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 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.
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)
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.
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.
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: 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 then…it’s vanished! Keys, phones and glasses are the favourites to be “lost” and with a frantic search these items are usually found again.
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.
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?
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.
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 (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 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.
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:
- 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.
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 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:
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:
- 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:
- 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.
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.
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
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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 will 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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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
Treatment To Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol is one of the most widely abused substances in the world. But you don’t have to be drinking in excess to develop a problem with alcohol. Your reliance on alcohol can vary from having a mild to a severe attachment. With a mild attachment, you might struggle to imagine a Friday night going by without having a few drinks to get merry. With a severe attachment however, alcohol has more value than anything else in your life including your relationships, your work and possibly life itself.
Reaching for a glass of wine at the end of your working day or when the children have gone to bed, or sharing some drinks with friends in a social setting are common unwinding, relaxing and socialising rituals for many adults. When you are drinking alcohol in moderation and you are keeping within the Government’s guidance limits, your drinking is unlikely to be a cause for concern.
When these rituals become daily habits however, the pleasure that you gain from your drinking habit can switch to an ever-increasing “must have” at the end of your day, or as a way to cope with an ongoing demanding situation. When regular drinking habits are not monitored in some way, physical and psychological attachments can lead to deeper alcohol abuse problems; you need to consume more alcohol to have the same effect, bypassing the “enjoyment” phase that you previously experienced. As you increase your alcohol intake your tolerance to it will also increase. At the physiological level, your reliance on alcohol is being affected by changes in your brain’s wiring system.
If your reliance on alcohol is not too deeply entrenched, just being aware of these habitual “alarm bells” can be enough for you to reduce alcohol consumption by yourself. For some people who struggle with an alcohol attachment problem however, professional assistance is needed to confront the compounding effects of habitual drinking at the cognitive, emotional and behavioural levels.
Reduce alcohol consumption: What causes a reliance on alcohol?
A reliance on alcohol can stem from a number of different risk factors. These include:
Family history – If you have a close member of the family who abuses alcohol, then this will increase your risk of forming attachments to alcohol. Although genetic associations have been found with alcohol attachment, there is no single genetic factor that can be attributed to its cause. Family histories of alcohol attachment can also indicate a conditioned learning factor or a combination of both genes and conditioned learning from the alcohol-reliant authority figure, since your environment can also influence how your genes are expressed towards alcohol.
What you learn from your social environment can alter your perception of alcohol even when there is a low to moderate attachment to alcohol in your family. Young children can be influenced by the associations that adults make with alcohol. Observing the ways that adults punctuate the weekend, manage stress, socialise and celebrate an occasion etc. can form values that accumulate into patterns of acceptable behaviour. These patterns can then be increased by other risk factors affecting one’s own personal choices.
Mental health disorders – Having a mental health condition can increase your likelihood of developing an attachment to alcohol. The connection between mental health and alcohol reliance isn’t always clear however, as some individuals can abuse alcohol before they develop a mental health condition or have a formal mental health diagnosis.
Traumatic experiences – Suffering traumatic experiences and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can increase the risk of self medication with alcohol. Certain traumas have a strong connection with alcohol abuse, particularly when being a victim of a violent crime, suffering sexual or physical abuse and losing a parent at a young age (including a loss through parental divorce).
Lifestyle Stress – Turning to alcohol to relieve short-term feelings of stress can become habit-forming when stressful events are recurring. Stressful occupations and experiencing numerous major lifestyle changes in close succession such as suffering a bereavement, divorce or redundancy can then trigger heavy drinking and increased alcohol attachment to cope with these major lifestyle events.
A lack of family cohesion or cooperation – An unsupportive family background in which the adult authority figures are abusive, controlling or neglectful towards their young children is a risk factor for alcohol attachment for those abused children in later adulthood. Alcohol can then be used as a coping mechanism to gain control over these traumas, to spite the abuser, to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and for “building” self esteem. In contrast, alcohol can also be used as a form of self harm when there is an unsupportive family network.
Peer influences – Pressure from one’s peers to drink alcohol in social situations is a significant risk factor for alcohol attachment. Teenagers place great importance on peer approval and the need to “fit in” led by active encouragement or criticism to motivate peer behaviour. Teenagers can feel alienated if they don’t participate in similar behaviour performed by their peers. These social norms can continue into adulthood with social drinking patterns being considered a necessary part of a social occasion.
Age of first alcoholic drink – The earlier age that someone starts drinking alcohol, the more likely it is that they will become reliant on alcohol. Habits are usually reinforced over time.
Gender differences – Men are more likely to have a higher alcohol attachment than women with some explanations relating to the increased amount of dopamine release that men experience when consuming alcohol.
It can be concluded that there are numerous risk factors that can affect your reliance on alcohol. These risks include genetic and environmental (experiential) factors. How these factors connect through your childhood and your period of personal alcohol consumption will also impact on your alcohol attachment. When you want to reduce alcohol consumption understanding the background risks may help you appreciate your predisposition to drink alcohol and what you are struggling to cope with in your life.
Reduce alcohol consumption: Common reasons for drinking alcohol
There are generally two broad categories that characterise the reasons for drinking alcohol. People generally drink as a coping mechanism or for mood/behaviour enhancement. Understanding your motives can be useful when you want to reduce alcohol consumption. Click this link for more information on the reasons for drinking alcohol.
Signs and symptoms of problem-drinking and alcohol use disorder
Problem-drinkers and those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) both have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol but there is a difference between both categories.
Those who suffer with AUD are addicted to alcohol. Each day is a struggle not to drink and although sobriety can be achieved for extended periods, the risk of having one drink will cause a relapse. Those with AUD will always suffer with AUD, whether drinking alcohol or if your addiction is in remission.
There are various terms to describe those who abuse alcohol, but are not addicted to alcohol. These terms include: problem drinkers, habitual drinkers, heavy drinkers, binge drinkers, compulsive drinkers, social drinkers etc. This category of drinker does not experience the same physical and mental withdrawal symptoms as those who are addicted to alcohol.
For problem-drinkers , extended periods can be achieved without drinking alcohol, but when you do drink alcohol, it can be excessive and can have a detrimental impact on the quality of your (or someone else’s) life. At the time of drinking excessively, these problems may go unnoticed. After the period of drinking, the full extent of the problems and the decisions made whilst drinking heavily are then realised. Some might argue that with some types of problem-drinking, the “addiction” is related to the confined act of drinking, rather than to the substance of alcohol.
A problem-drinker uses alcohol to achieve a certain state of mind. Alcohol might be used to “enhance” your mood or feeling of self importance. Or alcohol can be used to cope with problems, suppressing your negative emotions like anxiety. Some people use alcohol to momentarily escape your awareness of problems.
The symptoms of problem-drinking (alcohol abuse) can include:
- Experiencing mood swings (getting angry, violent or depressed).
- Neglecting one’s responsibilities with your family, your work or study obligations.
- Social isolation from your family or peer group.
- Being abusive towards your family, peer group or strangers.
- Taking sexual, criminal, financial or personal risks that may be regretted after the drinking has stopped.
- Experiencing blackouts.
Problem-drinkers are often defensive of one’s drinking behaviour, particularly if you appear to be functioning well, maintaining your responsibilities and seem to be emotionally stable. But the boundary of denial can creep in without fully admitting more subtle issues like deteriorating sleep quality and fatigue the morning after.
Problem-drinking is not just about the quantity of alcohol that you drink. It can also include the frequency of drinking, how you are using alcohol, how alcohol affects you when you drink and how your mood changes when you stop drinking. The physical signs and symptoms of a growing alcohol dependency can be accompanied by behavioural symptoms like hiding drink from others and drinking alone.
Having two or more symptoms in the past year from the list below is an indication that you are advancing from problem-drinking into a level of alcohol dependency. Some of the signs and symptoms of alcohol dependency can include:
- Feeling like you need a drink (cravings) from the moment you wake up.
- You obsess over the need to have a drink.
- You plan your life around drinking alcohol.
- You find it hard to stop once you start drinking alcohol.
- You drink to help you cope with situations e.g. social or work situations.
- You have abandoned other activities to accommodate drinking alcohol.
- You drink more alcohol and for longer periods than you initially planned.
- The majority of your time is spent drinking, being hung-over or being sick from drinking too much alcohol.
- You drink more alcohol than before to access the same “benefits”.
- You’ve tried to reduce your alcohol intake but failed more than once.
- You neglect your responsibilities, continuing to drink even though it is harming your health, your relationships, your work and social life.
- You have experienced blackouts or memory loss from drinking excessively.
- You continue to drink even though alcohol has made you depressed, anxious or increased the risk of being harmed e.g. by driving or operating machinery.
- You have experienced symptoms including muscular tremors, nausea, fits, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and delusions when you have tried to withdraw from alcohol.
Reduce alcohol consumption: The risks of high alcohol consumption
In UK, the Chief Medical Officer currently advises not to drink more than 14 units per week to maintain a low risk of developing alcohol-related health problems e.g. cancer. This quantity of alcohol should be spread evenly over 3 of 4 days to ensure that you have alcohol-free days in your week.
The health risks connected to drinking alcohol increase when you drink heavily (binge drinking), when you drink on a regular basis or if you are in a high-risk category e.g. if you are on certain medication, have pre-existing mental or physical health problems or if you are pregnant.
Some of the short-term health risks associated with binge drinking can have immediate effects. These include alcohol poisoning and miscarriage, still birth and foetal spectrum disorders if you are pregnant. High alcohol consumption can change your behaviour, increasing risk of injuries from motor vehicle accidents, falls, drowning and burns. Some people can become more violent and take more sexual risks when inebriated.
Long term health risks can include the development of chronic diseases like liver disease, stroke heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer of various organs. As the immune system is weakened, risk of other illnesses is increased. Mental health can also be affected including the risk of impaired brain function, dementia, depression, anxiety. As alcohol dependency becomes established, long term risks can impact on close relationships and work opportunities.
What prompts people to want to reduce alcohol consumption?
Realising that your drinking habits are excessive may not be enough to reduce alcohol consumption; the underlying needs (e.g. coping with anxiety) can still drive your drinking behaviour. But it’s the negative consequences of your excessive drinking patterns that can influence you to review both your underlying needs and the consequences of your drinking habits and follow through with reducing your alcohol intake.
Some of the reasons that prompt people to reduce alcohol consumption can also be the same reasons that you increase alcohol consumption:
Your new role has responsibility – Whereas alcohol can be used to cope with too much pressure and responsibility, a new responsible role like parenthood can be the trigger to reduce alcohol consumption. The potential shame of child neglect can be too much of a weight to carry for many prospective parents, prompting a review of your drinking patterns.
Health concerns – Some people want to cling to the mild health benefits of drinking alcohol in moderation (e.g. antioxidants in red wine) as the green light to drink excessively. But it’s the short term drinking-related health changes and long term development of medical conditions that can activate the need to reduce alcohol consumption.
Weight gain – Alcohol can be a food substitute for those who are trying to lose weight, but the high calories in alcohol are generally a risk factor in obesity, influencing those who are overweight to cut down on alcohol consumption.
Financial cost – Being shocked at the expense of drinking alcohol at social venues like nightclubs can influence those who want to cut spending to limit the frequency of drinking-related social outings. But for those more determined to keep drinking heavily with reduced costs, the habit can switch to home drinking instead.
Standing out from the crowd – Comparisons are constantly being made in social situations. If you have social anxiety, you may feel anxious when you are doing something different to your peers. As a teenager, drinking more than your peers might have won you “trophies” of admiration, but as you mature, being the only one drinking excessively can be a reason to re-evaluate your personal alcohol consumption and lower your intake.
Being judged for drinking – Whether you are judging yourself or being judged by others, feeling judged for abusing alcohol is a significant reason that people lower alcohol consumption.
You have been advised to reduce alcohol consumption – Receiving advice from the “wrong” person at the wrong time can trigger a defiant “control” reaction to drink even more alcohol. Whereas accepting professional advice from an authority figure e.g. doctor or therapist, is usually a positive catalyst to reducing how much alcohol you consume.
How are alcohol dependency and alcohol abuse treated?
There are various evidence-based methods used to treat different levels of alcohol dependency. These include alcohol detoxification, inpatient alcohol rehabilitation programmes, medication, outpatient individual and group counselling or therapy.
If you are addicted to alcohol or have alcohol use disorder (AUD), you should initially consult your doctor to assess your risk of developing severe withdrawal symptoms e.g. seizures or delirium tremens. This may require inpatient treatment and use of medication to treat your withdrawal.
If your doctor has predicted moderate to mild withdrawal symptoms, they may have prescribed medication to be used at home and advised being in a supportive environment. Therapy may be used at any stage to assist your alcohol reduction goals.
Treating alcohol abuse may not need medical treatment, medication or support to stop drinking or reduce alcohol consumption. Personally identifying that your level of alcohol consumption is too high can activate self help methods to change your drinking habits.
When you are struggling to make effective changes however, and find that your alcohol levels keep increasing, professional support can motivate you to change your drinking habits and help you understand your behaviour and underlying needs that are causing your drinking relapses.
How can hypnotherapy help you to reduce alcohol consumption?
Hypnotherapy is gaining popularity as a form of treatment to modify drinking habits and reduce alcohol consumption, particularly where alcohol is used to relieve anxiety, stress and depression. There is some evidence that it can be as effective as other forms of therapy when hypnotherapy was previously used in an inpatient treatment programme.
Hypnotherapy can help you reduce your alcohol consumption in the following ways:
Identify and treat what you associate with drinking alcohol
Objectively analysing your drinking habits, the reasons that you drink alcohol, the beliefs connected to your drinking patterns and how it is affecting your lifestyle forms the early part of the individualised hypno-therapeutic process. Even though you will already have some insight into these processes, some patterns will be masked by your drinking habits and internal conflicts, currently preventing you from taking control of your alcohol reduction goals.
Hypnotherapy can help you control your alcohol cravings
Habitual drinking patterns that are formed over extended periods of time create automated patterns of drinking behaviour. Your mind has set up a need-reward cue that expects to be fulfilled with the ritualised drink. When the underlying need is exposed, the craving kicks-in to drink alcohol. Repetitively releasing stress at the end of your working day with an alcoholic drink will create a cue or trigger to drink at that time of day and/or when you feel stressed. Hypnotherapy can help you control and reduce your craving-association, dealing with the underlying emotion and accessing a positive replacement habit. Learning self hypnosis will reinforce this positive change.
Hypnotherapy can motivate your alcohol reduction plan
Regardless of the outcome of your previous attempts to cut back on drinking or the anxieties about what you will confront without drinking alcohol, having a strong desire to reduce alcohol consumption will keep you focused throughout your reduction plan. Hypnotherapy can install suggestions to activate these positive changes, emphasising the benefits and the confident beliefs to stick to your alcohol reduction programme.
Hypnotherapy can help you develop effective habits to cope with stress
If you are using alcohol to manage stress, anxiety, depression or cope with other negative emotions (self medicate), you will be reluctant to change your drinking patterns until you have accessed alternative ways to cope with your life. Hypnotherapy can help you activate new positive habits to cope with stress and negative emotions more effectively, thereby reducing your need for alcohol as you integrate these changes.
Hypnotherapy can treat the traumas that increased your alcohol dependency
Past traumas like relationship break-ups, bereavements and recurrent major lifestyle changes may have influenced you to drink excessively or restart drinking after a period of abstinence. You may be continuing to drink alcohol to suppress how that trauma affected you, fearful that if you stopped drinking, the distress of that trauma will resurface and overwhelm you. Using regression techniques, hypnotherapy can help you release the emotions from these traumas, dissociating your drinking habits that continue to overwhelm you.
Hypnotherapy can identify and treat your alcohol relapse triggers
Alcohol relapse triggers are the emotional and situational triggers that create an intense craving or urge to drink alcohol (again). They can include stress, boredom, loneliness, despair and feelings of worthlessness. Situational triggers can include when you have finished work, when the children have gone to bed, or when socialising in a pub with certain people. Understanding your relapse triggers and finding strategies to control your urges can help you manage these emotions and situations more effectively. Support is given as you embrace new emotions and reintegrate back into these situations without needing alcohol.
For more information on how hypnotherapy can help you reduce alcohol consumption, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff
Can you erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy?
I am frequently asked if you can erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy. The question often stems from misconceptions of the power of hypnosis from the media. Films like “Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” further reinforce the fantasy of these possibilities that you can undergo some brainwashing process to erase the bad memories of someone.
Or maybe the enquiry originated from being a member of the audience in a stage hypnosis show in which the memory of a subject was temporarily “erased”. Witnessing the subject being placed in a “trance” and then forgetting their own name can sow seeds of belief into the audience that memory erasure is possible.
Then you are faced with a personal trauma. You find out that your partner has been cheating on you…more than once! You’ve managed to break out of the relationship but the trauma doesn’t end there. You are desperate to get your (ex) partner “out of your head”. But there’s another problem: the more you try and forget them, the more the memories of them just rebound back into your consciousness.
It’s in those moments of helplessness that what you have “learned” from the movies or stage hypnosis shows can seem plausible. You’re desperate to find a memory erasing process that can rescue your torment in a “flick of a switch”. But is it really possible to erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy? Or is it just something that exists in fantasy movies and stage hypnosis shows?
Erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy: fact or fiction?
In order to distinguish what happens in the fictional portrayal of hypnosis against what typically happens in a hypnotherapy treatment, it can be useful to redefine what hypnotherapy is and how hypnotherapy works in practice.
Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses hypnosis to create therapeutic change. Various hypnotic techniques are used to enable you to achieve a “heightened state of consciousness” in which you can concentrate your attention into the achievement of your hypnotherapy goals.
The word hypnosis is derived from the Greek word “to sleep”, but the state of hypnosis is not a state of unconsciousness. Ask someone to “role-play” being asleep and they would instinctively close their eyes. When watching hypnosis in films (and in hypnotherapy treatments), eye closure is often promoted to focus the attention inwardly, but the hypnotherapist is not encouraging sleep in that treatment session.
The state of mind in hypnosis is often compared to states in meditation and mindfulness. In these different practices you are refocusing your own awareness into (or away from) different situations for calmness or re-clarification. Assisted externally by the hypnotherapist, it can be argued that hypnosis is a state of guided “meditation”. Similar to these other practices, it can enable you to perceive your situations with different thoughts, emotions and beliefs.
When defining hypnosis, hypnotherapists refer to being able to access the subconscious mind that holds many of the automated “patterns” of thoughts, emotions, beliefs and behaviours that can remain hidden from the conscious mind. Some of these patterns are negative and self limiting.
Whilst in hypnosis, you are more receptive to the hypnotherapist’s suggestions to access these self-limiting and negative automated “patterns”. You are then encouraged to re-imagine them in alignment with your positive therapeutic goals.
Many conditions like smoking cessation, phobias, weight control, anxiety, stress, panic attacks and depression can be treated with hypnotherapy. The treatment process requires your active participation in which you can recall some of the therapeutic suggestions used during hypnosis. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot be made to do anything against your will with hypnosis.
Having distinguished some aspects of fact or faction, is it still possible to erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy?
Erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy: reality check
As much as you may wish to forget the existence of a person or a painful memory, there is no modern therapy that will enable you to do so. Memory erasing or brainwashing techniques do not exist; nor would it be an ethical practise if it did exist. So when asking whether you can erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy, it stems from the fictional depiction of what people want to believe about hypnosis at a desperate time of need.
The irony of trying harder to forget a recent painful memory
A memory of someone or of something is not a tangible object; memories are complex and contain far more than just the subject-matter. One memory may lead to countless other memories and associations such as other people, places, thoughts and feelings. If you were able to simply erase a memory from your mind, your mind would be missing lots of gaps and connected pockets of information.
Furthermore, whilst studies have shown that you can forget an isolated “emotionally-weak” object that has recently been shown to you in a test; you cannot forget a recent emotionally-charged memory connected to lots of experiences that are typical say, in a long term relationship.
Bad emotionally-charged memories, in particular, are pushed into your subconscious mind to protect you from re-experiencing pain and trauma. This is termed as repression. Whilst you may not be dwelling on those issues, the emotions from those memories can resurface with an appropriate connected trigger causing you to feel distressed.
Often, when someone wants to forget a person it’s because you associate negative feelings and behaviour towards them. These negative associations make it almost impossible to forget this person, as they are marked as “significant” in your subconscious (or unconscious) mind.
When you forcefully try to forget (suppress) a recent painful memory, the memory is recalled. You are then adding more importance to the memory as you re-trigger the painful emotions. By also adding additional emotions like frustration into this effort, you are effectively keeping the bad memory active.
To summarise then, vigorously trying to forget recent (or distant) bad memories backfires, keeping the memory active and causing you more upset. But dealing with bad memories can be managed in different, more productive way.
Remoulding the context of memories with hypnotherapy
Memories are not static constant structures that are fixed in your mind. Memories (and their associated thoughts and emotions) are adaptable and flexible. They are open to suggestion and can accept small deletions or “add-ons” to change some of their original meaning.
Each time that your mind replays memories, minor details of those memories are being remoulded, sometimes without even realising it.
By creating new associations and narratives to that memory, you can effectively change what that memory means to you and how you feel and respond towards it. What will surprise some people is that when you apply these changes, these changes don’t need to have happened in reality, but they still need to be “reasonably acceptable”.
Hypnotherapy is an effective tool to help you “re-edit” the negative emotional associations of a memory. These associations can be reinterpreted into ones that are aligned towards your therapeutic goals. And as you then change the way you feel about the memory, it alters your “template” of mental discomfort and the negative physical reactions.
So whilst you can’t erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy, hypnotherapy can help you change the specific thought, emotion, and behavioural associations that are connected to the memory. In other words, hypnotherapy can change “how you remember” the memory, not the “raw” memory itself.
But some people may be worried about the ethics of such a process that “meddles” with someone’s personal painful memories. Is it right to change something in your negative past that could help you develop a higher sense of morality? It’s a valid concern, but you can take into account the following:
- As mentioned earlier, nothing is done against your will and nothing can be changed without your cooperation.
- The decision to seek therapy is a tentative and personal step. It’s important to seek a therapist that you can trust and whom you believe will guide you towards emotional positivity. The change is for your emotional benefit.
- You will have assessed the need for this change, weighing up the quality of your life that you currently have by maintaining the status quo and the benefits of being free of these painful memories.
- The re-evaluation of one’s past is happening naturally and informally without even trying to change it. When you look at photographs, engage in conversations, watch the television, read newspapers etc. memories are being altered in some way. If your self-help methods are not helping you break free of these painful memories, professional therapy becomes a viable option.
- All therapies, not just hypnotherapy, seek to remould your memories in some way. The approach may actively look back at those memories or deal with them incidentally when looking ahead at what you want to achieve.
When you actively want treatment for a bad memory, hypnotherapy regression techniques and/or rewind techniques may be used in this process. They can be combined with or without solution focused hypnotherapy, which tends to “leave the past behind”. Even the most basic hypnotherapy relaxation inductions that involve a “glance” at a bad memory can help you reduce the intensity of your distress connected to the bad memory.
The hypnotherapist who uses numerous hypnotherapeutic strategies will use regression to treat your bad memory, but will still ask confirmatory questions about the achievement of your (future) goals e.g. “when you have “forgotten” this memory how will you lead your life? How will you then react or feel when you think about this memory or see this person again?”
Which conditions can benefit from a reinterpretation of your memories?
Having discussed whether it’s possible to erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy, there are certain treatment-areas that particularly benefit from a reinterpretation of your bad memories. Your specific issue does not have to fall into the categories below to be treatable.
With some treatment areas, you may not actively dwell on those bad memories, but the beliefs connected to those memories are inhibiting you from moving forwards and accessing positive change.
Fears and Phobias
There are various causes of phobias. Most phobias are learnt during childhood when these traumatic experiences shape your beliefs about your phobic object or situation. Combined with progressive desensitisation, the reinterpretation of the “causal” traumatising event can help you to release the emotions connected your phobia.
Traumas from your parent’s relationship and from your own previous relationships can compound unresolved emotions. They continue to contaminate your current and future relationships. The effect of past abuse, infidelity and parental divorce can cause deep insecurities and jealousy towards to your partner.
Lack of self confidence
Avoiding new challenges because you fear failure can be connected to events in your past. These past “failings” now shape your belief that things will go wrong again in the future, but without taking risks your confidence suffers. Releasing the emotion from these past memories can change the pathway of this negative self-fulfilling prophecy.
Low self esteem
Past criticism, abuse, bullying and neglect can be internalised as a definitions of your worth. Without realising that you are holding onto these memories, you can continue to believe that there is something wrong with you. Reappraising those bad memories can help you challenge your beliefs and rebuild your self esteem.
PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
With post traumatic stress disorder, the traumatic experience is considered to be fragmented and “misfiled” when your mind originally presented it for memory storage. The traumatic memories of the experience are now being reactivated by triggers causing symptoms like distressing flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and sudden fits of rage. Hypnotherapy can enable the traumatic memory to be safely reprocessed reducing your distressing PTSD symptoms.
Summary: the “memory erasing” potential of hypnotherapy
When a memory continues to haunt you, accessing a “silver bullet” that will remove the struggle remains a fantasy. But that doesn’t mean that the memory should continue to haunt you.
With the right expectations, what surrounds the memory can be altered. And it’s important to have the right expectations when starting a therapeutic process of change. This hypnosis test and the article that follows it can help demystify many of the common misconceptions about hypnosis.
Ultimately, you cannot erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy, but you can change what you associate with that memory. Hypnotherapy is a useful tool to facilitate this change with a variety of conditions. When actively focusing on the memory and its associations, you can then remould what that memory means to you.
For more information on whether you can erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff
Needle Phobia Treatment
a panic attack when the sufferer thinks about, sees or comes into close contact with your object of fear.
The situation in which a needle is used (e.g. an injection or blood test) can also cause extreme disgust.
As a needle phobia sufferer, you know that your emotional responses are irrational, but you are unable to control the symptoms that overwhelm you.
Needle phobia treatment: Confronting avoidance
Avoidance is a common way of coping with a needle phobia and this strategy keeps you safe in the short term. Inevitably, your fear of needles (or the situation that accompanies it) will conflict with other goals like travelling, health changes or external demands from your work situation. This is usually the moment that you contemplate confronting your needle phobia.
The period of avoidance can be extensive. Sometimes it can be years before you are ready to challenge your phobia. During this time, your phobia can transform from being a simple phobia into being a complex one.
Self-help needle phobia treatment methods can be successful when applied with determination however. Furthermore, when medical professionals know that you have a needle phobia, they will usually do what they can to assist you. They want to ensure that their medical administrations (e.g. a blood test to diagnose your condition) do not “flood” your anxiety and make your situation worse in the long term.
Hypnotherapy can be a useful needle phobia treatment method when the situation does not allow for your fears to be dealt with in “chunks”. It can incorporate other research-based methods with rapid results.
Needle phobia treatment: Needle phobia associated situations
Identifying precisely what you fear is an important part of your needle phobia treatment. Sometimes the fear is related to the specific object i.e. the needle. In the majority of cases, it’s the situation in which the needle is being used and other fears that you bring to the situation that heightens your anxiety and makes the situation so difficult to manage.
Other fears can include being disgusted with the sight of blood, coping with pain, a fear of contamination, trusting the medical staff, a fear of fainting and wider issues like coping with embarrassment of panicking in front of strangers.
Here’s a comprehensive list of situations commonly associated with a fear of needles:
- A general fear of sharp objects (aichmophobia and enetophobia) including pins, scissors, pens, pencils etc.
- A fear of medical procedures (trypanophobia) including injections, vaccinations (jabs or shots), blood tests, use of local and general anaesthetic etc.
- A fear of dental procedures (dentophobia) including local anaesthetic for fillings.
- A fear of blood (haemophobia) particularly during a blood test.
- A fear of pain (algophobia or algiophobia) cause by the medical procedure.
- A fear of germs or contamination (misophobia) if the needle or the foreign materials entering your body are believed to be infected. This is common with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
- A fear of becoming ill (nosophobia) from the procedure or suffering illness from any side effects. This is common with hypochondriasis or health anxiety.
- A fear of death (thanotophobia) where is it believed that something will go catastrophically wrong.
By association, a needle phobia can also be connected to wider issues that can intensify your level of anticipatory anxiety. These include:
- A fear of injury (traumatophobia) that might necessitate a medical procedure involving an injection.
- A fear of medical staff (iatrophobia) caused by a distrust of doctors.
- A fear of medical establishments (nosocomephobia) such as hospitals, infirmaries, doctor’s surgeries etc.
- A fear of fainting common with needle-blood-injury phobias and a drop in one’s blood pressure.
- A fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia) experienced during medical procedures and where you may have been previously restrained.
- A social phobia (fear of embarrassment); you can feel embarrassed because you are unable to cope with the medical procedure.
- Agoraphobia (fear of open spaces or being unable to escape a situation) when you need an extended medical procedure in a hospital as an in-patient.
- Panic disorder (fear of fear) in which you have numerous fears and phobias, and experiences random panic attacks.
- Coping with disgust. This emotion can be ignored in phobias but often contributes to the distress (nausea) suffered in many phobias like needle-blood-injury phobias. You can then fear feeling disgusted and faint.
Needle Phobia Treatment: Living with a needle phobia
It is estimated that up to 10% of the population suffer with a needle phobia. It’s not surprising that this ratio is so high when toddlers are unlikely to understand why they are having an injection and can sense their parent’s emotions so easily. Some parents who have a needle phobia or have other fears (like health anxiety or fear of contamination) themselves are probably aware of the possible parental display of anxiety to their child.
Instead of displaying anxiety, some parents can misinterpret a display of aggression as a show of confidence to their child by using force to complete a vaccination procedure. Restraining your child during an injection will get the job done in the short term, but in the long term it communicates to the child that these procedures are done “to them” (rather than “with them”) and should be completed without their permission. Distrust, high anxiety and physical tension (in a form of claustrophobia) are likely to be experienced in future medical procedures, believing that restraint will be necessary for an injection.
These negative experiences can be traumatic and feel like a betrayal of trust. Misplaced reassurance can also feel like a betrayal when adult authority figures or medical staff try to dismiss a child’s concerns with “everything will be fine!” only for the child to experience that the injection was anything but fine! Or when you are also told that “this won’t hurt a bit” and it does hurt more than a bit.
The anticipation of pain then becomes another feature of the procedure to be managed for those with a growing fear of needles. A child who anticipates or fears pain will increase tension in their arm muscles (or site of the injection) as a reflexive defence mechanism. Having an injection into tense muscle will feel more painful.
The anticipation of these feared experiences can be learned directly or vicariously (through significant adult authority figures). They can also be learned indirectly from a friend’s account of their negative experiences and from media sources. With the latter, children can be easily convinced by television medical dramas. They portray medical traumas so realistically that children can associate pain, blood, medical errors, distrust etc. into the anticipation of their next medical procedure. It’s not surprising that some children will avoid watching these programmes despite them being considered family viewing, often citing what they have seen on television as a secondary cause of their fear of needles.
In UK, several vaccinations are available throughout childhood. Fear of needle sufferers who avoid these vaccinations can risk contracting an infectious disease themselves and then spreading it to other members of the community who cannot be vaccinated. Then there is the issue of delaying an early diagnosis and treatment of a medical condition when avoiding having blood tests. Being hospitalised for a medical emergency or serious medical condition can mean confronting several fears within a short period of time with a possible need for injections, blood tests, the insertion of a cannula and possible surgery.
The fear of needles with some dental procedures can also become an issue when local anaesthetic is needed for fillings in deeper cavities. Communicating your fears to your dental practitioner can help ease your anxiety and help how these situations are managed. But for some dental patients however, the sensitivity of the site of the injection (into the gum) is too distressing when compared to say, having an injection into the arm, regardless of how much the dental practitioner can help to ease your anticipation.
But it’s not just medical and dental situations that are affected by a needle phobia. Children with a fear of needles can miss out on school trips and hinder family holidays abroad as there are many countries that require proof of vaccination before being able to enter the country.
For some young children who are disgust sensitive, having a medical or dental procedure with needles can also mean rapidly learning about and experiencing medical situations as the “subject” before they are ready to accept it. These medical concepts can include: the skin and muscle being pierced by a needle, foreign materials being injected into the body, the sight of blood, a tourniquet being used to bring the vein to the surface in the arm, a sample of blood being taken from your body etc. Coping with these medical concepts before the child is ready to understand and be naturally curious about the human body can cause them to feel disgusted, nauseas and feel faint. Fainting when feeling disgusted is not usually a medical concern, but it can still cause the child embarrassment and insecurity; something that they would want to avoid around people that they don’t trust.
During teenagehood, social anxiety (social phobia) tends to dominate a teenager’s choices, usually avoiding attention and embarrassment where possible. A fear of needles can be difficult to admit to one’s teenage peers when it might provoke ridicule from them. But then without the confidence to admit a fear of needles and face the possible taunting, a teenager with social anxiety may try to suppress their anxiety. The suppression of emotions can cause them to come to the surface when you least want them to be released. Risking a panic attack in the queue leading in to the school medical room or school hall will draw lots of curious, negative attention from your peers. You then risk being labelled by those insensitive members. But there are alternatives. Fortunately, when social anxiety adds to the general anxiety experienced with a fear of needles, the vaccination may be possible at your local GP surgery.
As avoidance behaviour takes its grip with a fear of needles, the condition can rapidly convert into a needle phobia. The young adult may be faced with a variety of new situations where they need to confront their fears. Vaccinations are advised when studying at a university and could again be essential if travelling abroad during a gap year.
Certain career choices can be limited without confronting a needle phobia. When joining the military services, vaccinations will be needed when being deployed abroad. Or if you choose a career in medicine, the ability to perform medical procedures is essential unless you choose a non-clinical medical career.
In adulthood, a needle phobia can continue to affect your personal life. If you avoid vaccinations, it will restrict some holidays abroad with your partner. It can also cause your partner unnecessary worry when certain medical conditions need blood tests to be fully diagnosed or treated. Then in a progressing relationship, deciding to have children will mean confronting your needle phobia with possible vaccinations needed during pregnancy and with medical procedures needed during child birth.
The effect of the coronavirus pandemic has meant that many needle phobia sufferers have had to re-evaluate the effect of their avoidance behaviour in order to be protected against covid-19 and limit its spread to other vulnerable people. When seeking an effective needle phobia treatment, many will have resorted to self-help methods or accessed help from a therapist.
In summary, without you seeking an effective needle phobia treatment, living with a needle phobia will restrict your life in many medical and health-related situations. Being open about your needle phobia can be a limited way of coping with it. When healthcare providers know that you have a fear of needles, they can offer you some short term assistance to get you through the procedure.
For many needle phobia sufferers, once the needle phobia has developed however, it’s the anticipation and other connecting fears that make the medical procedure so distressing. An untreated needle phobia can associate claustrophobia, fear of blood and injury, panic disorder, agoraphobia into the complex experience. So even when a medical procedure is completed, the experience is not considered an emotional achievement. Instead, it serves as yet another anxious trauma and a setback to your confidence. You view the situation as something that you survived “with no other choice” and would still prefer to avoid these situations when you do have a choice. Very few people “want” to have an injection or a blood test, but when you can focus on the benefits and freedom that it offers you, a medical procedure with a needle can become something that you gradually accept and learn to manage.
Needle phobia treatment: Causes of a needle phobia
Direct learning from personal traumas is considered to be one of the main causes of a needle phobia. Vicarious learning from authority figures and media sources can also contribute to external factors that cause a needle phobia. Certain endogenous factors (within the individual) can include one’s biology and personality. Click this link for more information on the causes of a phobia.
Needle phobia treatment: Needle phobia symptoms
The symptoms of a needle phobia can be intense and debilitating. They can be triggered by seeing a needle or watching a procedure with a needle on television. Your reaction can seem disproportionate the actual danger that you are faced with, but this does not calm the severity of your response.
When the needle phobia is related to anxiety, symptoms common with a panic attack can include a rapid heart rate, strained breathing, profuse sweating, trembling, severe muscle tension etc.
Some needle phobia sufferer’s reaction is related to disgust (and a possible vasovagal syncope – the potential to faint caused by numerous potential triggers). Symptoms can include fainting, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, clamminess etc.
It’s not unusual to have anxiety and disgust symptoms common in both categories listed above.
Treatment for a needle phobia
Treatment for a needle phobia is usually treated in the following ways. Anti-anxiety and sedating medication can be prescribed from your GP. This will help to reduce your anxiety symptoms when you need to have a medical procedure using a needle.
Medication can also be combined with therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy to help you challenge your fearful thoughts and feelings. Your therapy can also include exposure therapy which involves being gradually exposed to situations involving needles. Techniques include learning to cope with these progressive situations using breathing techniques.
How can hypnotherapy treat you needle phobia?
People with phobias tend to be highly receptive to hypnosis (you can assess your level of suggestibility using this hypnosis test.
Your needle phobia treatment will use a combined approach including controlled exposure, visualisation, hypno-analysis, anxiety control and regression to remove the “cause” of your needle phobia. There is more information in this link on how hypnotherapy can treat your phobia.
Can your needle phobia treatment be completed remotely?
Yes, if you do not live in the Cardiff area or you are unable to travel to the practice, then your treatment can be completed remotely by video call.
Here is more information on remote hypnotherapy.
For more information on your needle phobia treatment using hypnotherapy, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff
Break a bad habit with Hypnotherapy
Do you want to break a bad habit? Well, here’s a new notes on habits first to help you understand how you have arrived here…
Break a bad habit: What is a habit?
A habit is an automated mental and behavioural activity that enables you to shape aspects of your daily life. Habits give you structure, stability and security so that you can focus on the more important tasks. Without habits, you would need to regenerate creative and complex thinking into every part of your day. Compare the current effort needed to type on your “qwerty” keyboard with typing on one that has been randomly rearranged. Typing up a project on the latter would be a frustrating process until you have learned the new keyboard format and formed the new habits needed to type proficiently again.
Habit formation is a mind-management tool. When you form a habit, it enables you to save mental energy and to take short cuts on certain activities. Automated behaviour demands less effort from you than activities that demand your complex and creative thinking. Habits thus act as one of the brain’s power-saving mechanisms, “chunking” the routine behaviours to free up energy for those other “essential” tasks.
Habits are important to understand because they contain specific aspects of your thinking, your emotions and your beliefs, which in turn, can also become automated. In many ways, a habit is a reflection of your direction, who you are, and what you believe. When you achieve your goals, it is a result of your well-nurtured habits.
Habits are also important to understand because when a habit has been formed, it creates a huge influence in how you expect to behave, think and feel. This can be ideal if the habit is serving a good purpose. If the habit is (or has become) a bad habit however, then it can have a negative impact on many aspects of your life, how you feel about yourself and your confidence. Ingrained bad habits will conflict with what you want to do, displacing your rationality and what you might consider to be your “free will”.
Habits are more challenging to adjust when you are experiencing a number of major lifestyle changes e.g. a change of job, a relationship break-up, a bereavement etc. When you are under pressure, letting go of the old habits and establishing new ones can be frustrating. It can seem easier to continue with the bad habit particularly when you are under stress, even though you can appreciate that it’s not working for you and that it’s conflicting with underlying beliefs (cognitive dissonance).
If you want to break a bad habit, layers of repetition that you have formed in one direction will now need to be undone and replaced with a new positive process. If this habit has taken many years to develop, it can be particularly challenging to work against the tide of expectation, break down the bad habit and install a new self-affirming behaviour. When you want to break a bad habit it’s not surprising that you get stuck in a recurrent loop.
Have you reached a dead end with your bad habit? Then maybe professional help would benefit you.
Break a bad habit: how are habits formed?
Approximately 40% of your daily behaviour is determined, not by conscious decisions, but by habit. Have you ever tried to be conscious of some of your basic routines? Take your morning routine for example. It can be exhausting analysing every action, the methods available, the pros and cons, assessing and evaluating if the behaviour was good enough etc. Like most people, you slip into subconscious mode and prepare for your day ahead.
Let’s consider one part in that morning routine, like brushing your teeth. For many of you, rewinding back to the day when it all started will have connections with your parents or relevant authority figures. The cue (or trigger for the behaviour) will have originated from a suggestion, demonstration or assistance from them. The reward or perceived benefit is the reason for your brain to store the pattern of behaviour. This may have come from your parent’s praise, your own reward for “looking very grown up” imitating what they did, enjoying the feel of the toothbrush on your gums or taste of the toothpaste etc. With the repetition of daily teeth brushing, the routine or habit was created.
Now let’s consider another habit that is not so fundamental for the general population, but is essential to those who do it – the habit of nail biting (onychophagia). Again, the cue for nail biting can derive from observation and imitation of an authority figure or a peer. For some, having the irritation of an uneven nail that was torn or split was the cue. Biting off the torn nail reduced the irritation and became the reward. And with the repetition of biting more nails, the habit was formed.
As a nail biting habit becomes ingrained over a period of years, it integrates additional needs (emotions and beliefs) and incorporates more rewards. This intensifies its effect on the individual, as if it’s part of your identity. By now, the nail biting habit has numerous triggers and is taking over many situations in your lifestyle. You may even be biting your nails in your sleep.
Some of the underlying needs that can develop over the years for nail biting can include personal grooming, perfectionism, problem-solving, achievement, emotional comfort (from stress, anxiety etc.), alleviation of boredom, control, self punishment, time-efficiency (using your teeth is easier than fetching nail clippers), defiance, loneliness, a thumb-sucking replacement, hunger satisfaction, appetite suppression etc.
With such a complicated needs-reward pathway, wanting to break a bad habit like nail biting as an adult can be a challenging process.
Habits, compulsions and addictions
What are the similarities and differences between habits, compulsions and addictions?
As discussed, habits (whether good or bad) are routine behaviours that are consolidated through repetition. You may or may not notice that you are performing the behaviour, but when it is brought to your conscious attention, you can usually temporarily stop the behaviour. With time, the original reward that integrated the good habit during formation can separate from the current behaviour. Hence you can be in possession of habits that are no longer useful. If it conflicts with current needs, the good habit has become a bad habit.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviours driven by anxiety and are often defined within obsessive compulsive disorder. There is hope of a reward, but once the compulsion is performed, there is no relief from the underlying anxiety connected to it.
Whilst there is pressure to act with both habits and compulsions, the pressure to perform the compulsion is usually more intense than with habits, and will continue even if consciously noticed. The “good habit” of washing your hands before eating has a definite sense of completion. With compulsive hand washing however, the ritual can have a specific sequence, is time-consuming and anxiety continues even after completion of the hand washing routine.
Addictions involve biological connections with substances that are consumed or used, such as drugs, alcohol and nicotine. There are many compulsions that are considered to be addictions, where no substances are consumed or used e.g. when gambling or shopping as a “shopaholic”. Addictive behaviour is characterised by intense cravings, loss of control and behavioural persistence often to the neglect on one’s health, relationships and work. An addiction can be referred to as a disease with many triggers because of the brain’s involvement in the development of the condition.
Addictions start as habits but the behaviour can remain as habits e.g. when habitually drinking alcohol every evening. As the habitual patterns intensify however, they can become compulsive and addictive. What defines it can depend on the individual and your motivation, your negative emotions connected to the behaviour (e.g. to manage anxiety) and its affect that these patterns are having on your neurology. All behavioural patterns can be difficult to stop.
Generally, an OCD compulsion has does not have any pleasurable attachments; it originates from a need to relieve an obsessive urge. Addictive behaviour starts with the desire for pleasure, but there is usually a point where enjoyment is lost and you are just seeking relief from the urge to continue the behaviour. This is intensified during withdrawal and can look like an OCD compulsion at this stage because the pleasure has ceased.
Another major distinction is related to the awareness of reality. Those with an OCD compulsion are aware that the obsession is not real and you are distressed by the need to carry out the irrational compulsion. People with addictions however are in a state of denial and are disconnected from the long term consequences of your actions. Instead you are in pursuit of short term gratification, ignoring how your behaviour might be linked to an underlying problem.
Why is this distinction between habits, compulsions and addictions important? From the above discussion, it is evident that these types of repetitive behaviour can overlap in one person, yet can remain distinct in another person. Consider an example like exercising every day. Is this someone who is passionate about their hobby, health and fitness, and wants to maintain a good exercise habit? Or has the exercise routine become more of a bad habit or a compulsion, masking an underlying health anxiety or insecurity about their physique? If the individual is spending hours each evening at the gym and neglecting family relationships, does this mean that it has become an addiction? It would need a closer analysis to define it accurately.
When you want to break a bad habit, understanding the category of your automated behaviour (habit, compulsion or addiction) can help you appreciate what may be necessary in your treatment plan. Treatment to quit smoking for example can involve treatment for the addiction and habit to convert the smoker into a non-smoker.
Has your repetitive behaviour been diagnosed? Many clients arrive with deeply entrenched bad habits that have become compulsions. It’s often necessary to treat the connecting beliefs and emotions to release the subconscious mind’s need to maintain the bad habit.
Break a bad habit: Most common bad habits
Bad habits come in all shapes and sizes and varying degrees of severity. Placing them into “categories” inevitably involves a degree of overlap depending on how you view the habit e.g. is watching too much television a bad health habit, or a procrastination habit, or both? Certain bad habits can also vary in the specific situation e.g. procrastination can be determined by what distractions are available at the time such as access to television, your phone, snacks etc. and whether you are at home or at work.
And not all bad habits are behavioural; some bad habits can be identified as cognitive and emotional e.g. when dwelling on lost opportunities or worrying about the future.
Bad habits that increase your weight
It’s not just identifying where the calories exist; it’s important to make the connection with how you approach your eating and drinking patterns. Bad habits that increase your weight can include:
- Overeating, binge eating
- Drinking high calorie drinks
- Emotional eating (aka comfort eating)
- Snacking late in the evening
- Eating a diet that is high in salt, sugar and fat
- Eating too quickly
- Always needing to finish everything on your plate
- Not eating consciously (snacking whilst watching television),
- Not planning your meals
Bad habits that can harm your health
Ignore some of these bad habits and they can apparently take years off your life. Bad habits that can harm your health include:
- Many of the habits that increase your weight (see above)
- Drinking too much caffeine
- Being inactive (lack of exercise)
- Slouching, crossing your legs
- Not having enough or quality sleep
- Habitual drinking and binge drinking (alcohol)
- Using phones and other devices late at night
- Taking drugs
- Overmedicating (pain killers, sedatives etc.)
- Ignoring how stress is affecting you
- Skipping medical appointments
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not flossing
- Wearing high heels
- Skipping meals
- Ignoring the value of your health
- Living beyond your financial means
Bad habits that damage your productivity
Being productive can involve a number of issues including effective time management skills and balancing obligations with work and home life. Activities that can be defined as “time out” or escapism to some can be a time-wasting activity (procrastination) to others. In the balance of managing stress however, it is important to have some relaxation time; too much “chill” time and it can add to your stress. Bad habits that can damage your productivity include:
- Watching too much television
- Overusing your phone
- Playing video games
- Over-using social media
- Saying yes to everything
- Lack of delegation
- Being indecisive
- Not having breaks
- Poor punctuality
- Watching too much porn
- Sleeping in
- Leaving keys/wallet/purse in random places
- Leaving things until last minute
Bad habits that hurt your finances
Some people say that money isn’t everything, but it’s important to achieve a level of financial comfort where you don’t have a daily financial struggle just to survive. Ignore poor financial management habits and it can lead to health problems. Bad habits that can hurt your finances include:
- Emotional impulsive shopping
- Ignoring credit card limits
- Not economising/budgeting
- Stealing (kleptomania)
- Not saving money
- Neglecting your bills/expenses
- Not saving towards a pension
- Spending to compete with others
- Hoping to get lucky
Personal bad habits
Personal grooming patterns can become destructive habits, even though they start with the intention of comforting the individual. Some of these behaviours can annoy, offend and disgust others when done in public. Personal bad habits can include:
- Nail biting or biting/chewing on other objects
- Thumb sucking
- Twiddling hair
- Hair pulling (Trichotillomania)
- Biting your lips, biting the inside of your cheeks
- Picking your skin, scabs or spots
- Clearing your throat excessively
- Grinding your teeth (bruxism), clenching your jaw
- Not washing your hands
- Picking you nose
- Cracking knuckles
- Excessive scratching
- Over grooming
- Using your phone when driving
Bad habits that harm your relationships
Communication, trust and respect are just some of the common relationship goals. Certain bad habits can hinder those goals from flourishing. Bad habits that can harm your relationship include:
- Trying to change your partner
- Provoking jealous reactions from your partner
- Being too critical
- Staying in toxic relationships
- Being abusive
- Not standing up to abuse
- Being aggressive
- Not acknowledging your partner
- Not actively listening
- Competing with your partner
- Keeping score
- Failing to respect each other’s space
- Engaging in passive-aggression
- Avoiding conflict
Bad habits that harm your emotional wellbeing
It can be a slow process, but giving daily attention to some of the behavioural patterns that are contributing to your low mood can gradually pull you out of your unhappiness. Bad habits that can harm you emotional well-being include:
- Being self critical
- Associating with negative people
- Being unassertiveness
- Fearing failure
- Struggling to take criticism or praise
- Failing to take responsibility
- Isolating yourself from others
- Comparing yourself to others
- Worrying excessively
- Not making time for yourself
- Self hatred
- Not practising meditation/mindfulness/self hypnosis
- Obsessing about things out of your control
- Undervaluing self awareness
- Not using correct breathing techniques
- Failing to use affirmations
- Dwelling on your negative past
- Not wanting to break a bad habit
The impact of ignoring bad habits in a certain category can obviously have a direct impact on that part of your life e.g. obesity can be the result of ignoring bad habits that contribute to weight gain.
Other negative effects include anxiety, depression, stress, sleep problems, panic attacks, fatigue etc. Long terms bad habits can also contribute to family problems, dental problems, social problems and unemployment.
How are bad habits justified?
Bad habits start as “good” habits. At the time of their formation, you make the connection with a perceived benefit (or reward) regardless of how negative it may seem to others. What you connect with can be based on the resources that are conveniently available at that time.
Young children can develop habits such as twiddling hair, nail biting, thumb sucking and skin picking to manage stress, to comfort insecurity and loneliness, and calm anxiety. When there is a lack of activity for children, the bad habit can combine with the management of these negative emotions to become a new daydreaming “activity” to feel comforted and ease boredom.
Depending on your family situation and your interaction with adult authority figures, the developing bad habits can be reinforced to balance emotions from negative conditioning e.g. where there is control, manipulation, abuse or neglect from adults (or other school children). By employing the habit, the child will seek to gain attention or regain a level of emotional control. Some habits can be used as self-punishment (self-harm) to divert feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness.
Whilst the bad habit of comfort eating can develop from young childhood, teenage curiosity can be a period where bad habits are connected to other substances. Alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs are common ways that young people self-medicate to escape problems and manage stress and social anxiety.
Beyond the use of substances, emotional and behavioural bad habits can also become ritualised at this young age to manage anxiety, a fear of failure, guilt and shame. Negative self-talk, obsessive compulsive behaviour (e.g. gaming or gambling) and procrastination (e.g. watching television, using social media) are common bad habits that leak into adulthood, often damaging efficiency, self confidence and self esteem.
The needs that justify bad habits can be complex. They start as a functional good habit. With repetition, changing needs and new situations, they evolve and attach new rewards that can make the original need for performing the habit redundant. When you are struggling to break a bad habit, you are attempting to confront theses conflicts in your emotional history.
How can hypnotherapy help you to break a bad habit?
Stubborn bad habits leave a deep imprint in how you manage your life. Bad habits can persist despite them being detrimental to your health, harmful to your relationships and a contributor to your stress. A desire to change isn’t always enough to break a bad habit cycle.
When you are battling to break a bad habit and you have reached a dead end, hypnotherapy can give you the tools that you need to eliminate it. That’s why many people seek professional help from a hypnotherapist. How can hypnotherapy help you break a bad habit?
Hypnotherapy can identify and remove the cause of your bad habit
Many habits were installed within a particular belief system or state of mind that met your needs at that time. You have now moved on from these needs but the cause of the habit is still influencing you to continue the behaviour. Regression techniques can be used to take you back to when you set up the behaviour and reframe the needs-habit (causal) pathway. The emotional roots can then be disconnected freeing to access new habitual patterns that suit your current lifestyle.
Hypnotherapy can break the triggers that surround your bad habit
Bad habits start as a conscious process and with repetition they become unconscious. You may not even notice that you are performing your bad habit in certain situations until a negative trigger prompts you e.g. your bitten nail is sore, or there are no more biscuits in the pack, or the bottle of wine is now empty, or your skin is bleeding, or you have just “lost” another 2 hours to procrastination etc.
Throughout your treatment, you will become more mindful of your bad habit, helping you to identify “where” and “when” the triggers are intense. Suggestions can then be used to remove the negative patterns that are associated with these triggers.
Hypnotherapy can reprogram your negative thought patterns
Your bad habit is paired with negative thoughts, beliefs and emotions that justify its continuity in a part of the mind called the ‘critical factor’. Negative thoughts like…
- “I can’t do that assignment” (so you procrastinate with a few more round of Candy Crush).
- “I’ve lapsed so many times now; I may as well keep smoking” (so you light up another cigarette!)
- “I can’t win with this diet” (so you grab a few biscuits in frustration).
…help maintain the bad habit.
In hypnosis, the critical factor is overridden enabling you to absorb positive suggestions or affirmations that have a more profound effect on your old bad habits. It’s as if your mind is given accelerated conditioning experiences to optimise and embed new positive thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviour that are aligned to your treatment goals.
Hypnotherapy can replace your bad habit with new positive habit
How many times have you heard people tell you to “just stop” doing your bad habit? How many times have you said that to yourself in vain? Ingrained bad habits rarely respond to suggestions “to stop” when they ignore deeper unmet needs. This is because your mind’s system becomes unbalanced, registers that something is “missing” and demands that the need is met (usually with what it expects to have, based on past behaviour).
The main therapeutic aim when you want to break a bad habit is to give your mind a brand new habit that is functionally more acceptable than the bad habit, and then install the new habit with repetition. If the underlying needs (e.g. stress and anxiety) are stable during the transitional period, the connection with the good habit can be achieved relatively easily. This approach is effective with “simple” bad habits.
Intense repetition is important for conditioned learning; to create the switch from the old bad habit to the new good habit. When the repetition is too slow and it lacks emotional intensity however, your mind can revert back to using the old bad habit. This is where hypnotherapy can step in and be so beneficial with visualisation techniques.
Visualisation in hypnosis can give your mind the positive experiences with emotion intensity, as if you have actually had those experiences in reality. This treatment approach accelerates the conditioning process. Visualisation can serve useful when it’s difficult to continuously simulate the emotions and behaviour in a particular situation e.g. when installing a performance skill in open field sports situations.
Hypnotherapy can treat the underlying needs of the bad habit
When you want to break a bad habit, the above process (i.e. habit replacement) is the most common and direct treatment aim with simple bad habits. The conversion can be relatively quick, particularly with highly suggestible clients. Try this hypnosis test to assess your level of suggestibility.
Some bad habits are more complex and might be defined as compulsive behaviour. This is because there are numerous underlying needs (emotions and beliefs) that have connected to the bad habit over a long period of time. This causes the structure between your needs and the bad habit to become very rigid.
Your goal in therapy remains: to break a bad habit. In this situation however, the underlying needs (or core issues) are very strong and demand treatment in the context of your bad habit. If the bad habit is eliminated without dealing with the underlying needs, the exposed needs will draw you back into the bad habit. Regression techniques may be used to identify and treat the cause, and reappraise any issues that were impacting on the habit during its formation.
Let’s take for example someone who wants to quit the habit of smoking cigarettes. You have tried and failed several times using “willpower”. Direct suggestions in hypnotherapy are only having a partial effect and you relapse in certain situations. The background to the habit of smoking is identified and reappraised using regression hypnotherapy. As a teenager, the origin of the habit of smoking was connected to control and manipulation from an abusive father. Smoking was used as defiance, to “take back control” from your abuser (i.e. your reward). Smoking was something that your father despised and was unable to control in your absence. As the adult, you now live independently from your abusive father, but he criticises you each time that you have a telephone conversation with him. After the conversation you feel tense and worthless and this is a recurring trigger for you to smoke. Your “abuse-tension-worthlessness-smoking” connection (or your underlying need) is treated and this helps you to quit smoking completely. Your treatment helps you install new, more functional habits and deal with the stress of your father’s criticism of you in a positive and constructive way.
Hypnotherapy can teach you self hypnosis for future habit maintenance
Habit formation is an ongoing process; as your needs change habits need adjustment to be effective. Developing good habits that can be adapted to your changing needs and situations in the future is a skill that can help you manage your lifestyle independently. Having achieved your goal in my hypnotherapy treatment, you will take with you some of the skills of breathing techniques and self hypnosis to maintain the independent “mind-work” that can be so useful for future habit management.