear of saying something foolish, fear of doing something that will be criticised, etc.).

More significance can be given to the following criteria in these subtypes that distinguish social anxiety from social anxiety disorder. It includes the:

  • Severity and persistence of your symptoms.
  • The degree of anticipation and avoidance.
  • How much that you rely on safety behaviour to alleviate your anxiety (e.g. smoking, drinking, comfort eating, etc.)
  • The dysfunctional ability to think and communicate in the social situation.
  • An overly critical self evaluation of your coping that can integrate low self esteem and low self confidence.

On the whole, generalised social anxiety intensely interferes with how you lead your life. On this basis, social anxiety is classified as a complex phobia, upsetting many formal and informal situations.

You can be affected by both a simple phobia and social phobia e.g. when you feel embarrassed about showing your arachnophobic panic attack to your peer group.

You can expect a social anxiety treatment programme for a specific issue to be more concise than for the generalised condition.

Social anxiety treatment: what causes social anxiety?

There are many underlying causes of social anxiety. It is best understood as an interaction between bio-psychosocial factors. They include:

Genetic factors – You can have specific genes that predispose you to suffer with social anxiety due to a defect in serotonin processing.

Environmental factors – You can “learn” to be socially anxious from authority figures (which may also infer a combined genetic link). A parent who is socially anxious is likely to condition you to perceive embarrassment as a source of danger and condition your beliefs and worries accordingly. They will protect you from social experiences rather than helping your confidence in those social situations. In some countries, cultural values may also play a role developing socially anxious fears.

Social anxiety treatment bullying
Bullying is considered a major cause of social anxiety

Direct learning of traumas (e.g. when being teased or bullied) is likely to play a major role in acquiring a fear of embarrassment. However, you can also observe others suffering embarrassment and project these reactions onto yourself (indirect learning).

A social phobia trait called behavioural inhibition in which toddlers become severely upset when placed in new situations of unfamiliar people may also be an environmental and/or biological factor in the development of social phobia later in life.

Biology – Brain structure and the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the regions of the brain associated with fear are factors that can cause social anxiety. A research study involving PET scans of those with social phobia highlighted how these areas of the brain are affected when public speaking.

Other risk factors can include having other mental health disorders, a lifestyle change involving new or excessive social demands e.g. when moving to a new school or new job with obligations to speak in public. Additionally, having physical or medical conditions that increase feelings of self consciousness and can draw attention from others e.g. a disfigurement, stammer or tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease can increase your risk of developing a social phobia.

Social anxiety treatment involving therapy is more likely to help you address the environmental factors that have caused or reinforced your fear of embarrassment.

Living with social anxiety

Often dismissed as shyness, social anxiety is a more severe condition. In common with all phobias, you can experience high anxiety and panic attacks during the social situation that you fear. Your panic reaction may be disproportionate to the actual danger that confronts you, but knowing this information rarely offers any consolation to the way that you cope.

Your fear of embarrassment can associate with many other personality traits including introversion, insecurity, conflict handling, self criticism, assertiveness, low self esteem and low self confidence. You may also fear upsetting other people and ruminate on feelings of guilt, shame, self blame, over-responsibility, regret, etc.

Sometimes termed as emotional and behavioural symptoms, living with a fear of embarrassment can include:

You live in fear

  • You fear situations in which you may feel embarrassed, judged, criticised, humiliated, rejected, intimidated or given excessive attention (usually negative attention is most embarrassing, but positive attention can also trigger embarrassment too).
  • You fear that you will do or say something foolish to embarrass or humiliate yourself. This can include not knowing what to say to people.
  • You have a fear of communicating with people who you’ve never met before (strangers).
  • Desperate to hide your anxiety symptoms e.g. blushing, shaking, distorted voice, sweating, etc., you fear that others will notice them and judge you as weak or incapable.
  • You fear offending others, troubling them with your problems or upsetting people, so you rarely talk about other people’s behaviour and how their behaviour affects your feelings.
  • When meeting people for the first time, you fear that others will judge how you present yourself. You spend too much attention on your appearance, clothes, make-up, hair, etc.
  • Despite social anxiety being a common condition, you are convinced that you are the only one who suffers with it.

Your behaviour is dominated by avoidance

  • You avoid social situations, speaking to people or doing activities in which you might draw attention due to yourself.
  • You avoid situations in which you might be (or be perceived as being) in the centre of attention. This can include being seated in discrete locations out of people’s view.
  • Even though you enjoy being with people that you trust, you may avoid a larger gatherings, preferring to self isolate.
  • You may lie about your avoidance behaviour to preserve your self-image rather than admit that you suffer with social anxiety.
  • In conversation, you avoid eye contact to reduce feelings of embarrassment. Where you stare instead can be another source of embarrassment.
  • Your social anxiety may combine with your introversion, intensifying your avoidance of larger group gatherings.
  • Whilst avoiding social situations, you may also experience feelings of loneliness when you are unable to communicate with people who understand you.
  • In order to manage your social phobia, you may avoid specific social situations that associate with another phobia e.g. when you also have a fear of flying, fear of confined spaces, fear of open spaces, fear of heights, etc.
  • You may limit your career choices and promotional prospects by avoiding jobs that involve a high degree of social observation, interaction and performance.
  • You may have higher levels of absence in social situations that you feel obligated to attend e.g. school, college, work, work meetings, work socials, etc.

You conform to other people’s expectations and behaviour

  • To avoid standing out from your peer group, you may imitate the majority’s codes of behaviour e.g. wear similar styled or branded clothing, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol etc.
  • Convinced that you are being scrutinised by your audience, you may change your everyday functions to fit the group’s expectations e.g. walking, eating, speaking, etc. as others in the group would do.
  • You believe that conformity will prevent you from being ejected from the social group.

You suffer with anticipatory anxiety

  • You worry for days or weeks prior to a social event, affecting your how you lead your lifestyle e.g. comfort eating, smoking, drinking alcohol, losing sleep etc.
  • Your anticipation keeps you locked in procrastination, inhibiting you from developing skills or rationally dealing with social situations e.g. proactively developing your presentation that would relieve some of your anxiety.

You suffer with anxiety and panic attacks in social situations

Social anxiety treatment panic attacks
With social anxiety, a panic attack is a common physical symptom


  • Various physical symptoms can include erratic breathing, fast heart rate, blushing, sweating, trembling, frequent urination, upset stomach, loss of concentration, memory loss, muscle tension, vertigo, etc.
  • Your social anxiety may also affect your ability to speak, being closely related to selective mutism.

You struggle to deal with authority and over-confidence

  • Following bullying and/or abuse, you feel nervous when in the presence of authority, aggression, and over-confidence.
  • To prevent feelings of intimidation, you avoid conflict by being unassertive.
  • You struggle to accept criticism (and praise) from authority figures.

You ruminate over your fears

  • You dwell on what you did and didn’t say or do after the social event, often reinforcing your fears that you have offended someone or said something embarrassing.
  • You can dwell on embarrassment from your past for years after the event.
  • You are convinced that your imperfect performance, traits or abilities will lead to your rejection from a relationship, the social group or organisation.
  • You imagine the worst possible consequences from a negative social experience (catastrophic thinking), despite praise from your peers or audience.
  • You are convinced that your anxiety is a sign of weakness.
  • You are very sensitive to embarrassment and can experience it vicariouslye. when others suffer embarrassment you feel it too.

You use safety behaviours to alleviate your social anxiety

You lack assertiveness

  • You struggle to communicate the value of your needs. This may also be related to your low self esteem and low self confidence
  • Already critical of your own abilities, you take other’s criticism as facts rather than as their opinions.
  • Instead of viewing rejection as a momentary lapse in your abilities, you take rejection shamefully.
  • Whilst you prefer praise to criticism, being praised can draw attention from others, triggering feelings of embarrassment.
  • You have a high level of self criticism and can be distrustful of other’s praise.
  • You may fear commitment since you will struggle to communicate your future need to leave and would then feel guilty that you have upset them.
  • You fear commitment since a future rejection would confirm fears that you are not good enough.

As indicated above, living with social anxiety can affect your life in many ways. In reference to others it can alter how you perceive yourself, creating negative self-labels and self-doubts on your ability to make social choices.

It can also alter how you view others. As a projection of your fears, you believe that strangers are a danger to your well-being, and you may generally view people as distrustful and judgemental. This is likely to create a self fulfilling prophecy as others are likely to read your behaviour as being aloof and antagonistic.

In addition to this, convinced by your own beliefs, social anxiety can affect how you view the world, responding by wanting to feel safer from your perceived (social) threats. It’s common to be more house-bound (agoraphobic), limit your social network, and avoid careers that involve high sociability and social performance situations.

Fear of embarrassment hiding from others
With social anxiety you can dwell on the embarrassment of your past

Connected to your socially anxious belief system, is how you imagine and reflect on your time-line of experience. You dwell on your past as definitions or convincers of your social anxiety. These emotionally-charged embarrassing experiences continue to haunt you as (depressive) fixed judgements that you can’t change.

How you relate to your past can affect how you similarly view your future. With social anxiety, you believe that your future will be determined by how you perceived your past. In other words, you are stuck with social anxiety forever and there’s nothing that you can do about it.

These thinking patterns are likely to create your physical symptoms of anxiety in the moment. When you are experiencing anxiety symptoms, it will overwhelm how you cope with the present. It can be ambitious to attempt a presentation whilst experiencing high anxiety. It usually overwhelms your ability to focus purely and clearly on your presentation content.

When you bring social anxiety into how you cope with what’s happening in the social world around you and within you, you will consider social confidence developmental opportunities as potential catastrophes to deepen your social anxiety. Opportunities will be defined as threats and when you don’t participate in a social event you will reinforce (without evidence to the contrary) that people are talking about you and judging you.

Common social anxiety treatments

The main options for social anxiety treatment include:

Cognitive behavioural therapy – A therapist will use CBT, a type of psychotherapy to help you to challenge negative thought patterns and behaviours related to your social anxiety. This is sometimes completed in a group and with your family.

Medication – Antidepressant medication (SSRI’s) are commonly prescribed by your doctor to treat the persistent symptoms of anxiety.

Guided self help – Improvements to your social anxiety can be made using workbooks that can help challenge your negative thought patterns and behaviour.

A combination of the above may be used to treat social anxiety.

Hypnotherapy as a social anxiety treatment

There has not been much research that has specifically validated hypnotherapy as an effective social anxiety treatment. There has been a small case study that has demonstrated the effectiveness of hypnotic visualisation rehearsals to overcome social anxiety and again in literature reviews of hypnosis to overcome performance–related social anxiety.

However, as an anxiety-related condition, social anxiety has common associations with general anxiety and phobias. These anxiety-related conditions all share anxious thoughts, beliefs, emotions, behaviours, avoidance patterns, panic attacks, etc. The same medication is used to increase serotonin levels in the brain across these anxiety-related conditions. Similarly, therapists will adopt a behavioural hierarchy of controlled exposure from other anxiety situations and modify them so that the social anxiety treatment is specific to the patient’s social anxiety situation.

There is more research (literature reviews and meta-analyses) to demonstrate how hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety as an individual treatment, with CBT, and in the treatment of phobias. Similarly, hypnotherapy can adopt the same principles of controlled exposure when the skilled hypnotherapist is analysing the client’s social anxiety background and can then apply them into a hypnotherapeutic treatment model.

How can hypnotherapy treat your social anxiety?

Hypnotherapy can help you challenge your social anxiety beliefs

There are many types of hypnotherapy. Each hypnotherapy technique can be used to target different pathways of your social anxiety. Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy techniques acknowledge that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviour are linked. In hypnosis these negative thoughts in can be identified, changed and replaced with more objective and realistic thoughts that have become automated in the maintenance of your social anxiety. In a hypnotic state you can access these cognitive changes in a more accessible way.

Hypnotherapy can target your anxiety symptoms

Some social anxiety clients are overwhelmed by anxiety symptoms e.g. breathlessness, voice distortion, blushing, sweating etc. affecting how you function in the social situation. Anxiously, you can absorb your attention into your anxiety symptoms and fear that others are seeing and judging your symptoms. Hypnotic suggestions can be used to lower your symptomatic physical reactions and combine them with affirmations to have more control over these symptoms.

Hypnotherapy can help you control your panic response

Panic attacks are intense fearful physical reactions without any apparent danger or cause. When you have panic attacks, you have lost conscious control over your body. A study has demonstrated how individualised hypnotherapy techniques can help in the treatment of panic attacks. Your hypnotherapy treatment will help connect you with this thought-emotion-physical reaction pathway. Suggestions can be incorporated into common relaxation techniques e.g. breathing techniques to boost the alleviation of your panic symptoms.

Hypnotherapy can treat your anticipatory anxiety

Your past experiences will heighten your alertness to future threats. You are likely to build up anticipatory anxiety to “prepare” you for the danger of embarrassment. Losing sleep days or weeks prior the event, the anxious alertness can be a betrayal of something that rarely happens. Hypnotherapy can help to disconnect your anticipation and explore proactive ways to prepare a moderated alertness.

Hypnotherapy can boost your social performance anxiety

If you can perform well in practise but then go to pieces when performing in front of a live audience, then hypnotherapy can use several techniques to help you to build confidence in your ability. There is evidence that hypnotherapy techniques can build self confidence in student’s fear of public speaking ability. Social performance anxiety can affect many more situations like exams, sexual performance anxiety (erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation), sports performance etc.

Hypnotherapy can improve your mental rehearsal

Social anxiety treatment mental rehearsal
Visualise social confidence and you are projected into your reality

Positive mental rehearsal is a powerful tool that can project you towards the achievement of your goal. There is evidence that athletes use mental rehearsal to improve sports performance and help them access their performance zone. Mental rehearsal prepares the brain to access how you want to function in the absence of being in the real world. Hypnotherapy can focus your mind into the imagined situation enhancing your ability to visualise your positive experience.

Hypnotherapy can develop your self-hypnosis

There are many benefits of the application of self hypnosis, more notably in the management of anxiety. Your hypnotherapy treatment will help you to learn self hypnosis so that you can use these techniques independently in the various situations that are exacerbating your anxiety.

Hypnotherapy can assist your controlled exposure

Controlled exposure (also known as systematic desensitisation) is considered to be an effective treatment for many anxiety-related disorders. Hypnotherapy can serve as a positive mental rehearsal or “virtual reality” for the controlled exposure to social situations. This can help you to feel ready to put this rehearsal into practise and confront the situation that triggers your fear. Depending on how much you want to “future pace” your controlled exposure, you can prime the situation in hypnosis as if it has already been completed successfully.

Hypnotherapy can reframe the “cause” of your social anxiety

Regression is a technique that enables you to observe the various beliefs and values that shaped your handling of a past experience. It can also add insight into what you learned from the experience. Sometimes the learning (in the case of a phobia) can be exaggerated and unhelpful for future reactions. The regression technique is in contrast to solution focused hypnotherapy which prefers to leave the past behind, but has been shown to be effective in a multi-modal hypnotherapy treatment. Regression can help reframe the trauma of the “cause” and add insight into “why” some habitual patterns of negative coping persist.

Hypnotherapy can treat associated fear and phobias

You may bring to your treatment social anxiety as a core issue or a symptom connected to other anxieties, fears and phobias. In any case, your goals and the issues that you present will be discussed in the treatment session. This will enable your treatment to be individualised to your needs.

Social anxiety treatment: conclusion

Some researchers argue that humans are inherently social. Social interaction is considered to be important for mental health and can be a useful strategy to manage stress. For those with social anxiety however, the situations that others thrive on can, in the short term at least, be damaging to your emotional health.

It’s acceptable to want your own space “with yourself” and be “asocial”, particularly if you don’t suffer with loneliness. Having your own space can also be a useful time to relax and recharge. However if you are afraid to interact with others and have an overwhelming fear embarrassment, hypnotherapy can be a beneficial social anxiety treatment to build your self-confidence and social confidence.

Social anxiety treatment accessibility

Face to face consultations are available at the Cardiff hypnotherapy practice. If you are unable to travel to the practice, you can also access social anxiety treatment online.

For more information on social anxiety treatment, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Sports hypnosis to improve your sports performance

Sports hypnosis to improve your sports performance

Sports hypnosis: If you are serious about taking your professional, semi-professional or recreational sports performance to the next level, then you are already investing time and energy into a number of key performance strategies. This can include expert skills coaching, a training schedule to practise and integrate these skills, performance monitoring, achieving and maintaining high levels of fitness, exercise recovery, diet and hydration.

Sports hypnosis performance strategy
Training your mind is an important sports performance strategy

Training your brain or your “mental muscle” to get the best out of your body is another key performance strategy. It will enable you to access your peak performance potential. At the elite level of professional sports, there are few differences between an athlete’s performance skills, physical characteristics and innate talent. What can distinguish a good performer from a competition winner is your state of mind.

Sports hypnosis can help you achieve a strong mental game and a winning mindset by overcoming your own internal limitations. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Dan Luger, Andre Agassi, Nigel Benn, Billie Jean King and Andy Cole are just a few of the elite sports professionals who have used sports hypnosis. It has enabled them to develop key ingredients like focus, confidence and self-belief into their game.

I can appreciate the importance that you give to your sports performance. I bring to your hypnosis treatment sessions a strong personal background in sports participation, sports coaching, and health and fitness. Before qualifying as a hypnotherapist in 1997, I previously played basketball at county level, graduated with a Sports Studies degree, have coached adults and children in various sports and then worked in the health and fitness industry.

Is it sports hypnosis, sports hypnotherapy or sports mind coaching?

Sports hypnosis is the application of hypnosis techniques to improve your sports performance. It’s also a type of hypnotherapy, sports mind coaching, and a branch of sports psychology techniques specific to sports (and athletics) situations in which your psychomotor skills are optimised. In sports psychology journals it is often referred to as “mental training”.

The brief hypnotic treatment process is not unlike dealing other performance problems in hypnotherapy that can affect situations in education, the work place, the performing arts and relationships. In all performance situations you assemble and apply your thoughts, emotions, beliefs and learned skills into a specific task or situation with the intention of maximising your ability. The non-sports hypnotherapy treatment sessions will often follow the same structure and goal as sports hypnosis sessions: to reframe your negative performance issues.

As a Cardiff hypnotherapist, I commonly treat performance-related issues like fear of public speaking, exam and test anxiety, sexual performance issues like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. These conditions can be affected by performance anxiety, stress, low moods, self doubt, low self esteem, low self confidence, perfectionism etc. Similarly, these are just some of the negative traits that can affect amateur and professional athletes at any stage of your sporting career.

These various terminologies like sports hypnosis that embrace hypnotherapy for athletes all give emphasis to improving your sports performance. With my sports background, I can draw from my own coaching experiences, empathise with your sports situation and give value to what you want to achieve in your specific sport.

What is sports hypnosis?

Hypnosis can be referred to as a state of heightened, focused attention. Positive mental rehearsal or guided imagery in sports hypnosis is one technique that hypnotherapists commonly employ to help sports clients rehearse a desired “mind-body in-action confident performance”. At its best, the technique will give the sportsperson a positive new or renewed kinaesthetic and emotional sensory experience that resets a performance that (for different reasons) has become negative.

The term “hypnosis” may not be used in many of the “mental training” techniques employed by sports psychologists to enhance performance, yet when you engage someone to visualise or mentally rehearse a situation whilst say, being sat, stationary in a chair, the process is almost identical. There is so much more than visualisation that hypnosis can do to enhance an athlete’s performance, however.

Are sportspeople responsive to hypnosis? There are many factors that affect your level of suggestibility e.g. client need (i.e. you have a problem that you are struggling to resolve), expectations about hypnosis, common fears and misconceptions of hypnosis, level of rapport between the hypnotherapist and the client, effective use of suggestions etc.

This hypnosis test and the article that follows it give more details about the hypnotic experience, when hypnosis works and why it works. Many of these points are also reinforced in this article about the role of hypnosis in sport.

In my previous hypnotherapy treatment experience of sportspeople and other clients who perform on stage (dancers, musicians, singers etc.), they have been highly responsive to suggestions and the hypnotherapy treatment. It’s not surprising when those previous clients have been actively involved in using their imagination, emotions and kinaesthetic (bodily) functioning into their performance.

How effective is sports hypnosis?

Athlete visualisation upside down
Psychological sports performance approaches have been hanging around for a while now

Elite athletes are more than aware of the power that cognitive, emotional and psychological qualities can have on sports performance. With the growth of hypnotherapy as a therapeutic modality, combined with the search for broader performance-enhancing strategies, hypnosis for athletes is becoming an increasingly popular mind-coaching tool within sports psychology programmes.

Although psychological approaches for sports performance enhancement have been used for over 60 years, studies on the effects of hypnosis on athletic performance are only recently becoming more established. In a study of mental training techniques for professional athletes, it was concluded that hypnosis and biofeedback had a significant positive impact on athletic performance. In another study that examined various complementary and alternative practices using secondary data, hypnosis was identified as one of the practices that benefited athletic performance. Hypnotherapy was also reinforced as a viable treatment method in another study.

In other research on small test groups, hypnosis had a positive impact on golf-chipping performance and “flow states”. One particular study states that it is evident from the review of research and conceptual literature that hypnosis can enhance self-efficacy and improve athletic performance.

Who can it benefit?

Sports hypnosis is beneficial for any level of participation including professional, semi-professional and amateur sportspeople. If you are serious about your sport, have hit a performance block, are feeling the pressure of a commitment or competition, then hypnotherapy could benefit you.

It can also be used to help performance in any sport. There are various ways that sports can be categorised. Below is a list of some of the more common sports that have been helped with hypnosis.

Individual sports: Skiing, archery, athletics (track and field), bodybuilding, bowling, boxing, cycling, darts, diving, fencing, golf, gymnastics, horse riding, martial arts, motor sports, power lifting, running, self-defence,  swimming, tennis, skating, snooker, squash, shooting and other target sports, swimming, trampolining, triathlon, weight lifting, etc.

Partner sports: (Any of the above sports that can be partnered), figure skating, volleyball, etc.

Team sports: (Any of the above that can be played in teams), American football, baseball, basketball, cricket, hockey, ice hockey, netball, rowing, rugby (league and union), soccer, etc.

Extreme sports: bobsleigh, BMX, climbing, kayaking, water skiing, motor racing, etc.

Mind sports: Chess, poker, etc.

Any sports not listed above can still benefit from hypnosis.

How can hypnosis help your sports performance?

Hypnosis can improve your concentration

Achieving and maintaining a narrow focus of attention into the task in hand is a key mental skill that sportspeople aim to perfect. Your focus of attention is constantly shifting internally and externally to make the best decision to fit the demands of the situation. However, distractions can come in many forms e.g. worrying about what others might think, intrusive thoughts of self doubt, having flashbacks from past failures with the potential to magnify your mistakes in the present. Hypnosis can help reconnect you with a concentration “trance” to be fully immersed into the moment. The treatment process can also help you reframe and release those nagging distractions that are affecting your focus of attention.

Hypnosis can reconnect you with your “performance zone”

Taking your concentration to the next level is another name for being “in the zone” or achieving a state of “flow”. The performance zone is a state of complete absorption into your activity. Your thoughts and actions are flowing freely with spontaneity and fluency.

There is some evidence that hypnosis is an effective tool for helping athletes access the zone with badminton players, golfers and cyclists.

There are more tips to help you access your performance zone in this article.

Hypnosis can treat your performance anxiety

Performance anxiety can strike you long before the competition starts. Anticipatory anxiety can overwhelm your build up to the competition causing sleep problems and associated mental and physical fatigue. Feeling the pressure of the Wimbledon Championships last 16 in 2018, Emma Raducanu famously experienced anxiety-related breathing difficulties and withdrew from the competition, before overcoming her nerves in her following US Open Championship title.

Various terms are given to how issues like stress and performance anxiety can affect the performer’s body and associated skills in a specific sport. With anxiety, the body can experience physical tension affecting how the muscles function. Some people refer to it as a type of sports phobia.

Yips sports performance anxiety
It’s common to “choke” with performance anxiety

It’s common for the muscle groups being used to tense up, “lock”, go into spasm or start shaking, preventing the necessary skilled movement from being completed.  For example “dartitis” affects darts players ability to release the darts, “cueitis” affects a snooker player’s ability to follow through with the cue, “trigger freeze” prevents those in shooting sports from squeezing the trigger.

The “yips” is another general term that can affect sports like golf, cricket, archery, bowling, tennis, football and rugby in which you “choke” or panic at the last moment and particularly when performing a “closed skill” like taking a penalty in the sport.

Hypnosis can be used to alleviate the build up of anxiety and the management of your performance skills during your competition. Using visualisation, there is evidence that sports hypnosis can help you to feel calmer and more adapted to stressful competitive situations e.g. when taking penalties.

Alternatively, hypnosis can also create a visualised “virtual reality” for competition anxiety. Simulating the high pressure of competition (e.g. penalties to decide the winner) in practise can be difficult if you aren’t experiencing the same adrenaline rush that you would experience in a cup final. Hypnosis can be used to help you revisit and re-create past stress-evoking situations, drawing attention to the stress sensations within the body. With repetition, the athlete can adapt to the stress response and visualise successful performance in competition with reduced anxiety.

Hypnosis can help you create a winning mindset

You’ve probably heard the phrase “You get what you believe!” Beliefs have a huge impact on how you perform. Your beliefs produce your emotions that direct your actions. When your beliefs are positive, they can energise your behaviour into success. However, your beliefs can be self-limiting without you realising that you are holding yourself back from reaching your potential.

World records continue to be broken because athletes train to the best of their ability and believe that it is possible. During early 1950s, people doubted the ability to run the mile in under four minutes; their mindsets were fixed, until Roger Bannister achieved this feat in 1954. Suddenly, this barrier had opened up people’s beliefs that the four minute mile could be done. Over one hundred people run the sub-four minute mile the following year. The “Bannister effect” is term given to this phenomenon that when one person achieves something, it prompts others to change their mindsets that the achievement is now possible.

You may have self-limiting beliefs that are acting as your personal obstacles e.g. “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not ready for this”, “I failed this in training” etc. Past criticism and doubt from authority figures can be the source of these negative self beliefs. Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy can help you identify these automated thought patterns and irrational beliefs. Positive affirmations can then be developed to restructure your thinking patterns and help you reframe them into a winning mindset.

Hypnosis can help you control your aggression

Controlled (instrumental) aggression can be tactical in many sports especially where there is contact between players. Within the rules of the game, controlled aggression can be a necessary part of winning. However, some (verbal and physical) aggression can be considered hostile particularly when it is aimed at another person and with the intention of harming them. There are notable examples of acts of hostility such as Zidane’s retaliation towards the Italian defender in 2006 World Cup Final. Hostile aggression is preceded by anger and frustration, and can be inflamed by many factors such as past conditioning, revenge, loyalty to one’s teammates, your biology, social facilitation e.g. crowd incitement and having over-inflated expectations.

Emotional control is a desirable feature in life as it is in sport. If your anger has become a negative feature in your performance, hypnosis can help you deal with your anger and help you to develop a more admirable level of assertiveness.

Hypnosis can help you develop a healthy perfectionism

Perfectionism in your practise can reap good rewards later in your competition. But it’s important to leave that trait on the practise field so that you are free to automate those learned processes when it’s needed. It’s too late to perfect the finer details, reflect on them and over-think them when the demands of the situation are live and relentless; quite simply, during the competition, it’s time to get on with it! Perfectionists struggle to disengage the “practise mindset” from the “competition mindset”.

Perfectionism in the competition can keep you dwelling on your mistakes and missed chances. When you are expecting perfection, you will become more self-critical, give too much attention to your errors and lose confidence. Your “practise mindset” during the competition will hurt you and steal your concentration needed for the demands of the live competition.

Understanding and accepting the differences between these stages is the start of adopting healthy perfectionism. Hypnosis can be used to reframe past criticism from authority figures that is driving your perfectionism. Building your self-esteem will help to convince you that you don’t have to prove them wrong and help you release the fear of what failure might say about you.

Hypnosis can build your self-belief (self efficacy)

Female boxer confidence self belief
Confidence in your abilities is an important part of being successful

Although the mind is a powerful tool, it is vulnerable to variations in performance when training. Confidence in your abilities is an important part of being successful. When there are positive outcomes in the build up to a competition, it can reinforce your self-belief that you will perform well during the competition. However, external issues and a continuous run of poor training days can damage your self-belief. This can create a cycle of self-doubt that adds more pressure into a competition. It can change how you might perform a skill and be stuck in fear of the outcome.

Self belief is considered to be one of the most powerful predictors of successful achievement in sports. When your self-belief has diminished, sports hypnotic suggestions treatment can strengthen your self-belief. Common treatment strategies include accessing your personal or a teammate’s past positive performance states. This will help you change your inner dialogue and help to diminish the effect of poor performances.

Hypnosis can be used for powerful visualisation (mental rehearsal)

The ability to picture and feel your future success can have a powerful affect on your state of mind and your body. Visualisation is frequently used to build an athlete’s self-belief and confidence in performance by imagining your desired future positive achievement. It can also be used to “over-trace” recent dips in performance by retrieving past positive resourceful states of success and paste them into the present.

There is evidence that guided imagery, when combined with physical practise, can be more beneficial to an athlete’s acquisition of skills, than when compared to practise alone, without additional visualisation. Mental rehearsal is described as a process of “passive exercise” that primes the neural pathways and muscles (kinaesthetic sensations) to perfect the minute details of a technique. It can also speed up the rate at which you learn motor skills and be retained in the memory  as if the movement has actually occurred.

Combine the physical hard work of training with hypnotic visualisation to give you that additional edge over your competitors.

Hypnosis can boost your motivation

You can hit a motivational slump for so many reasons e.g. training fatigue, boredom, long-term injuries, changes in your lifestyle, a lack of goal achievement, etc. As your desire and determination weakens, it can damage your training habits, mental preparation, lifestyle issues like diet and sleep patterns, and your relationships. This can cause an even deeper disconnect from your self-belief, who you are and what defines you.

An objective discussion to review your intrinsic and extrinsic goals can be the start of your turnaround, refreshing what you want to accomplish. Suggestions can also be given about how to anchor some fresh motivational triggers to lift your inspiration and pride.

Hypnosis can re-connect you with past emotional motivated periods and paste them into your renewed goal. This can lift your mood, your desire and determination to succeed again.

Hypnosis can reframe your negative self-talk

Your internal dialogue (conversation) says a great deal about how you are performing, your attitude towards yourself, your teammates and competitors; it is integrated with your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Modifying your self-talk can be a useful way to empower yourself, boost your self-belief, stabilise your mind from a bad run of play or let off some frustration “steam”.

Recurrent negative internal dialogue that is self-critical can be damaging to your performance, lowering your self-confidence and motivation. When negative self-talk is the trigger that brings down your performance, hypnotic cognitive restructuring techniques can help you to internalise alternative affirmations to keep your focus in the moment. It can also improve the precision in your fine motor skills.

Hypnosis can teach you self-hypnosis

In my sports hypnosis sessions, I aim to teach you self hypnosis with breathing techniques so that you can apply your learned techniques as part of mental practises when resting, training or competing. Helping you to develop you internal script, self hypnosis can be used for many of the benefits of sports hypnosis listed in this article e.g. with performance anxiety, motivation, self talk, visualisation etc.

Hypnosis can help you maintain good self care habits

Setting up and maintaining good habits are essential for a good quality of life including those for a performing athlete. Habits are automated ways of thinking and behaving. Underpinning the habit is a motive and combined with repetition, the natural expectation of the habit will encourage it to happen without needing to give it too much thought.

Your training and performance habits will be balanced with self care habits like nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery, a good sleeping routine, practising mindfulness exercises etc. These habits will change with the demands of the performance schedule and how the season affects this schedule.

Good habits can turn into bad habits however, particularly at the end of season, following a run of bad performances or after an injury. Comfort eating, drinking excessive alcohol, smoking and skipping training are just some of the bad habits that can take you out of your performance zone. Hypnotherapy can help your self-care routine by reintegrating your good training and lifestyle habits and eliminating the bad from your routine.

Hypnosis can help your emotional recovery from injury, trauma and pain

Sports injury mental recovery
Mental recovery is an essential part of your return to competition performance

Following an injury, you will have consulted your medical professionals to diagnose the injury and the best way forward for rehabilitation. Physical and mental recovery is an essential part of your return to competition performance. Athletes can be plagued with emotional setbacks following an injury or trauma. The way that you were injured (e.g. a hard tackle, fall etc.) and the severity of the subsequent physical injury (e.g. muscle rupture, fracture etc.) can leave an emotional scar in your mind. You can then become over-protective of the injured part of your body, withdrawing from tackles or dynamic phases of a complex skill to guard against another injury.

Some injuries can create post traumatic stress with flashbacks and anxiety. This can be particularly common in combat and contact sports. But can also be evident in other non-contact sports in which there was an unexpected trauma e.g. if your pole vault snaps and causes you injury in your fall.

Traumas don’t have to involve injuries though. Some emotional traumas are triggered after you have “choked” under the pressure of competition e.g. by missing a penalty that causes your team to lose and your audience to feel disappointment. The subsequent distress can have a long-lasting effect on the sportsperson’s confidence. Hypnosis can help reframe your lost trust, confidence and self-belief caused by the trauma and subsequent reaction.

Managing pain is another area that hypnosis can benefit. Hypnosis for the treatment of chronic pain (longer than 6 months) is well documented. Pain and suffering is a subjective experience and can be affected by many factors, notably the context of the injury, perceived loss of control, the attention that you give to pain, general anxiety and expectations about how the injury will be in conflict with current lifestyle and future plans. Jurgen Klopp may have inferred this ability to manage pain with reference to the injuries sustained by Daniel Sturridge. Hypnosis can help you reduce pain by analysing the emotional issues that surround it.

Hypnosis can help you get psyched-up

Hypnosis is often considered as a relaxing treatment. Relaxation is part of the treatment process to increase your suggestibility, but is rarely the treatment aim. During your sports training and competitions, there can be moments when under-arousal can be just as limiting as being over-excited or having high anxiety at the other end of the (focused) continuum. Hypnosis can help you develop “regulation arousal” or the desirable “psych-up” (or “psych down”) to empower you to perform with the necessary emotions during precise moments in your sport. Self-hypnosis pre-performance “psych-up” rituals are often used just prior to the start of the competition to be ready, alert and appropriately powered-up. They can be developed in your hypnosis treatment.

Using hypnosis for performance “psych-up” rituals can also serve useful during performance rest periods e.g. in tennis and during your sport dynamic changes of open and closed skills. (Some sports have closed skills in which the same technique is applied in a fixed, predictable and self-paced situation e.g. when diving or when performing a vault in gymnastics. Open skills require decisions to made on the basis of a more externally paced unpredictable situation or position of the opponents e.g. when passing a football in mid-play. Some skills are on the continuum of being open and closed e.g. when teeing off in golf.)

Hypnosis can help you practise overcoming “what if scenarios”

Coming up with ideas to brain storm and solve individual or collective team problems can help you take the heat out of the situation. Having identified and discussed your strategies, you can use the learned self hypnosis (or mindfulness) as exercises to mentally rehearse and visualise strategies to solve problems. Problems can include issues like “what if our best player is sent off?”, “what if we arrive late at the venue?”, “what if we have penalties?” etc.

Hypnosis can help you manage stress

Exercise can be a useful way to alleviate stress, but sometimes external stress can be a trigger that negatively impacts on your training and your sports performance. A stressful life outside of training and competitions can affect concentration, performance and self-belief. It’s important to individualise your hypnosis treatment by working holistically, exploring coping strategies or treating the specific external issues that are affecting you and your performance.

For example, you may be suffering bereavement, feeling guilty about being away from your family, having interpersonal issues with other teammates, have financial worries, worrying about how to cope with a family member being ill etc. Some therapists may disregard offering more obvious practical solutions like assertiveness training, in their pursuit of helping you by using deep and meaningful psychological strategies. It’s important to use pragmatic strategies too.

Sports hypnosis can help you achieve your optimum sports potential

Sports hypnosis sprint
Using hypnosis is not limited by the sports activity

Sports psychologists and trainers often use hypnosis or hypnotherapy but may not label it as such. Listed in this article are the numerous ways that sports hypnosis can help athletes.

As the research evidence continues to grow, many famous athletes continue to benefit by the practice of sports hypnosis. Using hypnosis is not limited by the sports activity, any sport can benefit. Each sports client brings with them personal and situational traits and issues that can be helped in a therapeutic context. Many hypnotic techniques can be applied to suit the individual and the situation. How receptive you are to hypnosis is again individual, but the biggest impact on your treatment progress (not just with hypnosis) will be related to the therapeutic relationship between you and the hypnotherapist.

Sports hypnosis accessibility

Face to face sessions are available in the Cardiff hypnotherapy practice. If you are unable to travel to Cardiff, you can access sports hypnosis online.

For more information on sports hypnosis, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Participating in exercise to relieve stress

Participating in exercise to relieve stress

Exercise to relieve stress: Managing stress is an ongoing process. Even when there is an absence of demands, boredom can be a trigger for negative behaviours like comfort eating. There are many ways to relieve stress. This article aims to identify how exercise in particular can relieve the effects of stress.

Exercise to relieve stress
Dancing is an excellent way to relieve stress

The content draws from my previous experience in the health and fitness industry as a fitness instructor and sports coach. It also combines my experience in stress management as a hypnotherapist.

These recommendations can help your overall management of stress. If you want to exercise to relieve stress, your individual preferences to exercise will determine how much you can alleviate the effects of stress.

Whilst all exercise is physical activity, the extent that your physical activity is structured, planned, intentional and repetitive may be open to interpretation. Gardening and vigorous cleaning can be a “workout” for some people with similar health benefits as “exercise” depending on how it’s done and on what frequency.



Exercise to relieve stress: What is stress?

Stress can be defined as the body’s reaction to perceived threats, challenges or emotional pressure. Initially, the body’s reactions can include autonomic nervous and endocrine system changes caused by the production of stress hormones. These stress hormones have physiological effects that “flood” the various systems of the body to prepare you to deal with your “stressor”. Changes include the common “fight or flight” responses such as increases in breathing rate, heart function, perspiration, blood pressure and muscle tension. Each person can usually identify a personal “template” of responses that affect you when you are feeling stressed.

Your personality type and approach to problems will affect your level of stress. How you perceive the situational factors of the “stressor” will also affect the relative “control” you have to manage it. “Stressors” can be positive (eustress) and negative (distress).



Exercise to relieve stress: Leading a healthy lifestyle to relieve stress

The connections between leading a healthy lifestyle and the benefits to your mental health are well documented. There is a growing understanding of the common lifestyle areas that are recommended to help you manage the effects of stress. These include quitting smoking; eating healthily to reduce obesity; moderating your alcohol consumption, sugar and caffeine intake; being social; participating in mentally challenging, cultural, enjoyable, and creative activities; practising relaxation techniques that can include meditation, mindfulness or self hypnosis; sleeping well; participating in some form of physical activity or exercise.

When you can “tick the boxes” related to these lifestyle areas (without being compulsive with any particular lifestyle activity), you are likely to be undoing the effect that stress has on your emotional and physical wellbeing.



Pre-exercise considerations

Before participating in any planned physical activity or exercise to relieve stress, it’s important to check with your doctor that you have no contraindications to exercise. Where appropriate, employing an activity professional such as a gym instructor or coach to supervise your performance in the early stages will help you to build confidence and set goals in your activity. The professional will teach you how to warm up and cool down, emphasise best technique and progressions, identify safety issues, take into account your prior learning and health limitations, teach you how to incorporate breathing into the activity, overcome any exercise bad habits etc. When you have gained confidence in your activity, you may prefer to continue independently.

If you have no medical issues that prevent you from exercising, identifying a physical activity that you enjoy and find challenging is likely to have a positive impact on your stress. You are also more likely to continue participating in this activity in the long term.

Persevere with any new activity through the (usually stressful) “break-in” period of about 5-6 sessions to develop a reasonable level of competence and feel integrated into the activity, situation or membership.



Exercise to relieve stress: Types of exercise

There are many components of fitness that emphasise how the body can move including the components of power, speed, muscular endurance, agility, coordination and accuracy.

For general fitness, there are 4 broad categories of exercise. They include endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.

Current NHS advice suggests exercising for at least 150 minutes per week of cardiovascular physical activity or up to 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity ideally spread over 3-4 days. In addition to this, 2 sessions of strength training physical activities per week is also needed for optimal health benefits. Any (safe) physical activity is better than being sedentary; start with small goals and gradually build up your momentum.

Exercises that develop your endurance

Jogging exercise to relieve stress
Jogging is a popular endurance activity

These exercises are also known as aerobic or cardiovascular exercises since they increase your heart rate and breathing rate. They improve the health of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. Endurance physical activities include brisk walking or running, repetitive gardening activities, cycling, swimming, dancing, court sports like tennis and using cardio gym equipment.

Exercises that develop your strength

These exercises (also known as anaerobic or resistance exercise) keep your muscles strong. They help you to retain a level of independence with routine movements like getting in and out of chairs, climbing stairs, maintaining good posture when sitting, carrying shopping etc. Strong muscles (particularly core and lower body muscles) will help balance and help prevent fall-related injuries.

Strength training physical activities include using weights, resistance gym equipment and resistance bands doing exercises like weighted squats, bench press, lat pull downs etc. Exercises can also be performed with your own body weight or using non gym-related equipment depending on your current level of strength. By overloading your muscles progressively, start using lighter resistance in the form of repetitions and sets. Your strength can be developed gradually and with less likelihood of injury. This progression is particularly important for beginners and older adults.

A schedule of strength training exercises will benefit you more when working antagonistic pairs of muscle groups and working specific muscle groups on non-consecutive days to allow sufficient recovery time.

Exercises that develop your balance

General physical activity will help to maintain balance. However some physical activities will help to prevent falls when they focus on specific muscle groups of the lower body and the way that these muscles contract. Static (also known as isometric) contraction of “fixator” muscles can stabilise your posture and develop your balance. For example prolonged standing on one leg will encourage leg and hip muscles of the rooted leg to stabilise your body. Certain types of physical activity like Tai Chi and yoga combine static contraction of muscles with slow and precise movement of the limbs that can help stabilise of the body when you are active.

Exercises that develop your flexibility

When you lack flexibility, common activities like tying shoe laces or looking behind you when reversing the car can be difficult. General physical activity will help your flexibility, including walking. However, some physical activities and exercises will increase your specific joint range of movement throughout the body thereby allowing you to move more freely.

There are passive and dynamic stretching exercises that increase your flexibility, depending on how you perform the exercise. Examples include hamstring stretches and seated trunk rotations, but some activities like yoga is also renowned for developing flexibility throughout the body.

Muscles respond to stretching when you have warmed up. They are also responsive to stretching following strength exercises and cardiovascular exercises.

Activities that combine all components of fitness

Some physical activities will develop a particular type of fitness e.g. long distance running will develop your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance in the legs. However, some physical activities and sports can combine more than one type of fitness such as dancing, circuit training and open field sports such as football, rugby, netball and hockey, depending on how you move during the activity.

If you are deficient in certain areas of fitness (e.g. balance, flexibility and coordination, muscular endurance) and it is impacting on fundamental lifestyle functions such as climbing stairs or standing from a seated position, then a broad approach to exercising will benefit your lifestyle.



Exercise to relieve stress: How do you benefit?

Exercise releases your feel-good brain chemicals

Low mood is a common feature of negative emotional states like stress, depression and anxiety. Exercise (particularly aerobic) can boost the way that the body deals with stress by releasing the brains neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. The effect of these hormones is to boost your mood and sense of well-being, acting as an antidepressant. These hormones can also have a positive effect on attention, memory, problem-solving, low appetite and sleep cycles, which are common symptoms of low mood.

In addition to this, exercise can have an effect on the release of opioids from the brain. Opioids are responsible for regulating pain, the response to stress and control of the autonomic nervous system.

Long term exercise can help you deal with different bodily stress challenges and improve your energy levels.  If you want to exercise to relieve stress, staying with an exercise programme past the initial stages is important to reap the benefits of stress reduction. When you first participate in exercise (particularly high intensity exercise), your body releases one of the body’s stress hormones: cortisol. For the sedentary individual, exercise in the short term can increase stress levels (distress). However, with persistence to exercise into the long term, exercise can transfer into positive stress (eustress) as the body learns to accommodate and adapt to the effects of cortisol.

Exercise stimulates diaphragmatic breathing

Exercise diaphragmatic breathing
Exercise stimulates diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic tension is a common symptom of stress. Sometime referred to as “butterflies” or that knot you feel at the top of your abdomen. Breathing techniques can be used to release your diaphragmatic tension when doing more passive activities like meditation. Breathing techniques are usually emphasised in activities like yoga and Tai Chi.

The reason that you may feel relaxed after exercise is that the oxygen demands during exercise stimulate deeper breathing; you have to access diaphragmatic breathing to balance your circulation. So if you don’t know how to breathe to relax, have anxiety when thinking about breathing or the activity of meditation is not dynamic enough for you, you can use the oxygen breathing demands in any “overloading” physical activity or exercise to relieve stress.

Exercise can release muscular tension

In addition to diaphragmatic tension, stress can also cause muscle tension and pain (migraines, headaches etc.) throughout the body. Other common areas of tension include the pelvic floor and jaw joint due to teeth grinding. Neck, shoulders, hips and muscles of the back can accumulate tension due to recurrent static postures like sitting at a desk for hours. Muscle tension can then exacerbate previous injuries or muscular-skeletal deformities.

Some physical activities and exercises like yoga and Tai Chi and weight training can target specific muscle groups by mobilising the joints and stretching the muscles in which you feel tension or lack muscle tone. Other physical activity movement like dancing can be generalised but is still beneficial to your tense muscles.

Most people can accept how poor mental health from acute stress can affect your physical wellbeing and create acute physical stress symptoms. This relationship is reciprocal however. When you have negative physical symptoms, it can influence a negative mood into catastrophic thinking, over generalisation etc. Thus, by taking care of your physical health symptoms with physical activity and exercise, your mental health can also benefit.

Exercise can be competitive (goal-oriented) or non-competitive

Competition can be both good and bad for stress depending on your beliefs, your strategy and the level of importance that you place on the competition. Developing an approach to lower your performance anxiety can help you access a performance zone in which you can get the best out of your physical and mental ability. This ability to cope with competition stress can be beneficial for both the elite performer and amateur performer when in competition.

When you have performed well in physical activities like sports that have competitive goals, it can enhance your sense of achievement and convert the negative stress into (positive) eustress. In the long term, competitive physical activities can help you adapt to the effects of negative competition stress. For the amateur performer, physical activity can help you build resilience to other life stressors by using the sporting situation as a model for coping with “real” life stressful situations.

For those who want to avoid the stress in competitions, but want to use exercise as a way of adapting to stress, your competitiveness can be internal. Setting internal goals can help you maintain a level of motivation without being overwhelmed by a competition. You can set and achieve your own internal goals relating to your repetitions, sets, weight (load), speed, distance, duration, frequency etc. depending on the type of activity and what you personally want to achieve.

Or for those who prefer non-competitive situations that are low on the stress scale, you can “go with the flow” and consider brisk walking in scenic areas. In your picturesque surrounds, you may hardly notice that you are exercising.

Exercise can be meditative

Meditation has been shown to lower stress. Some exercises like yoga and Tai Chi can be considered as meditative in which you breathe, “still” your mind as you focus into your thoughts and movement. This is in contrast to those competitive situations in which you need to focus into what you and your competitor are doing to overcome them.

Other repetitive individual endurance physical activities like running, cycling, swimming and rowing can also be an “exercise” in meditation (or mindfulness) in which you also breathe, disconnect from the world around you and get absorbed into your thoughts. Routine activity gives you the opportunity to “zone out” and deal with peripheral issues. Some athletes report how you can solve problems in a self hypnotic state whilst you exercise. At the end of the activity, you feel released from the stresses of the day.

But even weight training can be meditative with some athletes claiming that the ability to use focused thinking can improve your performance. Again, as with endurance activities, before and during weight training lift, you can breathe, use affirmations and practise mental rehearsal (visualisation) or self hypnosis to access your peak lifting performance zone. After the weight training exercises, the mental and physical rituals have helped you to lower your stress.

Exercise can be social or solitary

Social exercise to relieve stress
Exercise can be an excellent social activity

Engaging in social interaction with your network of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances can encourage social support from others. Social support is considered to be an important strategy to help alleviate stress. It’s particularly beneficial for the socially gregarious and extrovert participants who feel more secure in the presence of others (and in larger groups).

When you are engaged in conversation with good listeners it can give you an opportunity to off-load and verbalise your problems. You can welcome the opinions of others to alter the perception of your own problems. Listening to others can help you consider your level of stress in a wider context. It can also develop confidence in your stress management strategies when you make suggestions for others to consider.

Group physical activity and exercise can encourage the opportunity for social interaction and the development of friendships helping you to alleviate stress. This might happen during the activity or with social opportunities after the event. Group participation can also be a motivator to participate if your friends have invited you to join them.

For those of you who have a degree of social anxiety and are more introverted, you can choose to participate in physical activities with smaller groups. For example, by playing badminton doubles or singles, you can limit your social interaction with your opponent(s) and doubles partner.

Alternatively, physical activity and exercise can be solitary, participating when you have the opportunity and at your level of competence without the interference from others, thereby lowering the stress of social anxiety.

Alternatively, if you are particularly self-conscious when exercising, you can exercise in the home. Or you can incorporate physical activity into other activities without drawing attention to the exercise e.g. by walking to work.

Exercise can build self confidence and self esteem

Situations are more stressful when they damage your self confidence and self esteem. If your work situation has caused you emotional setbacks, exercising (exorcising?) your negativity during physical activity can help you to balance your emotions in the many ways already described in this article e.g. stimulating the release of endorphins, improving cognitive function, releasing tension, achieving goals etc.

If your self confidence and self esteem are connected to your body perception, physical activity can be used to build your self esteem. Exercise can tone your body and strengthen muscles, improving your perception (and maybe other people’s perception) of your physical appearance. If you suffer with low self esteem connected to obesity, exercise can also help you to burn calories and reduce body fat, assisting in your weight reduction programme and boosting your self-esteem.


Exercise is an activity and can be so much more

Using activities to manage stress won’t help you access the cause of your stress; neither will they help you to finish an imminent project deadline. However, activities can help you to manage the effects of stress by engaging your attention into something else.

Doing nothing, or using negative coping strategies like smoking cigarettes, or even dwelling on stress can keep you replaying and exacerbating the issues, without taking control of the situation. This can be a common pattern for those suffering with anxiety and OCD. By identifying a physical activity that you enjoy, you can use exercise to relieve stress. It can serve as an effective break or time out from stress or from the recurrent negative thinking that can accompany it.

Lifestyle (physical) activities that can fulfil a variety of your needs are likely to give you higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, confidence and self worth, enabling you to escape from the stresses of your day. Physical activities like sport and exercise can offer a number of opportunities for those who have specific needs. For example, physical activity can:

Children exercise to relieve stress
Exercise develops psychomotor skills
  • Help you learn and develop psychomotor skills that can transfer into many life situations in the home and at work.
  • Be educational with progressions of attainment with or without exams.
  • Develop problem-solving abilities when competing against others.
  • Enhance your creative skills when participating in a variety sports.
  • Encourage social interaction particularly in team sports.
  • In the broader context of secular or folk religion, it can be a “religious” activity embracing aspects of ritual, emotion, devotion and community.
  • Be an enjoyable activity for many people particularly when it involves dance, music and social interaction. It can be fun when it gives you an opportunity to be playful and when you can laugh at yourself! Or it can be serious depending on what you want to develop in your physical activity.
  • Offer vocational opportunities for those who are passionate about human movement and its benefits. Careers include working as a participant (elite athlete), coach, instructor or teacher. Being employed in something you are passionate about and in which you have a personal interest can contribute to lower stress levels.



Exercise to relieve stress: Summary

There are many ways to manage stress. Physical activity and exercise is an effective way to integrate these benefits and relieve how your body and mind handles the symptoms of stress. It can also offer you physical and psychological health benefits when compared to some of the other stress management techniques. You can use exercise to relieve stress whilst lowering the risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes type 2.


 Exercise to relieve stress: for more information on stress management contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Coping with OCD

Coping with OCD

Coping with OCD: Obsessive Compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive compulsions. Whilst many sufferers take refuge in medication and therapy to treat OCD, the work is often incomplete and requires self-care and coping strategies to manage it. Coping with OCD takes practice and a lot of dedication to be well-implemented. With focused strategies, the benefits can change the way you lead your life. In the following article, ten of the best coping with OCD tips are listed that can help you become an expert of your own condition.

Coping with OCD word cloud
OCD coping strategies can complement your treatment



Coping with OCD tip #1: Use Relaxation Techniques

OCD, like many mental health disorders, manifests with physical and psychological states of stress and tension. It throws your mind and body into anguish as you battle with nagging obsessions and intrusive thoughts. A good coping mechanism that many sufferers use to manage these effects is to practise relaxation techniques such as deep breathing techniques to centre your mind. Relaxation techniques can take many forms, including self-hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness. Relaxation techniques can involve the use of imagery, visualisation and affirmations to focus your awareness in an engaging way.

There is growing evidence that relaxation techniques can play a significant part in your overall treatment. They have the advantage of being mobile; you can practise them anywhere, whether at home, at work or just relaxed breathing when you are on the go.

If you have tried relaxation techniques and found them to have limited benefit when coping with OCD, sampling a live hypnotherapy treatment will intensify the effect. Whilst relaxation is not the overall aim of hypnotherapy, hypnotherapists who specialise in teaching breathing techniques will transform your relaxed breathing ability to another level.



Coping with OCD tip #2: Challenge Your Thoughts:

Obsessive thoughts make up half of the struggle when coping with OCD. If you are exposed to triggers, they tend to rush in almost immediately and can set off your anxiety for hours afterwards. Some OCD patients with different types of OCD for example, describe that they have intrusive thoughts about harming someone; others worry about whether they have locked their doors securely, turned off the oven, or even have paranoid scenarios about the safety of their loved ones if they are away from them.

When these thoughts perpetuate, you can feel like you are a victim of these thoughts. Managing these distressing thoughts or reducing their power, will alleviate many of the compulsions that stem from them. But, unfortunately, trying to resist these thoughts by fighting them might achieve the opposite result, as it is the lack of flexibility with these thoughts that give them their power over you. In a sense, you can end up repressing them and giving them too much importance.

Coping with OCD effectively requires techniques like exposure to these thoughts or the expression of these thoughts to deprive them of their power. For example, you can benefit by using a journal and writing your thoughts down, or typing them on your smart phone or laptop. The method is to simply write these thoughts as many times as you want or express your feelings or worry regarding them. Alternatively, you could use a daily writing period of 15 minutes specifically made for worry. To your mind, this will be a time where it can vent all that disturbs it in a “safe zone” but it’s important to stay limited by a timeframe so that constructive worrying doesn’t take over your day.

Question thoughts to cope with OCD
Questioning your thoughts can help deprive them of their power

If free expression of your thoughts isn’t always effective, it is also useful to “question your thoughts”, again on paper or your “tech” device. Ask hard questions about the truth and credibility of these thoughts. Do you have evidence for their truth? Is it strong evidence? How do you know you are not wrong? And what would be a realistic understanding of the situation if you are certain?

As an additional or alternative activity, make an audio recording of your written content. Then listen to your recording, interacting with your content to vent or challenge your obsessive thoughts.



Coping with OCD tip #3: Identify Your Triggers

Your OCD compulsions and thoughts do not arise in a vacuum. They are the result of triggering cues, situations or beliefs that make the distressing compulsions necessary to please. They create doubt and worry or generate irrational fears over which you have very little control. However, whilst such triggers play this important role, many OCD patients who haven’t studied their situation well can remain oblivious to how and why certain triggers set off their symptoms.

When you are coping with OCD effectively, you are able to identify your triggers and pay attention to how they create your fears and anxiety. General examples of such triggers can be using a public toilet seat that you believe is contaminated, attending a job interview or a social meeting where you obsess about what you did wrong, or the lack of symmetry and order in certain places that you visit.

Without a good understanding of how and what affects you, you can be a constant victim of OCD. One good technique to use is to keep a notebook and record your triggers, and then rate their emotional intensity out of 10. Since the most intense are likely to give you sustained distress and severe OCD symptoms, focus on managing the lower levels to build confidence. Then gradually approach the higher levels. For example, you could focus all of your attention whilst wiping the public toilet seat so that you can be assured that it’s cleaned well enough and won’t contaminate you. If it’s a job interview that you obsess over, set moderate standards about how it can progress. This will enable you to deal with it more effectively at the interview and in your review of your performance to pre-empt your OCD symptoms from emerging.



Coping with OCD tip #4: Confront Your Fears

The next step that can give you power over your triggers is your ability to confront your fears. Of course, all OCD fears can be very distressing to you, but they are, in fact, quite illusory. You can confront your fears with graduated exposure, paced at a level that suits you. For example, a source of panic can be a dirty floor, disturbing asymmetry in objects, or a job assignment that fills you with debilitating perfectionism. Sometimes, your worst fear can be to lose control and feel contaminated, feel guilty or fear failure.

Use a grading notebook to rate your fears out of 10 and then make a plan to expose yourself to the least fearful thing in the list. When you withdraw from the fearful situation, use the relaxation techniques (from tip #1) to visualise remaining in the “fear zone”. Immerse your mind in that low level of fear, gradually allowing it to disperse without the need to physically do anything. The achievement is to keep it as a mind process, gradually noticing that the fearful emotion at these lower levels can be diminished without force.

Like many sufferers who are coping with OCD effectively, this is a highly useful practice to be able to tolerate your anxiety over time, even for your worst fears.



Coping with OCD tip #5: Do some physical activity (exercise)

Coping with OCD exercise
Exercise can have a positive effect on irrational thinking

The benefits of exercising are vast, and they certainly include the efficient coping with OCD symptoms. Regular exercise (with integrated rest days) can have a lasting positive effect on your susceptibility to stress and tendency to adopt negative and irrational thinking.

Following a medical health check to investigate if you have any contraindications to exercise, regular enjoyable exercise has the ability to rewire your body and mind. With enough commitment you can escape the dark pit of constant reactivity to triggers and repetitive OCD behaviours.

If you want to keep your OCD under control, take up an easy exercise plan that suits your schedule and stay committed to it. Coupled with other coping techniques, exercise will have a major role in changing your OCD symptoms for the long-term.



Coping with OCD tip #6: Talking to others about your OCD

This tip is one of the most dismissed and underrated ways to cope with OCD. While many other techniques have a direct effect on your behavioural and psychological symptoms, the act of talking about your OCD and sharing your experiences can completely reframe your attitudes to the condition.

OCD is not just a simple compulsive reaction to disturbing triggers; rather it’s a complex mental health condition where your symptoms can also thrive in the feelings of shame, lack of self-knowledge, and psychological vulnerability. In times of anxiety and obsessive thinking, for instance, you can lack realism and the psychological fortitude that talking about your condition can bring about.

Sharing your struggle and outlook on your situation with other people builds acceptance and openness to your inner world. It also fosters social belonging and the realisation that you are not alone. You may know some isolated sufferers with OCD. You will find they are more likely to engage in distorted thinking and feelings of worthlessness. These negative moods can aggravate your symptoms.

So, to step away from an isolated perspective, it is important to find friends or close individuals who make you feel safe and are interested in listening to your struggles. Some those people are probably good listeners and with an understanding of your OCD condition can follow helpful listening guidelines.



Coping with OCD tip #7: Seek effective Therapy

Research shows that Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is most effective form of treatment for treating OCD. It represents a treatment of the two forms in which OCD presents itself; recurring obsessions and connected behavioural compulsions. Research has also shown that ERP can be incorporated into other treatment modalities like hypnotherapy.

Making use of ERP therapy will address your issues at a more fundamental level, especially with the help of a therapist. ERP will challenge your believed fears using questioning techniques, exploring your over-generalisations, catastrophic thinking and other cognitive distortions. It will then focus on exposing you to your fears and developing your self-control to resist doing your compulsions. For example, if you fear contaminated toilet seats, you are helped to use a toilet seat and then to proceed without any de-contamination behaviour such as “excessive” hand or body washing. You are supported as your contamination-fears diminish. Breaking that thought/emotion-behaviour pathway is the essence of ERP.

All obsessions remain fearful and disturbing when they are not tolerated at first. For that reason ERP tries to reveal to your mind and body how the fear of the trigger is harmless and recoverable without behaviour. Initially it’s very discomforting, but the longer you stay in the presence of those situations and triggers, the more you develop the strength and flexibility to cope with them.



Coping with OCD tip #8: Explore help from your community

Other than help from your therapist, seeking out extended forms of help will complement the work that you are already doing to assist your condition. There is a huge amount of resources and mental tools to be gained from other people and communities. Ignoring that resource will slow down your progress and make your strategies limited.

Anything from joining OCD associations, finding online communities, and making friends with other OCD sufferers can boost your skills and mood to cope with OCD. Reach out and ask questions or request help from your peers and friends. Many of these individuals can share with you their practical strategies that they use to handle their own OCD, strategies that you may not have thought about before. They might also help with recommending therapists, books, or local groups to join.

You may believe that you have all of the information that you need but even the exchange of sharing your learning with others will help you reflect on aspects that are specific to your condition. Discussions can also help you analyse the process and build confidence into what makes your learning so useful.



Coping with OCD tip #9: Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Attending to other lifestyle issues will help to stabilise your anxiety and impact on your OCD. If you are constantly lacking sleep and eating unhealthily, you will be an easy prey to fatigue. Poor sleep and diet can create a cycle that thwarts the efficiency of other coping techniques.

Coping with OCD sleep
Restful sleep can help stabilise your OCD

Start first by regulating your sleep habits and making sure to “hit the bed” on time. Your 7 or 8 hours of sleep needs to be a non-negotiable part of your day, preferably starting early at night to wake up early for a fresh and clear-minded day. As for diet, have your full meals well-spread throughout the day and make sure they consist of healthy foods. With commitment, sufficient sleep and healthy eating and will give you a firm baseline which can improve your energy levels and positive moods.

Other lifestyle issues than can impact on your physical health include limiting caffeine intake, quitting smoking and moderating your alcohol consumption.



Coping with OCD tip #10: Celebrate your wins and guard against relapse

In common with understanding your addiction triggers, it is often said that full recovery is only 50% of the solution and that maintaining your recovery is the other 50%. Many OCD patients fall for the mistake of thinking that once their recovery is achieved in the short term, their OCD is gone forever. However, this is a grave error as OCD is a chronic condition and can resurface if you don’t keep an eye on your routine, stress levels, and lifestyle habits.

A relapse is possible if, for example, you stop taking medication without informing your clinician. A relapse can also be common when, having partially confronted your fears and not performed any compulsions recently, your over-confidence lowers your guard and the OCD rituals gradually worm their way back into your life.

Being clear and honest about your progress helps you to pay attention to possible scenarios that can give room for OCD to reappear. In addition to this, it’s highly useful to celebrate your victories and keep progress of small achievements. Feeling proud of your consecutive wins against OCD will motivate you for your next challenges and, more importantly, remind you of the serious work that is still needed.


More information on professional treatment for OCD.


For more information on coping with OCD, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Find Lost Items With Hypnotherapy

Find Lost Items With Hypnotherapy

Find lost items with hypnotherapy: Have you lost* something valuable recently? The timing of “losing” something important and the urgency of needing it for its purpose can be impeccable. You’re rushing to do something, you get distracted, put the item down and’s vanished! Keys, phones and glasses are the favourites to be “lost” and with a frantic search these items are usually found again.

Find lost items with hypnotherapy
When you are in a rush, it’s so easy to lose something

It’s surprising how common it is to lose things. For the average adult, approximately nine minutes per day is spent looking for something that has been lost. Stress, rushing around and multitasking are common reasons given for why it’s so easy to lose something. With modern lifestyles, you could say that losing something is part of being human. Some researchers argue that there is a genetic predisposition to losing things.

Are you prone to losing things and searched everywhere for it? Don’t hit the panic button just yet! If what you have lost is invaluable to you, you may want to find lost items with hypnotherapy.

* The term “lost” is used throughout this article to refer to items being “misplaced”. Items that are misplaced may be put down in the “wrong” place due to you being distracted or because you are unable to remember where you placed them (i.e. the items are hidden from your memory). Lost items, however, could have fallen out of somewhere e.g. out your pocket or a bag or fallen behind large furniture without your active intervention. You would not have seen them fall or been aware of this event. In addition to this, someone else could also have moved them, changed the identity of them e.g. wrapped them in something, place them into another container or taken them without your prior knowledge.



Find lost items with hypnotherapy: Why do you lose things?

There are two main reasons why people lose things. The first reason is related to your attention. Where was your attention at the time that you placed the item down?

Stress, even when it’s temporary, can impair the usual processing stages of your attention. Your mind is absorbed into what you temporarily identify as the urgent priority and you are less thoughtful about what you are doing in that moment.

For example, a former client of mine had been burgled. They discussed how the burglary felt like their privacy had been violated. To their relief, their treasured possession had not been stolen. Still dominated by the trauma of the burglary and worried that the burglars may return, they decided to “hide the item, safe from harm’s reach”. Some weeks later they wanted to access the item. The “distraction” of the trauma and the motive for hiding the item was still so strong in their minds that they couldn’t remember where they had hidden it. It’s as if their motive had hidden it from everyone, including themselves. They used hypnotherapy to help them to relocate their treasured possession.

When under stress, the other less urgent functioning processes are running on an “emotional autopilot”. Ritualised organisational thinking habits of “this item normally lives here” or “I’m going to put this down in this location” can be momentarily displaced. You can fail to give the item (or the act of placing the item down) its usual “cue” (or something that will make it easy to retrieve from your memory later). When an action of placing the item down has not been encoded with a cue, it’s as if the item is placed down “anywhere”. If it’s not in your usual sight line or in its respective “home” (if it ever had one!), finding it again can take some effort.

As that effort increases and you are convinced that it is lost, it can have a direct affect on the second reason. The second reason that people lose things is related your memory. Your reaction to you noticing that the item is now lost and the desperate panic of trying to find it can affect your ability to recover the memory of where you placed it.

The more distressed your reaction, the harder it is to recall the lost item’s whereabouts. Torturing yourself for losing it, effectively buries the memory deeper into your mind. Wanting to know where the item is can help direct your search, but the individual emotional distress that you give to losing it and not being able to find it again can become a self-perpetuating cycle that inhibits this memory recovery process.



Find lost items with hypnotherapy: the distress of losing something

Whether you have lost something of sentimental value or financial value (or both), losing something churns up a whole host of grieving emotions that, as mentioned above, makes it more difficult to recover the memory of the item’s whereabouts.

Emotional distress when lost something
Losing something can churn up a whole host of grieving emotions

An open-ended situation like this demands closure, but there can be many negative emotions that stand in your way. Your deeper traits and background traumas can compound the stress in your search to locate it. Typical emotions include:

Embarrassment - Those of you who believe that you “never, ever lose anything” can feel embarrassed that you (of all people?) could actually end up losing something. You may not want to admit it in case others taunt you for being absent-minded.

Confusion and distrust - Is it the first time? Maybe these absent-minded rumours are forming true. If it’s happening time and time again, you can feel confused about how your brain is functioning and wonder if you can ever trust your mind again. Have you lost your mind too? Being told that it’s an “age thing” won’t reassure you.

Frustration, anger and despair – The time you spend searching and turning a room or the whole house upside down can drive your anger to rage. After the fifth search, you think that you are going crazy, especially when you can recall thinking about moving it to a “safe place”. Ironically, it’s a place that’s so safe that not even you can remember where it is. How many more times can you search before your frustration hits despair?

Guilt, shame, blame and denial - Have you let yourself or somebody else down? Failing to take care of your possessions (however it came to be being misplaced) can trigger guilt, shame and even blame that you have been negligent. For some, the shame may lead to denial by not admitting that the item is lost and then pretending that you’ll return it later. Or maybe it’s easier to blame somebody else for losing it like your partner who has a tendency to move your possessions when they tidy up. They must have moved it; otherwise it would be where it always is!

Fear – Can you cope without your treasured possession? When you lose something invaluable, you can grieve the material and emotional void in your life. This can leave you feeling anxious or panic-stricken that you may not ever be able to find it again. Can it be replaced? You can feel particularly anxious when the lost item belonged to someone else. Convinced that you have betrayed their trust, you fear that they may never forgive you for losing it.

For some, losing something activates a much deeper insecurity and fear of failure. It’s as if by losing something, you failed to “win” in this situation. Your competitive mindset to win at everything feeds your ego to always be right and not be wrong. A “must” win fixation here drives a deeper obsession that you can only stop your search when you have found it and “won” the situation. This fear of failure makes it difficult to access the memory of misplacing it.

Within the grieving cycle, the down moods may be mixed with some positive emotions:

Hope, determination, sadness and acceptance – Moments of hope can regenerate a deeper determination to search for your lost item again, especially when there is a search party to share your frustration. Building up your hopes again has the risk of an even deeper fall into sadness if you are unable to locate the lost item. Do you accept the loss or is there another option?

When it seems like your search is going around in circles, you may want to find lost items with hypnotherapy. Building up stress in your search to find your treasured possession has the effect of pushing the item deeper into the back of your mind. The harder you search, the harder it is to remember where you left it. If you believe that the item is extremely valuable and worth a deeper “mind” search, you can find lost items with hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy can reconnect you with the memory of where you left it.



How you can find lost items with hypnotherapy?

Find lost items with hypnotherapy
You can find lost items with hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy can calm your mind to help recover a memory

The emotional distress of losing the item is blocking your memory recovery capabilities. Hypnotherapy can be used to relax the mind and lower your emotional distress. In a relaxed state, your attention can be focused into the details that lead up to loss, enhancing your memory potential to recall where the item was misplaced. This might include visualising experience-rich features about the location, other people present, feelings, what you were doing at the time and recalling your emotional state of mind.

Hypnotherapy can use regression to focus you into the event

Regression techniques are essential in this process to help you recall specific details of an event that you may not be able to recall under normal circumstances. They can be even more effective for recalling something when your mind is distracted.

With regression techniques, references are often made to the conscious and unconscious mind. Using this analogy, regression helps you to access the deeper levels of awareness in the unconscious mind, not normally accessible by the conscious mind. Some people believe that the unconscious mind acts like a continuous recording device and with the right prompt those memories can be recovered.

With a skilled regression hypnotherapist, the specialist techniques can enable you to observe these events objectively with new insights, guiding your mind through the precise details of event, the location and time period when the item was misplaced.

The specific language used by the regression hypnotherapist is also important. “Leading” language patterns (as opposed to “open” language) can “plant” false ideas that might deceive your imagination in to filling in the gaps with what is suggested to you. However, “open” questions and open language patterns and can enable you to view the situation with reduced bias.

Hypnotherapy can help you explore your retrieval memory cues

Whilst the hypnotherapist can be attentive to the language that might lead you in the “wrong” direction, progressive techniques can be used to trigger hidden memory cues that will bring you “closer” to the memory of the situation. This process of hypnotic context reinstatement can help you to visualise and recreate the details of the event, focusing on sensory stimuli like sounds, smell etc. Or attention can be given to your body awareness (kinaesthetic) cues to activate the memory of placing something down.

Similarly, by identifying the motive that distracted your attention e.g. “I need to hide this item”, progressive hypno-analysis techniques like “parts therapy” can be used to analyse your motive as a “part” of your mind with its own thinking strategies. When this “part” or motive is accessed, it may then communicate how “it” was thinking when you misplaced the item and then divulge to the other parts the likely location of it.

Hypnotherapy can help you develop an effective search strategy

Endless searching can cause a frustrated search mode that keeps you looking in the same “wrong” places. Your own beliefs about where the item ought to be can cause you to block seeing them in another location; you’re just not expecting to see them in a different place. Ask someone else to search with you and they might find it because they search with an “open” mind.

Devising a systematic strategy after you have dissociated your stress can recreate a strategy that is disciplined, methodical, organised and thorough.

Find lost items with hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy can treat some of the emotions affecting your memory loss

Do you regularly lose things?

If you are prone to losing things, your hypnotherapy treatment can treat some of the emotions that are overloading your mind. It can help install some memory cues and habits to reduce the frequency of you misplacing items in the future.

Will hypnotherapy help you find something if you were under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs at the time of misplacing it?

Whilst there may be some level of recall whilst under the influence, the ability to remember where you misplaced the item will be diminished. It may be worth exploring hypnotherapy treatment if what you have misplaced is extremely valuable.


For more information on how you can find lost items with hypnotherapy, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching Treatment

Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching Treatment (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment: Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Mild bruxism may not need treatment, but as a severe condition, it can cause the sufferer a number of complications affecting your teeth, jaw, face, head and quality of your sleep.
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment
Bruxism can affect your teeth, jaw, face, head and quality of your sleep
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are involuntary reactions to negative emotions. Performed repetitively, these reactions can become unconscious habits without the sufferer being aware of an immediate stressor. Bruxism can be categorised into “awake bruxism” and “sleep bruxism”. As a reaction to certain stimuli, the involuntary daytime habit of jaw clenching is predominant with “awake bruxism”. With “sleep bruxism” however, both teeth grinding and sustained episodes of jaw clenching can become automated nocturnal behaviours. Primary bruxism is a further categorisation of bruxism in which it occurs without any prior or connected medical conditions. Secondary bruxism has links with certain medication, lifestyle-substances, medical and psychological conditions. Sleep bruxism can also be associated with certain sleep disorders. Both children and adults can suffer with bruxism, but the condition is most common with adults aged between 25-44 years old. There is no specific cure for bruxism. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatments usually focuses on the management of physical symptoms. Since negative emotions contribute to bruxism, hypnotherapy can play an essential part in your jaw clenching and teeth grinding treatment.    

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment: Bruxism causes

The exact cause of bruxism is not completely understood. It can be due to a combination of psychological, physical and genetic factors. Any potential teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment would match the underlying cause. There are certain factors that will increase your risk of developing bruxism: Age – Bruxism is prevalent in young to middle adulthood. Personality – Certain personality types can increase your risk of bruxism including those who are might fall under the classification of Type “A” personality. It includes competitive, aggressive, perfectionist, hyperactive and impatient personalities. Those with generalised anxiety and non-assertiveness characteristics can also be prone to bruxism. Family members with bruxism – If your family has a history of bruxism, you may be genetically predisposed to developing the condition. You may also learn bruxism behaviour from relevant authority figures. Medication and other lifestyle substances – Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can be a side effects of certain antidepressant medication. Other lifestyle substances that may increase the risk of bruxism include drinking alcohol or excessive caffeinated drinks, smoking tobacco, and using recreational drugs. Other medical conditions – Bruxism can be associated with medical disorders, mental health disorders and sleep-related disorders. These include dementia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, GERD, ADHD, depression and anxiety. Sleep related disorders include obstructive sleep apnoea and other parasomnias like sleep talking and hypnagogic hallucinations.    

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment: Psychological factors

Stress and anxiety are considered as the originating, predisposing and perpetuating factors for many medical conditions. Stress and anxiety are major contributing factors for teeth grinding and jaw clenching habits.
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment
Stress and anxiety is a major cause of bruxism
Along with the diaphragm, pelvic floor, and neck and shoulders, the jaw is a primary area to hold stress-related muscle tension. When you are in the “fight or flight” survival mode triggered by alertness to danger, the muscles around the jaw may contract as an innate or learned symptom of stress. The survival response of a general panic attack (which may also include jaw tension) is easily observed with phobias. Consider another situation like when you have crossed the road, but not noticed a car speeding towards you. You can identify the source of your immediate “danger” as the speeding car. For most people, the survival response will create a reaction where you contract the necessary voluntary muscles to dash out of the car’s pathway. In that situation, your jaw contraction may have been part of the “flight” physical template. With anxiety, the intensity of the danger is not usually as acute as the stress of the “speeding car” situation, but it can be recurrent. In addition to this, the situation triggering your anxiety may be weeks ahead and you may not always be able to identify the source of your “threat”. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching habits may persist throughout the period of anticipation and become a “standard” habitual coping mechanism when you worry about impending situations like an interview, exam or presentation. Other negative emotions such as frustration and anger can also trigger this recurrent survival response from a situation that has already happened. With frustration or anger the “danger” could be a threat to your self-esteem. For example, when you are angry, there is a “threat” that you are not being understood, your expectations are not being met, that you may lose control of a situation, or that you appear worthless or stupid. Constructively releasing your frustration or anger can help lower the stress related to your survival response. There are many ways to achieve this. Being able to “voice” your emotion is one useful venting method. However, in situations where you are unable to express these emotions in that moment, you may repress your frustration or anger. The emotion may then be “shelved” and “resurface” to be processed at a later time in other emotionally-related or non-specific situations. Some previous clients who have received teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment have mentioned that with daytime bruxism, the bruxism habit can be automated when concentrating on important work, where there is “danger” of being criticised from your boss or failing something like an assignment. The bruxism habits can also be active when doing something routine like housework or driving. For some drivers, driving is the trigger for anger (!), especially when you are stuck in traffic or you are running late and then are at risk of being judged for poor time keeping. Other clients who have received teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment have mentioned how their bruxism symptoms have acted as repressed coping mechanisms in past “double binding” situations. With these clients, previous abuse and excessive control from cruel partners or overly strict parents had compromised their ability to express their frustration or anger. They were abused when they remained silent, yet any attempt to answer back the abuser would have been met with more abuse or severe punishment (a double binding situation). In these toxic relationships, clamping your jaw shut to “say nothing” was the method of survival. After leaving the relationship, these bruxism symptoms had stayed with the abused clients until seeking therapy. Is there a link between “awake bruxism” and “sleep bruxism”? Some researchers suggest that when you are unable to fully discharge these negative emotions and physical symptoms in the daytime, they can then be “replayed” during your dreams. Sleep bruxism thus potentially serves this nocturnal reprocessing function in an attempt to release the “unspent” frustration or anger from prvious situations, or to manage the anxiety of future negative situations.    

Bruxism signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bruxism can include:
Bruxism dental attrition
Damaged teeth is a major symptom of bruxism
  • Audible (loud) teeth grinding and jaw clenching that can wake your sleep partner.
  • Damaged teeth with eroded enamel or teeth that have become flattened or fractured. This can affect how food is chewed sometimes causing you to bite the inside of your cheeks or your tongue.
  • Teeth that have become sensitive and painful.
  • Jaw joint problems – The TMJ (or temporomandibular joint) can become painful, fatigued especially when chewing food (abnormal bite), displaced (pops or clicks with movement), locked or cause other complications.
  • Structures (muscles) surrounding the TMJ can become painful e.g. neck, face, ears (causing earache) and temples (causing headaches).
  • Disrupted sleep and general fatigue caused by bruxism symptoms.

How is bruxism diagnosed?

The early stages of mild bruxism may be self diagnosed or identified by your sleep partner. You usually experience mild intermittent symptoms of discomfort and pain which may be treatable with pain killers prescribed from you GP. Progressive symptoms of teeth grinding are usually diagnosed by your dentist and then observed over subsequent visits.    

Common teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatments

Common teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment usually falls into the following categories: Dental treatment: Prescribed splints and mouth guards and help to keep the teeth surfaces apart. Your dentist may also correct teeth surfaces to reduce sensitivity and the ability to chew properly. Medication: Your GP may prescribe muscle relaxants, antidepressants or anti anxiety medication. Botox injections can also help severe bruxism. Treating associated conditions: Treating an associated condition such as changing the medication or having a referral to a specialist may help reduce the bruxism symptoms. Therapy: Therapy can help you manage the emotions behind your symptoms    

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment: Hypnotherapy

With nearly 70% of bruxism being caused by stress and anxiety, and hypnotherapy’s reputation for treating automatic unconscious behaviours (habits) like nail biting and hair pulling, hypnotherapy can be considered the ideal choice for teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment. Is there any hypnotherapy research related to bruxism? Hypnotherapy research is limited, but there is some evidence of its effectiveness. There are case studies exploring causal emotional connections with bruxism e.g. with a client’s stressful family history and another client’s hostile childhood. However, one study noted the benefits of hypnotherapy within a small test group using post treatment self reports and EMG recordings. How can hypnotherapy contribute to your teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment? Hypnotherapy can treat the emotions connected to your bruxism Your teeth grinding and jaw clenching habits will be associated with emotions that launch you into your negative behavioural patterns of coping. Anger, frustration and anxiety are the common emotions that drive the behaviour. Identifying and treating these emotions will help break down the surrounding cognitive structures that maintain your bruxism. Hypnotherapy can help you manage stress and physical tension Incorporated into the hypnotic treatment process are stress management techniques that can help your physical reactions to stress e.g. learning self hypnosis and breathing techniques. Your hypnotherapy treatment will also target the areas of your body most affected by bruxism, particularly the muscle tension in your jaw. In hypnosis you are more open to accept suggestions to relax these muscles and integrate these physical changes when you feel under pressure. Hypnotherapy can identify and remove the cause of your bruxism habit Habits have an origin with a surrounding belief system that fulfilled your needs in that moment. Over time, the habit became integrated. The physical habit is now redundant but the needs continue to influence your behaviour. Regression techniques can be used to identify these “causal” issues and reframe the needs-habit association. You are then open to change your perception of your past needs and to embrace new behavioural ways to cope with these needs. Hypnotherapy can break the triggers that surround your habit The repetition of your teeth grinding and jaw clenching will have converted a conscious habit into an unconscious one. In the early stages of the treatment, you will be more conscious of these situational triggers and your urge to grind your teeth and clench your jaw. Positive suggestions will target this urge to relax the muscles that are now primed to tense up when the situations prompt you.
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment
Hypnotherapy can help you reprogram your unconscious behaviour
Hypnotherapy can help you reprogram your unconscious behaviour The unconscious mind is considered to hold many automated behaviours like nervous blushing and sweating. Unlike the conscious mind, the unconscious mind acts without thought or reason, maintaining habits once they become established. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are more examples of unconscious automated behaviours that happen during your day. These behaviours can then leak into your sleep patterns where you have no control over your actions. It can be difficult to consciously “will” yourself to change these behaviours, bypassing the cognitive command centres of the conscious mind and accessing your unconscious mind directly. When you are in a hypnotic, relaxed state, the “doorway” to these unconscious habits is accessible. You can then embrace suggestions to change these unconscious bruxism habits without the interference of the conscious mind.  

For more information on teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment with hypnotherapy, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Overactive Bladder Treatment

Overactive Bladder Treatment

Overactive bladder treatment: Overactive bladder is term used for a group of urinary symptoms. Overactive bladder can have a significant effect on the quality of your life provoking an intense “gotta’ go” feeling when you least want or need it. Overactive bladder has the following symptoms:
Overactive bladder treatment
Urinary urgency can be unexpected and uncontrollable
Urgency: The most common symptom of overactive bladder is the urge to urinate. This urge is often unexpected and uncontrollable. Frequency: Depending on the amount you drink and other lifestyle factors, some people’s frequency to urinate is considered manageable and healthy. Most people pass urine 6-8 times per day without any concern. With overactive bladder however, the frequency to urinate is another symptom of the condition that can be excessive and accompanied by this intense urge. You may also pass or feel the need to pass urine several times during a short interval. Urge incontinence: Your urge to urinate in that moment can be so strong that it causes you to leak urine (also known as urge incontinence). This adds to one’s feelings of embarrassment and humiliation. Others may get to the toilet on time and remain continent, but the fear of having an accident can make the urge feel increasingly more desperate. Nocturia: Overactive bladder can affect you during the daytime and through the night. Also known as nocturia, the need to pass urine through the night can be exhausting, disrupting your normal restful sleep patterns.   Overactive bladder affects about 12 % of the adult population. It can affect people of all ages, including young children and the elderly. If you are seeking overactive bladder treatment, first consult with your GP to identify any if there are any underlying health problems that are connected to your overactive bladder symptoms. Your GP may refer you to a consultant for further tests. If no underlying health problems have been identified or if you have not benefitted from any prescribed overactive bladder treatment from your medical practitioner, hypnotherapy can help treat your (neurogenic) overactive bladder symptoms. It can also help you cope with the stress and anxiety associated with your symptoms alongside other medically prescribed treatments.    

Overactive bladder treatment: bladder functioning

The kidneys produce urine that drains into your bladder. With normal bladder functioning, the bladder muscle (detrusor) is relaxed as urine progressively fills the bladder. The gradual stretching of the bladder triggers the urge to want to pass urine when the bladder is about half full. This moderate sensation can be controlled for most people for a reasonable period of time until it is convenient to use a toilet. When you want to urinate, nerve signals instruct the bladder muscle to contract and push urine out of the bladder and into the urethra. These nerve signals are coordinated with the relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles and urethral sphincter muscles as urine passes out of the body. With overactive bladder, the nerve signals between the bladder and the brain become “faulty”. Sensations of bladder fullness may be triggered prematurely. The bladder muscle becomes overactive and involuntarily squeezes on the bladder too early. This creates the sudden, persistent and uncontrollable urge to urinate even when the bladder isn’t full. The volume of urine passed each time by a normal adult can vary between 250-400 ml. Most people can hold on between 3-4 hours between visits to the toilet. With overactive bladder the volume of urine passed each time may be between 100-200 ml. Your urination frequency may be hourly.    

Overactive bladder treatment: what causes overactive bladder?

There are many medical conditions that may contribute to an overactive bladder which should be discussed with your GP. These include:
  • Diabetes.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Menopausal hormonal changes in women.
  • Neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and following spinal cord injuries.
  • Specific bladder abnormalities like bladder stones and tumours.
  • Other factors that can affect bladder flow and incomplete bladder emptying (voiding) including enlarged prostate, constipation, weakened pelvic floor muscles from childbirth and previous incontinence surgery.
  • Reduced cognitive function affecting bladder control e.g. related to aging.
  • Taking medication that has a diuretic effect.
An overactive bladder treatment will be relevant to your underlying medical condition. Treatments can include medication, incontinence products and surgical procedures.   In many cases of overactive bladder, the exact cause of the symptoms is not fully understood. There are lifestyle factors that can contribute to your overactive bladder symptoms. Changing your lifestyle could form part of your overactive bladder treatment. Contributing factors can include:
Overactive bladder treatment drinking alcohol
Consuming large alcoholic drinks can contribute to overactive bladder
  • Drinking too many fluids, particularly those that may have a diuretic effect e.g. caffeinated or alcohol drinks.
  • Not drinking enough fluids. This might seem sensible to lower your frequency, but a lack of fluids can cause your urine to become too concentrated and irritate the bladder.
  • Having an excessive amount of acidic food and drinks. These can be considered bladder irritants e.g. fruit juice, tomato-based products, spicy food etc.
  • Suffering with constipation. The pelvic floor can be damaged when straining during bowel movements. Eating a high-fibre diet, drinking enough fluid and being active and help reduce constipation.
  • Having limited mobility. Restricted mobility can make it difficult to get to a toilet and increase your bladder urgency. Being physically active can increase bladder control.
  • Smoking. Smokers are more likely to have bladder control problems with a chronic cough. Quitting smoking can reduce these symptoms.
  • Urinating more times than is necessary. It can seem logical to go to the toilet “just in case”, particularly if you already fear being able to use a toilet for a while, but it can build a habit of urinating more than times than is necessary. Frequent urination does not prevent overactive bladder; it can make the symptoms worse in the long term as you get used to holding less urine and more sensitive to milder stretches of the bladder. Bladder retraining can help you prolong your urination urge intervals.
  • Being overweight. Obesity can be a contributing factor for overactive bladder in females. Excess body weight can increase abdominal and bladder pressure. Losing weight can help this possible cause.
  • You have weak pelvic floor muscles. This can be one of many causes of stress urinary incontinence and urge incontinence. Kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles (tensing the muscle that would stop urination midstream). General exercises (performed under supervision) that develop your core muscles, hips and leg muscles can also help strengthen your pelvic floor e.g. pelvic tilts, knee-ball squeezes, squats, bridges, bird-dogs, split table tops etc.

Overactive bladder treatment: emotional factors

Digestion can be affected by your moods and contribute to some symptoms of anxiety-related irritable bowel syndrome. Similarly, there is a strong connection between overactive bladder and those suffering with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. In a study, nearly 50% of patients with overactive bladder symptoms were also found to have anxiety. Does overactive bladder cause anxiety or vice versa? One study argues that there is an association between conditions like incontinence and anxiety. The physical and emotional link has been further substantiated in another study of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Your physiology and psychology can exacerbate each other, perpetuating a cycle of increased physical symptoms and heightened negative moods. The relationship doesn’t have to exist, but emotional states like anxiety and depression remain as risk factors for overactive bladder.
Nocturia waking several times in night to go to toilet
Nocturia-induced insomnia can be exhausting
When a medical condition is not treated and becomes long term, other anxiety-related conditions can accumulate and make the symptoms worse. As well as anxiety, those who suffer with overactive bladder can also have nocturia-induced insomnia, social isolation, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, fear of embarrassment (social anxiety), shame, low self confidence and low self esteem.   Stress can also be a risk factor for overactive bladder. When you are faced with a highly stressful situation like being chased by a wild animal, your evolutionary stress response or “fight or flight” system is activated by your emotions. Stress hormones are released to help you “fight” the danger or “flee” from it. Priorities are given to certain bodily functions over others. Most people can relate to the physical responses triggered by these stress hormones when you feel under pressure or feel overwhelmed. Physical responses include your heart beating rapidly, your muscles feeling a bit shaky, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, you sweat profusely etc. Even with moderate stress, these mild physical responses can be are activated and experienced. Your bladder is also affected by these stress hormones. Acute stress can cause your pelvic floor muscles to involuntarily relax and your bladder to suddenly empty. Relating this function to an evolutionary response, some people would argue that it’s easier to fight or run away from danger with an empty bladder. When you are under moderate pressure or stress, hormones can trigger a milder response in your body a moderate urge to urinate. The stress response can affect the urinary system in other ways too. When some people are experiencing stress, the urinary sphincter can clamp or tighten, making it difficult to urinate (also known as shy bladder or paruresis). Why it affects some people in this way is not fully known, but as another evolutionary response when you sense danger, it would be practical to “shutdown” some bodily functions until it’s convenient to urinate. With stress having the potential to over-stimulate bodily functions, some functions can become faulty. When you are in a state of constant hypervigilance, some researchers argue that the normal communication between the brain and urinary organs can become erratic. One urologist suggests that when you are anxious or stressed there may be an increase in urine production by the kidneys. With more urine being produced, it would have the natural consequence of increasing your normal urinary frequency.    

Living with neurogenic overactive bladder

Anxiety can weave its way into the management of any physical condition including overactive bladder. The fear of embarrassment or humiliation of having an accident in public may be central to what makes overactive bladder so problematic for those people who already suffer with a generalised social phobia. Even without having a social phobia, a condition like overactive bladder can become a specific feature of your anxiety when you consider a typical historical development from a young age. You may personally have had an accident, had near-misses or heard others mock those who have had an accident. Young children can feel embarrassed to ask a teacher to use the toilet in school. Even if you have the courage to ask the teacher to leave the class, your request may be met with an embarrassing public refusal. Unless there is a recognised medical reason, teachers often think that going to the toilet can be a reason for “bunking off” from the lesson. If you are allowed to leave the class, the awkwardness of leaving the classroom and then returning with the whole class looking at you can be unnerving for some children. Being taunted for something that is different to others is typical of how young children deal with insecurity. Trying to keep overactive bladder a secret from your peers can backfire if you have to keep leaving your peer group and disappearing somewhere. Unfortunately, suppressing a condition can make your anxiety worse increase your urinary urge symptoms. Being constantly worried and distracted about your overactive bladder and hoping to “ride it out” until break time can have a negative effect on your learning. Your distress may be heightened when you have the pressure of coping in exams. Strategies like limiting fluid intake can seem like a positive way of managing the condition but being excessively thirsty can also affect cognitive functioning. Cognitive functioning at school can also be impaired by the fatigue of insomnia. There is a strong connection between anxiety and insomnia. Anticipating and worrying about how you will cope with overactive bladder during the next school day can affect the quality of your sleep. Persistent waking can then start early patterns of nocturia-induced insomnia, creating the habit of going to the toilet each time you wake up and urinating when your bladder is only half full. As an older teenager, the quality of your social life can be disrupted knowing that alcohol will act as a diuretic. Using the toilet at the social venue allows you some respite, but the journey home can be agonising when you are inebriated with a large intake of alcohol and you have less control over your bodily functions. Rituals to urinate before your bladder is full can seem sensible when attending something important. You will habitually use the toilet before exams, lectures, work meetings, presentations, going to the cinema, theatre or to a concert performance. You may try to sit on an aisle seat or towards the exit to minimise disruption to the performance, developing a type of urinary-induced claustrophobia.
Overactive bladder treatment queue increasing urge
Waiting for the toilet can be a performance!
Managing public performance situations can leave you feeling on edge. You don’t want to leave it until there is a scheduled interval/break as the queues might be too long. You then fear that the toilet could be out of order. For women, you may feel disgusted that the public toilet is too filthy to use. You then build up your urge dashing to use another toilet situated in the other side of the building. Travelling with overactive bladder can be troublesome, particularly on public transport with groups or where you will only stop at scheduled intervals. You may feel too embarrassed or ashamed to communicate your overactive bladder to the driver. Travelling by car on motorways can seem like you are counting the miles to the next service station, even when you are in the driving seat. Flying can also be problematic with periods when you are advised not to use the toilet and need to remain seated. When the seatbelt sign is off, you have built up your urgency and you rush for the toilet to avoid queuing up. Even though you strategically plan the location of toilets in urban areas when you leave the house, fear of being stuck in traffic during peak times can intensify your urge. Travelling away from your home towards open spaces has the uncertainty of finding a toilet and can develop a type of urinary-induced agoraphobia. With a progressive overactive bladder, home becomes the safe place. You can live in the moment and feel relaxed. You have a toilet that you feel comfortable using and can (usually) use it at your convenience. Ironically, you may use a toilet less frequently when you know that one is available. The thought of leaving the house changes your feeling of security. This is how anxiety can affect the management of conditions like overactive bladder    

Overactive bladder treatment using hypnotherapy

There is some evidence that hypnotherapy can benefit your overactive bladder treatment. One study compared behavioural therapy alone with behavioural therapy using hypnotherapy. Both groups benefitted from the treatment, but the latter produced slightly better outcomes. In another study, patients with interstitial cystitis (a condition that also has symptoms of urinary urgency and frequency) were offered hypnotherapeutic imagery for their symptoms, others were offered rest. The hypnotherapeutic imagery used suggestions to heal the bladder, relax the pelvic floor muscles and calm the nerves that caused the condition. Three times as many people who used the hypnotherapeutic imagery reported moderate or marked improvements compared to the group that were offered rest only. Reporting these studies and other case studies, researchers argue that hypnotherapy can be used as an adjunctive procedure for overactive bladder treatment, helping to reduce the severity of symptoms and self efficacy. How can you benefit from hypnotherapy? Hypnotherapy can help you lower your general anxiety High levels of anxiety can keep you locked in a negative emotion-behaviour cycle. Your treatment will treat your general anxiety and explore if your condition has stemmed from other emotional issues. Hypnotherapy can integrate relaxation suggestions as part of the general hypnotic process. Your treatment will also teach you relaxation exercises and self hypnosis to empower you to control your anxiety outside of the treatment sessions. Hypnotherapy can target your specific overactive bladder anxiety In hypnosis, you are more receptive to accepting suggestions and affirmations without the interference of your conscious mind. Your overactive bladder condition will be discussed exploring your urgency, frequency, incontinence and nocturia symptoms. Hypnotic urinary-directed suggestions will also be personalised to treat your individual condition and treat your symptom-coping abilities. Hypnotherapy can lower your stress-related tension By overreacting to the subtle sensations of lower abdominal tension, you have formed habits that are exacerbating your condition. This may be causing the neural pathways to your urinary system to become faulty. Your treatment will examine how you are generally managing stress and develop new techniques to deal with lower abdominal muscle tension. Your treatment can also integrate recommended procedures like controlled voiding and pelvic floor exercises. Hypnotherapy will help you visualise your positive changes
Overactive bladder treatment visualisation
Visualisation can actualise your desired responses
Visualisation (also known as mental rehearsal and guided imagery) is a powerful mind tool that can prime your desired behaviour. For example, when you visualise controlling your urge response in a positive way, you are stimulating the neural networks to sense and feel changes in those parts of your body. With repetition, those positive changes become expected and it feels natural to behave as you want to imagine yourself. As your treatment progresses, visualisation can be used integrate other essential issues like trusting your body again, building your self confidence and your self esteem. Hypnotherapy can improve your nocturia-induced insomnia Waking up to go to the toilet several times through the night can be exhausting. You lay there wasting time, wondering whether you can drift off back to sleep or whether the urge will get stronger as your frustration builds up. Waking up drained of your energy can confirm that it’s easier to give in to your urinary urge. Hypnotherapy can improve your sleep quality and how you are controlling your nocturnal urinary urge. Hypnotherapy can reframe your past traumas The effect of previous accidents or near-misses can traumatise you, creating a surge of anxiety each time you feel anxious or deal with similar situations. Like a phobia, you feel threatened by those situations overwhelming you again. A regressive approach can be combined with solution-focused approach. Regression can help you to release the emotion from your past traumas and help you embrace the positive changes of your treatment goals.  

For more information on overactive bladder treatment using hypnotherapy contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Social Smoking When Drinking Alcohol

Social Smoking When Drinking Alcohol

Do you give in to social smoking when drinking alcohol?

For the aspiring non-smoker, it can be a recurrent problem setting up your non-smoking goals and then relapsing when you next socialise and drink alcohol. Not only do you wake up feeling guilty that you have crossed your own non-smoking boundaries, but you feel disgusted because your chest feels tight and you reek of cigarette smoke. Then you spend the morning coughing up the contents of what you’ve inhaled and feel hung-over from the heavy night’s drinking session. Does this sound like a night out that you wanted to avoid?

Social smoking when drinking alcohol
Is drinking alcohol connected to your social smoking lapse?

If your goal is to ultimately stop smoking, it’s important to appreciate the impact that your social smoking rituals and the affect that drinking alcohol has on your behaviour and brain chemistry. Combine the two and it can transform many people’s healthy smoke-free intentions into a “Jekyll and Hyde” night out.

Where does it all go wrong?

Social smoking when drinking alcohol: Adolescent social smoking

Nearly 80% of adults who smoke said that they started smoking before the age of 20. The reasons that people start smoking are very similar to the reasons that people start drinking alcohol.

Psychosocial factors play an important role in encouraging young people to smoke and to form habits that will keep them smoking. During this transition from adolescence into adulthood, the appeal is particularly strong to take risks associated with imitating adult behaviour. It can also be just as attractive to develop reactions that defy controlling behaviour from adult authority figures.

The desire to act like adults however is not matched with an adolescent’s level of brain development. Adolescents tend to be impulsive, ignoring the long-term consequences of short-term behaviour, and tend to lack the analytical decision-making skills that can come from experience. More notably, adolescent decision-making values are filtered though peer group influences.  Being praised or criticised by one’s peers motivates adolescents to act or avoid participating in situations.

It’s during these extreme shifts in one’s values that adolescents are particularly vulnerable to starting and persisting with smoking. Smoking cigarettes can seem normal, functional, and deceptively rewarding. It’s not surprising that smoker’s attach beliefs that when smoking, you are: relaxing, having fun, being daring, taking back control, being sociable, being admired and being “grown up”.

What continues the integration of these psychosocial values at a deeper level is repetition with a highly addictive substance. Habits can become consolidated and the “positive” beliefs can then form attachments to other situations. During times of stress or anxiety, the associations of relaxation, having fun etc. create the urge to smoke a cigarette to relieve this stress or anxiety. In addition to other intrapersonal factors, it’s during these habit-consolidation stages that a smoker will convert from being an intermittent social user to a higher personal dependency on nicotine. In other words, you become the “regular smoker” building your dependency on nicotine into addiction.

Contrary to this development, some people are able to place tight boundaries around their smoking rituals, ensuring that it stays within the domain of social situations. They may have already crossed-over into personal nicotine dependency for a many years before reverting back to occasional use. Or it was never their intention to become a “real” smoker, perceiving it as a socially-defined ritual from the start.

Social smoking when drinking alcohol: The social smoker

The social smoker is also known as the occasional smoker, the light smoker or the casual smoker. You may never buy a pack of cigarettes, but instead prefer to scrounge cigarettes off your mates. Without buying a cigarette, it may maintain a state of denial, helping to convince you that you don’t really smoke and could quit at any time. You may also believe that the intermittent nature of your smoking carries no health risks, but this is a myth as even second-hand smoke can harm your health.

Social smoking when drinking alcohol
Social smokers are convinced smoking it helps you to socialise

As a social smoker, you may view your smoking as a legitimised “dirty habit”, but continue because you are convinced that it helps you to socialise. Unlike some defiant smokers, you are respectful of and are sympathetic towards other non-smoker’s wellbeing. You will suppress your smoking habit in a situation if it is likely to set a bad example e.g. if smoking in front of young children. You will resist your urge to smoke if it might offend someone or be considered harmful to their health.

Your occasional social smoking ritual may involve binge smoking, as your patterns involve conforming to the social rituals of others. You lose track of the number of cigarettes that you smoke since you are unable to register having an empty packet. Over the course of a social weekend, the number of cigarettes that you smoke might exceed the level of a genuine “regular” smoker who smokes constantly throughout the week.

Social smokers may use nicotine for its psychoactive effects, such as for stimulation and pleasure. You are not addicted to nicotine, since you suffer none of the cravings, irritability or withdrawal symptoms in common with regular smokers. You are probably addicted to the ritual of smoking in social situations however, defined by some as a compulsion. Compulsions are prone to growing uncontrollably. With the potential for social-smoking being part of whole days spent during social weekends with your peers, your social smoking habits can place you on a slippery slope towards addiction.

Challenging peer group values and personal values

If your goal is to quit social smoking, it will mean confronting the identity and group culture of your peer group. Can it change or is your peer group defined by conformity? In some social group situations, many individuals want to change something negative about the group but fear being judged or evicted from the group.

Alternatively, quitting social smoking can involve strengthening your personal non-smoking values and believing that they are good enough for your peer group to accommodate. You can be proud to stand out as being different. Ultimately, if all that matters to the peer group is your conformity to do what they do, you may decide to join a different group that accepts you and the life that you want to lead – and not the life that others expect you to lead.

Social smoking when drinking alcohol: Adolescent drinking

Adolescent reasons for drinking alcohol are very similar to the reasons for starting smoking listed above. The reasons include peer pressure, self medication, defiance, sensation seeking, desire to take risks, and imitation of adult behaviour. As with smoking cigarettes, associating a potentially addictive substance with these values is likely to consolidate the “rewards” when combined with the repetition of drinking alcohol.

Another feature of drinking regularly is one of an increased tolerance to alcohol, whereby you need to consume more of it to have the same beneficial effect. Often, this means bypassing the initial “high” that you previously gained from it whilst in pursuit of your sought-after reward. At the physiological level, as your tolerance increases, you are changing your brain’s wiring system.

During the adolescent period, there is still a significant level of brain development. The short term effects of alcohol on the still-developing brain include lower cognitive attention, reaction, functioning and memory. Possible long term effects can include increased alcohol dependency.

There are many different reasons that someone can end up being dependent on alcohol to some degree, even if it means struggling to get through the weekend without at least one binge-drinking session. Having sustained periods to consolidate your “rewards” during adolescence when there is a significant amount of brain plasticity may form a deep association and possible dependency into adulthood that the only way to access these “rewards” is by drinking alcohol.

Combining alcohol into the social smoking mix

Not all adolescents smoke and drink alcohol, but these “gateway drugs” are often amongst the first experimental substances to be used concurrently. In one research study of smoking and drinking amongst youth over 98% of the sample of smokers also drank alcohol, suggesting that smoking is a reliable indicator of alcohol use.

The reasons that adolescents both smoke and drink relate to the same reasons listed above for drinking and smoking e.g. peer-pressure, looking cool, looking grown up etc.

Binge drinking and binge smoking
A cocktail effect of alcohol and cigarettes

Believing that both substances give you these rewards will compound these associations, integrating the links that smokers often make that drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes “go hand in hand”. When these rewards have been integrated, these combined substances can change your brain chemistry and deceive your brain into thinking that the respective behaviours of smoking or drinking will actualise these beliefs from one another. So when you are participating in one activity e.g. having a great time when drinking socially, the activity can act as a cue for the rewarding memory that powers your craving or urge to then smoke a cigarette.

Social smoking when drinking alcohol: The desire to quit smoking

As adolescents move into adulthood, values can change. What was previously considered a good habit can become a bad habit. The previous adolescent beliefs that activated your smoking or drinking habits may not be important to you, or may not justify your reasons to continue those habits as the young adult. Obviously, you don’t have to “look grown-up” by smoking cigarettes when you are a “grown up” adult for example.

The young adult will also create new beliefs and want to form new habits that complement that stage of your life. Attention to your health and the cost implications to maintain these habits can be reasons to change your habits.

In a survey, about a quarter of the adult sample that drank alcohol just wanted to cut down their alcohol consumption into “controlled drinking”, but not quit drinking completely.

In another survey, it was found that 70% of adult smokers wanted to quit smoking completely.

How does drinking alcohol socially affect a smoker’s ability to kick the smoking habit?

Social smoking when drinking alcohol: potential relapses

From my experience of helping clients quit smoking, one of the main reasons that people have previously lapsed and relapsed back into smoking is due to attending a major social drinking occasion in which several of the peer group smoked cigarettes.

When I’ve treated clients for smoking cessation, one of the biggest fears when stopping is to put in all of the hard work to not smoke for a few days, to then think that you have nailed it, only to lapse on a social drinking night out.

Many smokers quit using NRT, medication from the GP, with therapy or even with self help quit smoking methods. Some smokers may vape as a progressive shift away from smoking cigarettes. Adopting an effective quitting process can involve identifying your potential relapse triggers to prepare you for situations that will trigger your urge. Your stop smoking goals can run smoothly until you hit that situation that helplessly eliminates your good intentions.

When you have background experiences of social smoking when drinking alcohol, the force of habit can make this situation particularly difficult to change what you do when you are in that situation again. Deeply entrenched values from adolescence can form the learned associations that intensify the urge to lapse or relapse back into social smoking when drinking alcohol.

But it’s not just the background experiences that are causing these urges though. Once you have created the “cocktail” of chemical pathways by using both substances concurrently, there are research-based explanations that will then drive your urges to continue that behaviour. It will also explain why so many aspiring non-smokers lapse and relapse when they drink alcohol socially. The urge to smoke and drink together is not just a coincidence.

Why people are prone to social smoking when drinking alcohol

The research-based explanations for why people lapse (and relapse) into social smoking when drinking alcohol includes:

Rational decision-making processes are diminished when drinking alcohol

You can probably relate to the scenario when you have kept off cigarettes for a few days, are dealing really well with the cravings and think that you have cracked it! Then to you decide to enjoy a night out, drinking with your friends to celebrate. In the pub, they venture over to the outdoor smoking area and you join them without giving it a second thought.

Now, if you were driving and staying sober for example, your self-discipline would see this situation as a threat to your quit-smoking goals and would stop you in your tracks. Having shared a few rounds of drinks with your friends however, the implications of your smoking behaviour are rapidly brushed aside.

Social smoking when drinking alcohol
Moderate drinking raises your impulsivity

Even moderate drinking raises your impulsivity. It does this by increasing the amount of nor-adrenaline in the brain, elevating your levels of arousal and excitement. When drinking alcohol, it means that you are prone to seeking immediate rewards rather than the risks associated with those rewards.

Alcohol also removes your rational decision-making abilities by dampening activity in the pre-frontal cortex part of your brain. This means that you will find it hard to resist the offer of a cigarette because your inhibitions are reduced and you are not thinking about the consequences of your long term quit-smoking goals.

Nicotine counteracts the drowsy effects of alcohol

You may already be aware of the sluggish, depressant effects that a heavy drinking session can have on your mood as the night continues. Researchers have identified that the stimulating effect of nicotine can counteract the sleepiness caused by alcohol. This can explain why smokers crave a cigarette when they have drunk excessively and rather than “call it quits” for the night (knowing that you have had more than enough), you will use the stimulants in nicotine to prolong the evening. According to the research, nicotine thus increases your mental alertness, neutralising the sluggish effects of alcohol.

Alcohol and nicotine reinforces/eliminates the effects of one another

When you have had a few drinks and crossed the barrier of smoking one cigarette, the alcohol and the nicotine will be boosting the rewarding properties of the other substance. Nicotine and alcohol act on the same brain pathways, particularly on the mesolimbic dopamine system.

This process would substantiate why so many people say that smoking and drinking goes “hand in hand”; the feelings of pleasure are increased when you combine alcohol and nicotine, flooding your brain with high levels of dopamine and increasing the cravings of one another.

However, other researchers have argued that the combined effects of both substances aren’t all pleasurable. When smoking and drinking simultaneously, stress hormones effectively interact to cancel out the release of dopamine.

This research is suggesting that you feel happy when you smoke and drink separately, but when you smoke and drink together, drinking alcohol is first bringing up the happy memories of smoking. You then smoke a cigarette with your alcoholic drink and your dopamine levels drop. So you drink alcohol more to recover your dopamine and this reminds you of the pleasures of smoking...and so the reaction-cycle continues. Thos who smoke and drink together may find this process particularly tough to eliminate in that moment when a mix of different chemicals are flooding the brain.

Social smoking when drinking alcohol: Quitting smoking

With drinking alcohol increasing the urge to smoke cigarettes and smoking cigarettes increasing the urge to drink more alcohol, the risk of binge behaviour and addiction are high.

Refusing alcohol and cigarettes
Quitting smoking can lower your alcohol consumption

By quitting smoking cigarettes however (which the majority of adult smokers want to do), it can lower your alcohol consumption and potential for alcohol-related health problems.

Your may seek help from a hypnotherapist to assist your journey. Or work on some self-help strategies:

First things first...

In your smoking cessation journey, first ensure that nicotine is out of your system for at least three days. Use relaxation techniques to counter the cravings and to deal with stress. Continue to replace any smoking habits with new non-smoking habits and repeatedly integrate them with a feeling of achievement. The social smoker won’t have too many problems with this stage.

Temporarily avoiding social smoking when drinking alcohol

For the social smoker who socialises heavily on the weekend, achieve three days without smoking by recovering from the previous weekend’s activities and waiting until midweek to focus on your smoking cessation goals for the following weekend. Try to curb your midweek socials for a while.

In the short term, change your routine as this will help you to confront your smoking and drinking habits and it will help you to be aware of your smoking lapse triggers.

Some situations target drinking and smoking behaviour. Pubs often welcome smokers as their main audience by creating bigger outdoor spaces to accommodate smokers.

New activities and locations

Can you organise a non-social drinking situation by changing the activity? Do you feel the pressure to smoke because of the location e.g. by going to a specific pub, or because of the people you socialise with e.g. do all of your friends smoke? Can you temporarily socialise with your non-smoking friends?

What would happen if you asked trustful friends to give you a reminder of your non-smoking intentions when you are out? Can you avoid leaving the non-smoking area and venturing over into the smoking area? Can you plan to leave early if you feel the growing pressure to drink in “rounds”?

Lowering your alcohol consumption will help you smoke less. What non-alcohol drink can you drink instead? If you don’t smoke whilst socialising, it may help you reduce your total alcohol consumption.

Reappraise what drives your binge behaviour

Then consider if your socialising is a binge activity. What aren’t you dealing with through your week (or in your life) that is being channelled into the binge drinking and smoking habit on the weekend?

What other more effective ways can replace how you cope with stress throughout the week that will take the pressure off the weekend?

Hypnotherapy to help social smoking when drinking alcohol

If you are a social smoker and your goal is to become a non-smoker, confronting your social habits is an essential part of achieving your goal. With persistence, changing those old negative habits will lead to you forming new positive socialising habits. Initially it will seem like something is missing, but keep focused on your goal and it will become a natural part of how you socialise.

You can contact me for more help if you are struggling with any part of your quit smoking programme.

For more information on social smoking when drinking alcohol, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Misophonia Treatment

Misophonia Treatment

Misophonia Treatment: Misophonia (also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome) is a condition characterised by negative reactions to specific auditory stimuli. The negative reactions predominantly relate to anger.

Misophonia treatment sounds cause distress
Misophonic sounds don’t have to be loud to cause distress

The sounds can be common everyday sounds that most people would normally dismiss or barely remember hearing as the sounds don’t have to be particularly loud.

Misophonia usually starts as a negative reaction to soft sounds but can also become a negative reaction to visual stimuli that accompany those sounds. Misokinesia is the hatred of seeing specific movements.

The prevalence of misophonia is not fully understood, but some symptoms have been reported as early as mid-childhood. Research completed on a group of medical students found nearly half of the sample to have some level of sound sensitivity. A third of the sample was found to have mild symptoms and less than one percent had severe misophonia symptoms.

The term misophonia literally translates as a “hatred of sound”.



Misophonia Treatment: What causes misophonia?

The exact causes of misophonia are not fully understood, but a number of issues can contribute the condition. They can include an over-activation of certain parts of the brain (limbic and autonomic nervous system) responsible for processing emotions and the connections to the auditory cortex. In other words, it’s related to how sound affects your brain and automates the responses in your body. Whilst these tests have been done on subjects who already have misophonia, it may not verify whether the parts of the brain have developed as a result of individual learned or conditioned responses see below).

Causes can also be attributed to neurological disorders like Tourette syndrome, OCD and other anxiety-related disorders. Misophonia may also run in families, indicating a genetic link that can increase your risk of developing the condition.

Misophonia is particularly common with those who suffer with tinnitus.



Misophonia Treatment: How is misophonia learned?

For the sufferer of misophonia, common sounds which others may take for granted can be compared to hearing “nails on a chalkboard” on a regular basis. There is a constant, intense agitation when hearing those misophonic sounds that can take someone to the level of rage.

Misophonia usually starts during late childhood and early adolescence, affecting more females than males, and affecting those with higher IQ’s.

Sounds that cause the negative reaction can be learned by association from a variety of situations. Those sounds then become connected to the negative emotion and when those sounds are heard again, the negative emotion is re-experienced. Situations in which you associate those sounds can include:

  • When you are trying to concentrate on something importantg. having a conversation, doing an assignment or work project etc.
  • When you are trying to relaxg. when reading, watching television, falling asleep etc.
  • When you are experiencing anxiety or stressg. social anxiety whilst eating and hearing cutlery sounds, when dogs barking or traffic sounds are heard after you have woken early, repetitive sounds like clocks ticking heard during periods of abuse, hearing neighbours playing music late at night when you have to wake early for work.
  • When you have a medical condition or are experiencing medical changes that are affecting your tolerance to those sounds.
  • When you have communicated your condition to others and they have mocked or teased you (rather than help you), by imitating the sounds that cause your distress. This may inhibit you from being open about the condition in the future in case it is met with ridicule again.
    Misophonia treatment anger management
    Misophonic reactions are more challenging with uncontrolled anger
  • When you have high expectations and you need the world around you to meet those expectations. Anger can be experienced when expectations are not being met. This can make your negative reaction harder to manage when compared to someone else who is able to moderate their expectations and lower their anger reaction.

Misophonic triggers can associate first in situations with one’s parents or primary caregivers. They can then be learned in situations with immediate family like siblings, friends or work colleagues where a significant amount of time is spent with them. Tolerance is usually given to those people with whom you have a close relationship, but the reaction can still be present regardless of the company.

Misophonia can intensify over time, rapidly and uncontrollably trapping more triggers or stronger reactions for the individual - in the same way that an infectious disease might spread. Or for some sufferers, misophonic learning can hit a peak and then can subside where there is a significant lifestyle change.

Infrequent situations with strangers in adulthood can set up new misophonic triggers, but they usually act as reinforcing events that exacerbate the situation created earlier during childhood.

With chronic misophonia, some people may abuse substances like alcohol or drugs to cope with the severity of the condition. Whilst these substances give some immediate relief to the negative reaction, in the long term they can increase your sensitivity to your misophonic triggers. There are other health risks associated with substance misuse.

Long-term sufferers with misophonia experience a diminished quality of life, trying to avoid sounds that can be heard in so many situations of everyday life. Constant panic and paranoia can develop when chronic misophonia is untreated.



Other sound-sensitive conditions related to misophonia

Misophonia differs from other sound sensitivity-related conditions, but can exist alongside these other conditions. Hyperacusis is a condition in which you are sensitive to sound and feel discomfort at a certain frequency or volume, whereas with misophonia, the negative reactions can be triggered at any volume of sound, including low volume sounds.

Phonophobia is a type of phobia dominated by a fear of certain sounds that are usually loud and unexpected e.g. from a popping balloon or from a firework. When hearing those loud sounds it typically causes a panic attack. As mentioned earlier, the dominant emotion with misophonia is usually anger.

Common with all of these conditions is a degree of anticipation and hyper-vigilance in which the autonomic nervous system prepares you for danger when hearing these specific sounds. Your negative over-reactions can become conditioned by the various sound-related triggers, intensifying and automating your reaction.

Misokinesia is the negative reaction to seeing specific movements that may originally be associated with the “misophonic” sounds. For example, a negative reaction of anger to the sound of nail biting can rapidly become a negative reaction to seeing someone who has the habit of biting their nails, regardless of whether you can hear them bite their nails or not. It is thought that the parts of the brain responsible for filtering these misophonic sounds can then provoke other neural processing problems.



Misophonia Treatment: Sounds that can trigger misophonia

The majority of the sounds that trigger a misophonic response are created by the human body, but some can originate from inanimate objects. Ironically, misophonia sufferers do not experience the same level of irritation when they produce the same sounds themselves.

Below is a list of common misophonic sounds. The sounds that trigger your negative reaction can be specific to your situation.

Vocal sounds – breathing, snoring, snorting, throat-clearing, sneezing, sniffing, sniffling, hiccups, burping, whistling, humming, singing, yawning, screaming, specific voice sounds, specific types of crying, general “din” from group conversation or children in playgrounds, several people talking simultaneously,  words pronounced incorrectly, etc.

Nail biting misophonic reaction
Nail biting: one of the many sounds that cause a misophonic reaction

Non-vocal sounds – nail-biting, finger tapping, knuckle-clicking, fidgeting, passing wind, kissing etc.

Meal time sounds -, chewing, chomping, crunching, swallowing, drinking, sucking, slurping, lips-smacking, culinary sounds, clinking of glasses, utensil/plate sounds, saying “ah” after a drink, talking whilst eating etc.

Sounds from inanimate objects – food packaging noises, ballpoint pen clicking, rustling papers, writing sounds, flossing, nail clipping, keyboard typing, mouse clicking sounds, board writing, cleaning sounds, windscreen wipers, general traffic, ticking or chiming clocks, drills, ringing phones and other phone sounds, ringing bells, buzzing sounds, lawn mowers, air conditioning noises, refrigerators, car doors slamming, electric toothbrushes or razors, taps dripping, other household appliances etc.

Musical sounds – specific genres of music, percussive rhythm, sounds from specific instruments etc.

Animal/insect sounds - Dogs barking or whining, claws scratching, pets licking their fur, birds chirping, insects buzzing, crickets chirping,

Environmental sounds – Various weather sounds e.g. rain, wind etc.

Some sounds can become visual annoyances (misokinesia) – repetitive motion, foot wagging, nose rubbing, hair twirling, nail biting, yawning, thumb sucking, lip movements, nose, ear or skin picking, inner cheek biting, removing food in-between teeth etc.



What affects the severity of your reaction?

As a sufferer of misophonia, the sensitivity of your reaction can be variable depending on:

  • Your emotional state in that situation.
  • The frequency, repetition and loudness of the noise.
  • Your previous evaluations of that sound.
  • The conditions in which those sounds were experienced.
  • How your medical conditions are affecting your experience.
  • You may be able to tolerate the sounds more when you have a close relationship with the person making the sound.

Your reactions typically become more intense when you are unable to change the situation from which the sounds are being made or alter your reactions.



Signs, symptoms and diagnosis of misophonia

The signs and symptoms of misophonia include:

  • Anger or rage.
  • Guilt or shame from your expression of anger.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Disgust.
  • Stress.
  • Anxiety.
  • Impatience.
  • Feeling of claustrophobia or need to escape the situation quickly which can be connected with agoraphobia.
  • Self isolation and loneliness.
  • Crying related to your intense irritation or agitation.
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) as a symptom of suppressed anger.
  • Inability to communicate or move.
  • Violent or impulsive thoughts towards others or towards the source of the noise.
  • Frustration resulting in mimicking or mocking those sounds.

With regards to a diagnosis of misophonia, your GP who may refer you to an ENT specialist or audiologist who can help you manage the condition.



Common misophonia treatments

There are few evidence-based misophonia treatments. Current misophonia treatments can include cognitive behavioural therapy in which you challenge your negative thoughts. Medication can also be prescribed from your GP to treat the anxiety and depression associated with misophonia.

Another type of misophonia treatment is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) which can also benefit those with misophonia. With this treatment, devices are worn to help you ignore or divert your attention away from your misophonic noises. It can also include learning relaxation techniques to lower your stress response.

Other self-help coping strategies can include using earplugs or headphones when you feel overwhelmed by your misophonic noises. You may also benefit by using other background noises like music, the television or “white noise” to drown out your misophonic noise.

Disturbed sleep misophonia treatment
Changing proximity to those sounds may ensure a better night’s sleep

Other self-help strategies can include learning new ways to manage stress, changing your proximity to those sounds in a situation and establishing a moderated exit from the situation where it is reasonably possible.

Being open about your condition and assertively communicating your needs to others may help them to assist you by empathising with you or by moderating their habits where possible. Learning ways to reinterpret your perception of those sounds and your reactions is fundamental to misophonia treatment.



Misophonia treatment using hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy can treat your misophonia in a controlled environment

Your alertness and sensitivity to the sounds that irritate you is maintaining this sound-reaction loop. Hypnotherapy can help you to detach your emotional reaction in a controlled environment, learning to stay relaxed as you are progressively reintroduced to those sounds. In hypnosis, you can accept positive suggestions or affirmations to target your misophonia reactions. This approach is similar to “Sequent Re-patterning” techniques, and “Exposure Response Prevention” techniques used in the treatment of OCD.

Control your anger and stress response

When you suffer with misophonia, your anger and stress response has become automated and is now overwhelming you. The intensity of your anger and stress is magnifying your perception of those irritating sounds. Being mindful of your anger in hypnosis will enable you to observe how it is affecting you at the sensory, cognitive, emotional and behavioural levels. Relearning how to control your anger will further assist the dissociation of your response to those sounds.

Treat anticipatory anxiety

The demands you need to cope with the noises in the situation can be exaggerated by your anxious anticipation. You will build up your negative emotional response before you actually hear those sounds, waiting for the sounds to be triggered. You may even imagine those sounds to be audible in the situation, even in their absence. Managing your anticipatory anxiety will enable you to separate and disconnect this anxious build-up so that you can apply positive techniques when it’s needed.

Assist your desensitisation (controlled exposure)

Desensitisation (also known as controlled exposure) is an effective dissociation process. It is commonly used in the treatment of phobias. By itself, the method can be cumbersome however. When combined with hypnotic techniques, the desensitisation process can be accelerated. In hypnosis, you can mentally rehearse confronting those irritating sounds with a calmer response, acting as if you have already completed the desensitisation practice with a positive emotion.

Treat the causes of your misophonia

Regression to release the emotion from the significant past sensitising events can be an effective tool in a treatment programme. This does not mean arduously tracing through every year of your life as is often considered by solution focused hypnotherapy. Instead, only the most relevant experiences are reappraised, enabling you to appreciate your beliefs and conflicts that may have exacerbated your condition in its early development. With effective regression, you can then freely move forwards with the achievement of your goals.

Misophonia hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy can help treat your misophonia

Visualisation of your desired positive response

Visualisation can act as rehearsals for how you want to cope with those irritating noises. In hypnosis, you can enhance your visualisation abilities, engaging more of your imagination, your thinking, your emotions and beliefs into the experience. This can accelerate your learning potential to positively change your negative misophonic reactions when you are not in the “live” noisy situations that are currently distressing you.

Hypnotherapy can help you communicate your needs

Being assertive (rather than being aggressive), communicating your needs, being prepared to handle conflict and believing that you have “rights” can prevent you from suffering in silence (or should that be – in noise!?) for extended periods and then overreacting. Hypnotherapy can explore your approach and identify where you can communicate effectively.


For more information on misophonia treatment using hypnotherapy, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff