Excessive guilt moral code

Excessive guilt

Excessive guilt

Excessive guilt: Whether by intention or by accident, feeling guilty about something that you’ve done wrong is a natural emotional response. What causes your excessive guilt? Was it something that you said or did that caused offence? Did you neglect to invite someone to a social occasion? Or maybe you didn’t respond to someone’s message after saying that you would get back to them. These are common mistakes that everyone has made at some point in their lives. Your moral code will set the agenda for what constitutes that wrong, how intensely you feel guilt and for how long are likely to dwell on it.

Excessive guilt moral code
Your moral code will determine your potential excessive guilt

Feeling guilty in the short term isn’t necessarily unhealthy. The unease you feel in your stomach can contribute to your human growth by helping you consider how to temporarily resolve a situation e.g. by apologising for your wrongdoing. In your re-evaluation of your guilt and from the responses of those involved, it can also motivate you to make better choices if the situation was to happen again. However prolonged and excessive guilty feelings (sometimes called a guilt complex) can be unhelpful. Suppressing your guilt may offer some temporary respite, but like other unaddressed emotions, it can intensify over time, influencing you to feel worse about your actions and the past. Fixating on your “wrong” long after others have forgotten or forgiven what happened can damage your self-confidence and your self-esteem. It can influence feelings of inadequacy and shame. Feeling excessive guilt can be a factor that maintains symptoms of OCD, anxiety, depression, PTSD and prolonged grief.

Understanding your guilt, the background to your excessive guilty emotions and why these feelings persist can help you change the intensity of your emotions, change your reactions and improve your future behaviour.

Excessive guilt: What is guilt and what are the various types of guilt?

There are various “self-conscious” or “self-awareness” emotions that affect how you see yourself and how others might perceive and accept you e.g. pride, embarrassment and jealousy. Personal (and cultural) morals, rules and goals influence how these emotions develop. In its “appropriate” form, guilt can help develop empathy and regulate your social behaviour, acting as your “inner critic” or “guilty conscience”.

You can feel guilty when you imagine (perceive, believe) or become aware that you have undermined your own or somebody else’s moral standards. The guilt may be connected to the “wrong” that you did but (rightly or wrongly) you feel responsible for those actions.

You can similarly feel guilty for your omissions where you believe that what you didn’t do has broken your (or someone else’s) moral code e.g. feeling guilty because you did not intervene when witnessing another person being bullied but justified it at the time since you feared being targeted by the instigator (a form of compassionate guilt).  Or when you are unrealistically trying to care for too many people and ultimately believe that you are failing your own expectations.

Some people can experience a “false guilt” that is irrational or connected to other emotions e.g. you can feel guilty for having a “guilty pleasure”, which is connected more to a fear of disapproval. Additionally, you can feel guilty for wishing harm on others, which can derive more from anger, jealousy or envy. Some people can feel guilt accompanied with overwhelming feelings of responsibility for something going wrong even when they played no active part in predicting or contributing to that wrong (also known as maladaptive guilt).

In some cases, you can feel guilty for (what you believe to be) exceeding the moral expectations of your group. Compared to your family or peer group, your route to success and achievement can attract too much attention that you believe others in your social group deserve. To displace the guilt that you are doing better than others “less fortunate than you”, you may “protect” them from feeling worthless by sabotaging your own success and engage in self-destructive achievement-behaviours e.g. not sitting exams or by underperforming in exams. This type of guilt in which you believe that are doing better than someone else is related to “survivor’s guilt”, when you have survived a tragedy or disaster in which others have died or been seriously hurt. With survivor’s guilt, you are not directly responsible for the situation that has harmed others. This type of guilt is very common with combat veterans suffering PTSD who have survived a trauma when many of their troops have died.

Survivor’s guilt can fall into the category of existential guilt, a type of guilt rooted in feeling guilty about your existence rather than specifically doing something wrong. For some people, this type of guilt may surface when confronting the fear of death and reviewing the life that you have led.

There are many other forms of existential guilt such as feeling guilty for leading your life inauthentically (or when you are not achieving your full life potential), feeling guilty for who you are as a person with reference to human nature (and the responsibility of human nature), and feeling guilty within existential boundaries of human belonging, freedom, will and justice. Many of these existential guilt examples can be experienced when someone has set a (direct or indirect goal) to have children but your life partner does not share these procreative goals.

Knowing how much guilt has gnawed at your emotions from past events, you can also suffer guilt anxiety. Guilt anxiety is experienced when your moral code is compromised when you are preparing to deal with a future stressful situation e.g. when needing to break up a relationship or needing to fire subordinate staff due to company redundancies. Viewing it disproportionately from their perspective, guilt anxiety may cause you to delay or completely avoid taking assertive action.

Excessive guilt obsession
Excessive guilt can leave you obsessing over past wrongs

Guilt is closely associated with regret, remorse and shame. In its severe form, guilt can influence deeper feelings of unworthiness. When combined with low self-esteem, you can ruminate or obsess over past “wrongs” in which you believe that you are responsible and don’t deserve to move on from these wrongs. Sufferers of excessive guilt are prone to social isolation to avoid burdening others with your problems. However, you can then feeling guilty for not being sociable. Acts of self-harm or other damaging behaviours are also common with depressive modes that seem to have no solution.

With excessive guilt, you can be convinced and even paranoid that you’ve done something wrong, despite the evidence pointing to the contrary. With fear of harm OCD, your own senses can betray you, overestimating your actions as being serious in a situation in which your mistake only had minor consequences, if any at all.

As a psychological defence mechanism, some people suppress or repress guilt when having forbidden and taboo thoughts (common with guilty thoughts OCD). However the act of suppression or repression can strengthen those negative thoughts and keep them active often intensifying the guilty emotions and keeping the sufferer in a recurrent cycle of excessive guilt. Another defence mechanism is guilt denial. When you deny your feelings of guilt, you do not acknowledge responsibility for the wrong. Instead, you may project your guilt onto others by blaming the victim for the “wrong” in the form of a guilt trip.

When you are conditioned to use guilt trips to communicate needs, it can become habit-forming, as a natural way trying to get what you want from others (and vice versa). Guilt trips can take various positive and negative forms. In some cases it can be used to morally try to educate another person, to avoid conflict about the issue in hand or draw sympathy from the harmed person by appearing to be the victim. As a more devious form, a guilt trip can be manipulative, forcing another person to do something that they don’t want to do. In this extreme form, guilt denial can be a feature of psychopathy.

Excessive guilt vs. shame

It’s worth distinguishing between guilt and shame as it’s easy to confuse these emotions when you are reacting to feelings of distress. Both emotions can create similar symptoms, but they are not the same.

Guilt is a feeling of remorse and responsibility connected to the perceived wrongful act (or omission). You would probably say something like “I handled that badly” following the situation. Despite the perceived wrongful act, you believe that you are fundamentally a good person. You can appreciate that there are potential constructive steps to make amends for the wrongful act.

Shame, on the other hand, is related to your self-image. It is more connected to a violation of social norms or ideals that are focused on your character as a whole, rather than a specific behaviour or event. It is far more toxic and destructive to your self-esteem than guilt. You are convinced that “you” are what’s wrong and believe that there is no solution available to redeem your worth. You would probably say something like “I’m a horrible person and I don’t deserve good things” following the situation. As a reaction, you are more likely to self-destruct by punishing yourself (e.g. with isolation or self harm) or suppress your shame and be aggressive towards others.

What causes excessive guilt?

Core emotions such as guilt can develop as early as three years old. There are various factors that can contribute to excessive guilt. Whilst guilt can be shown in MRI studies, it is considered a reflection of that person’s learned social standards rather than what might be genetically inherited.

Causes of guilt can include:

Childhood experiences:  Parents who have grown up with a “guilty” belief system are more likely to use language patterns that will further embed guilty beliefs into children. Guilt can also be exacerbated within families in which the authority figures value harsh discipline, excessive punishment and additional responsibility for the young children. A child who is unable to communicate their guilt can live in fear of being discovered and severely punished. This may intensify their guilt and create further attempts to hide (or suppress) their wrongs, only to be caught at a later stage. In addition to this, a child will continue feeling guilty when parents maintain their disappointment and are unable to assert their forgiveness.

Low self esteem
Guilt has strong connections with low self esteem

Low self-esteem: Connected to childhood experiences is the early development of your self-esteem. Guilt is a potential symptom of low self-esteem. With low self-esteem, you doubt the value of your thoughts, emotions, beliefs and behaviour. You have a negative opinion of yourself and are more likely to value the authority of others’ opinions. Rarely feeling good about yourself, these recurrent inferior belief patterns will direct blame inwardly. You are more susceptible to accepting others’ judgements of you and are thus vulnerable to those who are blame averse. You often believe that you deserve blame and don’t deserve to be forgiven.

Anxiety: There is a strong connection between anxiety (the feeling) and guilt (the effect). Feeling guilty then causes more anxiety and continues this emotional cycle. This mutual cause-and-effect relationship can be a feature of OCD and depression.

Social anxiety: Having social anxiety as with low self-esteem, you are more likely feel social pressure to give authority to other people’s judgements that you are responsible for the wrong. You can then fear being excluded if you are deemed responsible for the wrong. With social anxiety, you may also isolate yourself because you fear doing something embarrassing. Being questioned about your absence (to a party for example) can influence guilty feelings because you fear offending other people.

Culture and society: Cultural norms can create deep and (often unrealistically high expectations) of how you should lead your life from the society’s perspective against how you personally want to lead to your life. You may be told from individuals that your behaviour is bad or imagine that “culture” will tell you that your behaviour is bad. Without conforming to these norms you can feel isolated, disrespected and disgraced. Your guilt can be heightened when the norms that you adopt from one social group may be in conflict with the norms of another social group e.g. teenage deviance may be admired by your teenage peer group culture but despised by your family culture.

Religion: Some religions (and their interpretation) can give more emphasis to guilt when your behaviour is not synonymous with the teaching of the religious values. With some religions, it is believed that your wrongful thoughts and actions are known to the religious deity and it is often necessary to confess, repent and atone for these wrongs to be forgiven by the religious deity.

Excessive guilt: Symptoms of guilt

Many of the symptoms of guilt are connected with anxiety, OCD and depression. They can include:

Physical symptoms: general muscle tension, diaphragmatic tension or “butterflies”, sleep problems, headaches, nausea, fatigue, upset, distracted, concentration problems, anxiety-related IBS etc.

Emotional symptoms (as a consequence of anxiety): feeling tense and irritable, oversensitive to the effect of your actions, feeling tearful and remorseful, feeling responsible to make life better, feeling overwhelmed by own mistakes, feeling inadequate etc.

Behavioural symptoms (as a consequence of anxiety): being indecisive, defensive, desperately apologetic, being preoccupied with past mistakes, trying to make amends for the wrong, blaming yourself, trying to gain other’s approval, overreacting to criticism, being deluded that you did something wrong, favouring other’s needs to the detriment of your own needs, isolating yourself from others, being fearful that you made the wrong decision etc.

Common treatment approaches

Excessive guilt can affect your mental well-being and quality of life. If the above symptoms are interfering with your life on a frequent basis, there are various treatment options available to you.

Medication: Your doctor may prescribe anxiety medication or anti-depressants to help with your symptoms. They may additionally suggest having therapy.

Therapy: CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can help you confront the negative thoughts and behaviour that are contributing to your guilt.

Self-help: There are various self-help methods to cope with guilt including venting your guilt to a good listener, reading self-help books and online articles, engaging in online forums, etc.

How can hypnotherapy help excessive guilt?

Hypnotherapy can reframe your guilty event

Hypnotherapy excessive guilt treatment
Hypnotherapy can help you reframe a guilty event

There are many hypnotherapy techniques available to treat your guilt. Regression can be used to establish any underlying patterns of “guilt learning” that you’ve experienced in your life. Regression can also be used to access the initial sensitising event (ISE) and access the most immediate source of the emotion, also known as the symptom producing event (SPE). These events can then be reinterpreted by enabling the adult mind to heal the “inner child’s” perspective of the guilty trauma.

Hypnotherapy can facilitate your (self) forgiveness

As part of the reframe from above (and where it’s possible and appropriate), self-forgiveness can be explored to release you from the “grip” of the past guilty event. It can be difficult to apply this process for yourself when your excessive guilt is directing you to replay the guilt.

Many people know which event that is triggering the excessive guilt. Its constant “replay” may feel like you are absolving your guilt, but instead you are reliving the process, creating an unnecessarily long-term suffering without applying a therapeutic intervention. In hypnosis, you can gain a partial release of your guilt by acknowledging and accepting the accountability for the past behaviour. Anger and resentment can be further explored to continue this release.

As you work through your guilt, you can reappraise the motives of your original behaviour without excessive judgement. Then, by establishing potential changes for the future, you can facilitate an openness for relearning and continued self-compassion.

Using this dissociated reframing process in the focused hypnotic state, many clients can feel like the internal burden of guilt has been lifted from your shoulders.

Hypnotherapy can interrupt your guilt obsession

In many cases of OCD, guilt and anxiety play a dominant role in locking you into your rumination. You are desperately trying to liberate yourself from a negative thinking cycle, but those thoughts keep coming back. Thought suppression has a limited short-term effect and will swamp you when you are not distracted or at night when you are settling down to sleep. Hypnotherapy can give to effective techniques to eliminate this guilt obsession cycle.

Hypnotherapy can build your self esteem

When you suffer with low self-esteem, you have a low opinion of yourself and your beliefs. You give more authority to the thoughts, feelings and behaviour of others. When people blame you, you are likely to accept their judgement of your wrong as the “fact” of the matter, as if you deserve it. Hypnotherapy can be used to build your self-esteem and treat these associated issues that exacerbate your excessive guilt.

Hypnotherapy can release the physical sensations of guilt

The mind-body connection can be strong, influencing physical (psycho-somatic) symptoms of tension and postural changes derived from thoughts, emotions and beliefs. If you sense that you are “carrying” your guilt or it is “weighing you down”, these metaphors can create an embodiment of your guilt, as if acting like an emotion with “real” weight on your body. For those clients who bring this embodied cognitive framework into the treatment process, hypnosis can be used within this metaphor to release the “heavy” sensations that guilt is generating on your body.

Hypnotherapy can access your attachment to past judgements

(Existential) guilt can create a constant feeling of wrongness about who you are and taint everything that you do (or don’t do). You may be able to identify the source of this judgement before treatment and work through this in the treatment process e.g. with family or religious values. Sometimes, the source can be unconscious, leaving you confused about your authenticity and feeling responsible for events that are not your fault. You can fear the future, anticipating blame for something that you believe will go wrong. Hypnotic regression techniques can help you access the source of your previous judgement, releasing feelings of (over) responsibility. It can be used to realign your accountability for your past and feel more positive about your future.

Hypnotherapy can help you re-imagine an apology

Release with reimagined apology
Hypnotherapy can help you reimagine your apology

Not having the opportunity to apologise for the way you handled a situation at the time of the event can leave you with feelings of guilt. The situation may have passed a long time ago. Sometimes this feeling of guilt is connected to a negative grieving cycle in which you were unable to absolve with the deceased before they died. In a deep state of hypnosis you are more receptive to hypnotic suggestions. Hypnotic suggestions can be used to help you to visualise the apology and any helpful accompanied forgiveness (and self-forgiveness) to give you the much-needed closure that was unavailable at the time. This can enable you to be a peace with the event and with those people connected to it.

Hypnotherapy can help you identify why you don’t deserve to absolve your guilt

There may be deeper reasons behind your need to maintain your excessive guilt. These reasons are not always rational but can be a reaction to  background trauma or excessive conditioning. Being blamed with excessive punishment can engender a general self-blame perspective in which you then anticipate blame. Accompanied harsh criticism can then damage your self-esteem in which you form beliefs that you are not good enough to be free of blame. Hypnotherapy can help you identify these accumulative patterns of negative conditioning and any unrealistic standards of behaviour that felt controlling or abusive. The meaning of these events can be reframed to release your repressed feelings of blame, responsibility and guilt.

Hypnotherapy can help you reduce anxiety connected to your guilt

Having felt the distress of guilt in the past, anxiety can give you the warning to avoid this overwhelming sense of wrongness again in the future. How you stored, reacted to, and even suppressed the event can provoke confusion about how to cope with the way forward. You can then fear making an even bigger mistake again and intensifying your guilty feelings. For example, if you have made numerous mistakes in work that have needed other colleagues to rectify them, you can feel anxious about this chain of events happening again. You will then doubt your ability and worry about the potential burden on your colleagues.

Regression techniques are one of the many hypnotic strategies () that can be used to identify what events are suppressed or they can be used to reinterpret these events to release your guilt.

Excessive guilt: Summary

Feeling guilt is a natural emotional response to doing something wrong.

Obsessing on the guilty act long after the event can have a detrimental effect on your well-being. The need to fixate on your guilt may indicate a more traumatic background or other mental health issues. Hypnotherapy can offer many strategies to help you overcome your excessive guilt.

You can access treatment for excessive guilt in person and remotely by completing the Contact Form. There is more information about hypnotherapy in the hypnosis test.

For more information about treating your excessive guilt, contact
Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

Fear of losing control rage

Fear Of Losing Control

Fear of Losing Control

The fear of losing control is a common fear that can be associated with many other anxiety-related conditions e.g., phobias, panic attacks, OCD, social anxiety and PTSD. You may not communicate this fear as an initial treatment goal, yet it can emerge as an important secondary issue that demands attention. Exploring your beliefs connected to “control” and what it means to “lose control” can be extremely beneficial to treating your main presenting condition and associated anxiety symptoms.

Fear of losing control rage
How do you define your loss of control?

What is a fear of losing control?

A fear of losing control can mean different things to different people. We all want to be in control of our lives, in the same way that we all want to pursue our model of happiness. However, there is a huge difference between wanting to be in control and living in fear of losing control, in whatever way that you define that negative reality coming into existence. As that negative reality threatens to materialise, you can anticipate your symptoms and you may become over-controlling with your emotions and behaviour to prevent it.

In more general terms, the prevention of this negative reality is characterised by an intense and irrational fear of losing control over:

  • Yourself – This can include your mind, emotions, memories, reactions, behaviour, bodily functions e.g., bladder or bowel,etc. You might fear losing control by making a fool of yourself, doing something irrational after drinking too much alcohol, being rash or aggressive (losing your temper), being emotional (crying), or saying something that you might regret. “Freaking-out” and “going crazy” are terms commonly used if you were to lose control or be “physically or mentally incapacitated” in some way. It often refers to having a panic attack and the struggle to breath associated with the panic attack. As a consequence of losing control, other secondary feelings of distress (blame, guilt, shame, embarrassment etc.) may also be related to the initial (primary) loss of control or panic attack.
  • A situation – This can include a work meeting, presentation, formal social occasion, or performance situation. You fear that the situation won’t go as planned, so you over-plan it, obsess and overthink it. You spend an excessive amount of time in your preparation and rehearsal. Your fear of something going wrong in the situation can overwhelm you and distract you from your ability to cope with the demands of the situation like listening and responding to questions.
  • Property – This can include items of financial and sentimental value. You fear that the item of value might be damaged or lost. For example, when you buy a new car, you then become possessive over it, fearing that it will be damaged or stolen if it is parked in a precarious place. To control this fear you then leave the car in your garage where it’s safe, rarely enjoying your “precious” new vehicle. Losing-control fear can also dominate how you maintain your property. It is prevalent with types of OCD including contamination behaviours, cleanliness, orderliness and hoarding compulsions.
  • Other people – This can relate to how you expect others to comply with your expectations to lower your anxiety because you worry about them. If others don’t comply, you fear that they might be harmed in some way. It can also include being controlling over others to prevent them from showing your potential incompetence.

The term “Control-Freak” is coined for those who obsess over things being done in a perfect way or be left with feelings of inadequacy or failure. As a phobia it is also known as atychiphobia or kakorrhaphiophobia.

Perfectionist controlling lawn
Perfectionists are more prone to losing-control fears

“Control-freaks” are often perfectionists who battle with intense self-criticism, hopelessness and stress. They struggle to delegate to others as they are intolerant of those who don’t share their same flawless standards.

Unhealthy (or neurotic) perfectionists are more prone to losing-control fears as general trait or in specific areas of life. They can be distinguished from the healthy form of perfectionism, in which pleasure is gained from one’s efforts and the outcomes do not compromise your self-esteem.

What situations can a fear of losing control affect?

Family relationships – Parental fears of their children being harmed is very common. The parent’s protective behaviour can reduce their own worries, but it can damage a child’s confidence particularly when the behaviour is controlling. For example, if a parent suffers with social anxiety, they can inadvertently instil socially anxious fears into their child by controlling who they should be friends with and when they can see them.

Parents can also be over-controlling of their children to prevent themselves being labelled as an incapable parents. Controlling the child’s homework to help the child’s success can be a sign of good parenting but controlling all their free time to make them study (just to calm the parent’s fears) can overwhelm them. Some children can become averse to studying because of parental pressure.

Workplace – The fear of losing control at work can present itself in many ways, usually as a fear of failure. For the individual who wants to achieve high standards, the extra time and energy to revise completed work just to “cross every T” can take its toll on your productivity-efficiency with potential burnout. When you can’t perfect something, you may become defensive of it, procrastinate over the task or avoid it altogether since an “adequate” outcome (rather than a perfect one) can be viewed as failure. Other perfectionist behaviour can include hiding your errors from others for fear of criticism, then finding it’s too late to correct these errors before the deadline. You may also be very critical of others who don’t have the same perfect standards as you.

In some cases, being managed by a perfectionist boss who fears losing control of their staff can amount to bullying. Bullying behaviour includes being humiliating, insulting, offensive and intimidating towards subordinate members of staff. Bullying behaviour is not always “downwards” in the chain of command, it can extend to colleagues at a similar level, and “upwards” towards superior staff. The latter can apply when a junior member of staff is envious of a superior’s position and will reject their “control” by failing to complete requested tasks, being disrespectful and spreading rumours about them to colleagues.

Relationships – losing-control fear in relationships can take many forms. Perhaps the most obvious is the fear of a relationship breakdown and the potential rejection, isolation, worthlessness, and abandonment that can accompany it. To suppress these fears, partners can display many dominating and controlling behaviours like anger, jealousy, guilt-tripping, shaming, possessiveness, being critical (to avoid blame), “gaslighting” and being excessively inquisitive (snooping on your partner’s phone/emails).

Education – Similar to the work situation, fear of losing control in your education can be related to perfectionism. To under-achieve and attain low grades would generate intense feelings of self-criticism worthlessness. Perfectionism due to high expectations can cause conditions like writer’s block, burnout, depression and anxiety. Some students may resort to cheating and plagiarism due to the pressure to achieve high standards when completing assignments and exams.

Physical activity (exercise) – You would expect a degree of perfectionism to become an elite performer, but as with other situations, the pressure to perform can generate a losing-control fear. The pressure at elite competitions can generate sports performance anxiety, self-doubt, anger and fear of failure. Self-criticism can encourage the performer to dwell on mistakes and get distracted during the competition when the competition-performance demands are relentless. For the amateur (and elite performer), cheating using performance-enhancing substances can be appealing to reach the next level of achievement. Even for the informal fitness enthusiast, you can be susceptible to training compulsively.

Other performance situations – Fear of losing control of the performance can impact on other performance situations including driving tests, interviews, musical and stage performances and presentations. It can also affect informal performance situations like dating, sexual performance (premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction), and other social situations. A lack of control may be experienced as a fear of embarrassment, humiliation, judgement, and failure.

Home cleanliness – Devoting time and attention to something that is your pride and joy can become progressively controlling, preventing you from actually relaxing in and enjoying your own home. As with other situations (and objects), perfectionism can influence the achievement of high standards. DIY and gardening projects, tidying and cleaning can become compulsive (as a common type of OCD), continuously finding yet another job to do in an already-busy daily schedule. Your loss-of-control fears can relate to who might see those flaws and criticise something that could be cleaner. The expectations you have about your home can influence you to take those imagined judgements personally (i.e. that you aren’t good enough to keep a perfect home).

Your body – the pursuit of high standards (ideals) and self-criticism directed towards your body can be displayed in many ways.  Body-perfect behaviours can include compulsive exercising (e.g. bodybuilding outside of competitions), body treatments (plastic surgery and implants, beauty treatments, having numerous tattoos and body piercings), excessive dieting (to lose weight or to prevent health conditions) and eating disorders (e.g. anorexia and bulimia etc.). Body dysmorphia is the mental health condition that can be associated with many of the above behaviours. Comorbid conditions like addiction, self-harm, drinking excessive alcohol, depression and binge behaviour etc. can accompany this condition.

There are some situations in which this losing-control fear can be beneficial to your overall health, particularly when connected to making poor lifestyle choices. If you define the fear of losing control as developing chronic health conditions (e.g. diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, some types of cancer, etc.), you may make better lifestyle choices to try and prevent these chronic conditions from developing. These self-care behaviours can include having a mild form of heath anxiety that can encourage you to stop smoking, eat a healthy diet, exercise, reduce alcohol intake, sleep better etc. Similarly, those who already have chronic physical and mental health conditions may maintain their habit of taking medication to control and prevent their symptoms becoming worse.

What causes a fear of losing control?

Fear of losing control can be caused by a variety of factors related to the causes of phobias, including:

1. Genetics: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to anxiety disorders, which can increase the likelihood of developing this fear.

2. Traumatic experiences: People who have experienced “survival anxiety” (e.g. abandonment or separation fears) or traumatic events such as abuse, accidents, or medical emergencies may develop this fear as a reaction to these traumas.

Mother controlling teenager’s behaviour
Controlling behaviour can be a reaction to retrospective feelings of control

3. Learned behaviours: This fear can be learned through observing others or through your personal experience. If a person has seen someone else lose control in a situation and had a negative outcome, they may develop a similar fear. Feeling like you have experienced being controlled in your life may generate a deep need to balance (or take back) that control in a direct or disconnected way. When the reaction is unable to be asserted, it can generate losing-control symptoms.

4. Personality traits: People who have a tendency towards perfectionism may be more susceptible to developing this fear.

5. Mental health conditions: This fear can be a symptom of other mental health conditions such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder.

In many cases, a combination of these factors may contribute to the development of a fear of losing control.

The locus of control

The concept of the locus of control is not a cause of how some people have more control in their lives compared to others; it is more of a way of understanding the beliefs about “where control exists” in some people and not in others.

The locus of control is a concept that refers to the degree to which a person believes that they are in control of their own life. People with an internal locus of control tend to believe that they have control over and are responsible for their own fate e.g. “the reason I am successful is because I have worked hard”. However, people with an external locus of control tend to believe that their fate is largely determined by outside forces e.g. “I am successful because I was lucky”.

In relation to the fear of losing control, it is likely that those with a strong internal locus of control are less likely to experience this fear, as they believe that they have more power over their own lives and can do more to influence their outcomes. Those with a high external locus of control are more likely to experience this out-of-control fear, believing that they are helpless to the stronger authority of the outside world.

Another term associated with the locus of control of one’s thoughts and actions is personal agency.

What are the common symptoms?

The symptoms of a fear of losing control, can vary from person to
person, but common symptoms include:

  1. Intense anxiety or panic, especially in situations that are perceived as threatening.
    2. Avoidance behaviours: avoiding situations or activities that you associate with the fear to limit the feelings of panic and anxiety.
    3. Physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, sweating, shaking, and muscle tension. Periods of insomnia is also common.
    4. Mental symptoms including racing thoughts, confusion, dread, disorientation, and a sense of detachment from reality.
    5. Emotional symptoms of distress such as feelings of shame, embarrassment, anger and hopelessness.

How is a fear of losing control commonly treated?

This fear is commonly treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Some common approaches to treatment include:
1. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): This type of therapy helps individuals
recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviours associated with
their fear.
2. Exposure therapy: This involves gradually exposing individuals to the feared
situation or trigger. It is done in a controlled and safe environment, in order to help reduce anxiety and panic.
3. Medication: Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, and
antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
(SSRIs), can be prescribed by your doctor to help manage symptoms of anxiety and panic.
4. Relaxation techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing techniques, self-hypnosis, mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation, can help reduce anxiety symptoms and improve emotional regulation.
5. Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes, such as reducing caffeine and
alcohol intake, having regular exercise, and practicing good sleep hygiene can
also help manage symptoms of anxiety and improve overall well-being.
The most effective treatment plan will depend on the individual's specific needs and circumstances, and it's important to work with a mental health professional to develop a plan that is tailored to your needs.

Treating your fear of losing control with hypnotherapy

There are many ways that hypnotherapy can help you to treat your fears and phobias. Hypnotic techniques include using hypnotic suggestions to reduce your anxiety and anticipatory anxiety symptoms, assisting controlled exposure, regression techniques to identify sensitising events and visualisation of your desired outcome.

As mentioned earlier, a fear of losing control is related to your beliefs associated with control and what it means for you to lose control. In the initial stages of the treatment, it is essential to engage in a discussion about your beliefs to individualise your treatment. These strategies are commonly used in cognitive behavioural therapy. The treatment can then help you to confront your losing-control fears that “sit underneath” your treatment goals, enabling you to think and act positively towards them. This can include overcoming a phobia, treating specific issues within your OCD or social anxiety.

Some of the losing-control fear discussion points are listed below:

  • Clarify your domain of fear. The domain of fear is discussed earlier in this article. You will already know the significant areas that your losing-control fear is affecting e.g., if it relates to a loss of control over your body, your emotions (e.g., anger) or your trust in other people’s behaviour. You will also be aware of the sphere of your life that it affects (work, relationships, diet etc.).
  • Discuss whether your losing control fear is a primary issue (from the
    Fear of losing control humiliation
    It can seem like there is no recovery after the losing-control event

    domains listed above) or a secondary issue. Many clients over-focus on the primary issue, as if there is “no life” or recovery after the losing-control event. You can neglect to value the secondary issues that drive you to the primary issue and leave you ruminating over it long after it has Secondary issues can include feeling embarrassed, humiliated, responsible, blame-worthy, guilty, regretful, ashamed, angry etc. Consider anxiety-related overactive bladder syndrome for example. Having an accident may be the primary issue for most people who have the condition. You feel humiliated and believe that you will never recover from this experience. You now double your urinary urge to prevent your primary loss of control but until you validate and confront the beliefs related to your humiliation, it will continue to dominate your fear. Validating the emotion and giving it the attention it deserves will help dissolve your primary issue.

For some clients, these secondary feelings are the primary issue, but you mistake these feelings as the secondary issue. Ignoring these emotions can deepen your fear of losing control, since you get stuck in a situation that is in the middle, rather than at the top of your fear hierarchy. Feeling over-responsible is considered to be a major contributor to a loss-of-control fear.

  • Describe specifically what would happen when you lose control. When closely examined, many clients acknowledge the low probability and irrationality of the fearful “bad event” transpiring. Your description is meta-analysed in the session. This can enable you to acknowledge its improbability and give you the opportunity to rationalise the pathway of losing-control events.
  • Help you appreciate the boundaries of your control. Following a bad experience, it can intensify the belief that you have to try harder to be in control next time. You overthink and over-prepare yourself, trying to control what is realistically outside of your power or ability (rather than what is inside your ability, like mental attitudes). Your perfectionist mind is reluctant “to give up” on the situation and those unspent fearful urges convince you that you can really do the impossible. For example, after a flying trauma, you want to be in control of the flight. You struggle to delegate (or trust) the pilot and think that you can do a better job if you were in charge. Or due to your claustrophobic tendencies, you convince yourself that you can force the plane door open and flee the plane when you are in mid-flight. Maybe in the movies!
  • Establish what you are really trying to perfect in such an over-controlling way. This is another way of approaching your boundaries of control and identify what you fear if the perfect situation was not achieved. Many OCD behaviours are significant here when perfecting the locking-up routine at night to secure the house before going to bed for example. The routine has now become over-ritualised and cumbersome, taking nearly an hour to lock up. Would you feel guilty because you have not done the routine in a set way? Would your anxiety then influence you to stay awake because you struggle to control the uncertainty of another break-in? Would you struggle with the feeling of responsibility if the house was burgled? Are you trying to perfect behaviours or perfect feelings connected to those behaviours?
  • Reconsider the alternative view that “all responses are controlled”. This discussion can help you to challenge the concept of “control” and “being-out-of-control”. From a functional perspective, there is the view that panic attacks for example, are “controlled reactions” to the perception of danger; you are never really “out-of-control”, so this fear does not need to be pursued. Only those people who believe that you can be “out of control” and assign too much significance to the concept of being “out of control” are likely to be affected by this fear in the first place. If you tried to lose control right now, could you make it happen?
  • Examine any safety behaviours connecting to your fear. Safety behaviours are also known as avoidance or coping behaviours. They are used to help you temporarily feel better (your emotional control) when you feel anxious or threatened. You might do something that is unrelated to the threat, but the diversion feels more pleasant than the alternative. If you have an assignment due to be completed but are dwelling in the fear of failure (your loss of control), watching television (your procrastination or safety behaviour) can momentarily distract you from this fear. When the panic of submitting nothing and failing the assignment “screams at you”, you kick into action and start working on the assignment. The delay keeps you anxious through the experience and anxiety is likely to accumulate into the next assignment.
  • Identify your retrospective loss of control. You may have forgotten the previous situation in which you lost or nearly lost control. The trauma of that situation is exaggerating your fear of it surfacing again. What happened in that situation? Did your panic attack convince you that you are going “crazy”, or you’re going to pass out, have a heart attack, stop breathing and suffocate? What did you know about panic attacks when you first had one? What was your belief system before and when you lost control? How did your interpretation of the event reinforce this fear that you could lose control again? When a discussion is unable to recall the event, regression can be used to uncover the experience and the beliefs you held from your past. Further analysis can then be made to reframe the meaning of the event, and its significance to your future fear of it happening again.
  • Reframe your perfectionism. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) strategies integrated with hypnosis can help restructure your perfectionist  perspective in numerous ways. They can include helping you to reassess the “black-and-white-thinking” of your unrealistic standards; examine the perfectionist principles from another broader perspective (what is the worst case situation that can happen?); reconsider your catastrophic thinking of the situation being imperfect; compare your standards to “the bigger picture” (i.e. whether “it really matters” now or 2 years from now or whether the consequences of it not being perfect are survivable); and retrain your ability to compromise or be flexible with your own high standards.
  • Reappraise your unrealistic demand for certainty and fear of the unknown. In a world that is dominated by uncertainty, it’s natural to want to believe that you can cope with the outcomes of future events. Some people constructively prepare towards those outcomes, like when planning a presentation. With confidence, you can moderate your planning as you trust your previous experiences to guide your handling of future public speaking situations. You can then “think on your feet” without needing to be overprepared. You can focus on reasoned probabilities of hope and the potential to learn from those displeasing situations. You keep what you can control within your power. However, those with a fear of losing control are convinced that if the preparation is not perfected, something bad will happen. It is this perfectionist, “must-do” approach to meticulously predict and command the future that maintains your state of worry and hypervigilance. When you can’t control this certainty with perfectionist preparation, you ruminate over it. Those with a fear of public speaking can get stuck in the powerlessness of not being able to control your audience’s responses. Since you demand that certainty, you over-prepare answers to every possible question, then worry about the other questions that you haven’t prepared answers for. Developing a tolerance for uncertainty can help you
    Fear of losing control uncertainty junction
    Tolerating uncertainty can help your fear of losing control

    reduce your fear and promote courage to face the unknown. It can enable you to develop habits to act on the evidence that what you are doing is good enough, rather than using your feeling of disappointment as the outcome. The latter only serves to keep you locked in perfectionism. Developing a tolerance for uncertainty can help you forgive your mistakes and liberate you from the need to be perfect.

Fear of losing control: summary

If you are seeking treatment for a fear of losing control, then these discussion points will help identify your individual definition of fear. It will acknowledge specific or generalised perfectionist traits that are exacerbating your distress. Outside of this losing-control fear, these discussion points can help you identify invaluable secondary issues that are blocking your main treatment goal.

You can access treatment for your losing-control fear in person and remotely by completing the Contact Form. There is more information about hypnotherapy in the hypnosis test.

For more information about treating your fear of losing control, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Regression Hypnotherapy

Regression Hypnotherapy

Regression hypnotherapy: As with other types of therapy, hypnotherapy can offer a variety of approaches and techniques to treat a client’s presenting condition. Each technique can have an aim and through its application, respective benefits can be observed. Behind the technique is a strategy to create change. Some strategies are brief and focused on treating symptoms, whilst other strategies deal with deeper core issues.

Regression hypnotherapy treatment
Regression hypnotherapy can help you reinterpret memories

When addressing a presenting problem, understanding the theories underpinning a technique can help improve your skills as a hypnotherapist. From a client’s perspective, understanding these techniques can help you appreciate what to expect during your treatment and how you can benefit from the applied techniques.

The application of regression hypnotherapy is often surrounded by misconception and controversy. However, it can be a beneficial technique in therapy when used appropriately to recall and reinterpret your memories. This article will discuss the uses, benefits and limitations of regression hypnotherapy.

Regression hypnotherapy: what you do or don’t do with memories

Our minds have an extraordinary ability to interact with time lines. Within a short conversation with a close friend, you can “time-travel”, recalling the events of last week that brought back events from a few years ago. Before you know it, you are recalling experiences even further back into your childhood. The conversation then takes a sudden change of direction and you jump forward to today and then to anticipate the possibilities of next week and next year.

The benefits of living in the present are advocated by many of the proponents of self help. The practice is encompassed into the many aspects of meditation, mindfulness and self hypnosis. Outside of the practice of these disciplines, your mind is prone to wandering, making associations with events outside of the present.

At times, it can be fulfilling to reminisce and daydream, recalling meaningful pleasant moments from your past, but this ability to recall your past can vary from person to person. Even if you can remember the details of past events, it can be difficult to recall how these events have directly affected you. This is because your mind engages in a constant filtering process, giving attention to some memories more than others. Some painful memories can be filtered out of normal memory, as if to unconsciously forget: a process called repression.

The idea of repression of memories can be attributed to Freud. He theorised that memory repression served as a defence mechanism against traumatic events. These traumatic events are dumped into the mind’s “non-conscious” zone to minimise discomfort experienced at the time of the event. Nonetheless, they can continue to play a significant role in your everyday life, provoking negative symptoms that have no clear origin.

Sometimes the process of dealing with traumatic events is managed at a more conscious and voluntary level. Suppression is the deliberate intention to forget or block painful or traumatic events, even though you are aware of them. Suppression can help store the painful events in the “holding bay” of your mind. You can then return to them again when there’s more time, it’s more appropriate or you have more effective resources to deal with the event in a beneficial or less destructive way. Sometimes the associations of that suppressed event prompt a need to deal with what’s in the mind’s “holding bay” because there’s just too much material accumulating in there. You can no longer avoid it because the contents are spilling over, causing chaos in one or more areas of your life.

Regression hypnotherapy: working on these memories

Your memories and ability to imagine are some of the basic elements of your unique psyche. Some memories and projected imaginings can be negative and distressing, others positive and strengthening, but all of them determine who you are and how you experience the world around you.

When you have been previously betrayed by an intimate person and you develop trust issues or jealousy with someone that you want to get close to, you know that those vulnerable memories are the problem behind the formation of your new relationship. Sometimes you can consciously work on healing those memories yourself. Maybe your new partner is able to help you rebuild trust.

Bad memories affect your daily life
Past traumas can affect your day-to-day life

There are times, however, when some memories are not open to your consciousness. Maybe they have been simply filtered out or knowing the source of your trauma, they continue to have an overwhelming effect on you. Living “within” the traumas, you can struggle to understand how they affect you or how to objectively find a way through to resolve them. Healing those bad memories or traumas with a therapist can help you overcome that feeling of being stuck and overwhelmed by your past. By releasing the emotion of your past traumas, it can enable you to move forward. Regression hypnotherapy is an excellent way to reappraise the meaning of past events.

What is regression hypnotherapy?

In general terms, regression therapy is a type of therapy that explores past events with the belief that they continue to influence your thinking, beliefs, emotions and behaviour. You may enter the therapy very aware of past events that you want to re-analyse, knowing how they are causing your symptoms. Or you can be aware of presenting symptoms that you want to treat in a regressive style to understand why you have these symptoms, establish their “cause” or explore if you have “buried” memories of events that you want to uncover. In this context, the treatment is still solution-focused because it is acknowledging that you have a goal that you want treated in a certain way, but it aims to approach the problem from a past perspective. Having worked through those memories, you can feel more at peace with your past and liberated from your current symptoms.

Hypnosis is commonly used with regression therapy. Hypnosis can be an extremely powerful tool to regress your mind and access the most subtle details of events that have been mishandled, overlooked or buried in the deeper part of your imagination.

Hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestibility that encourages hyper-focused attention and concentration into what you imagine. A hypnotic induction is typically used to create this focused state. Suggestions are then employed to facilitate an imagined “time travelling”, going back in time to recall specific memories. You may travel back to events from a few weeks ago or any significant event further back in your lifetime.

Depending on the therapeutic context of your goal, different techniques can be used to access the memory, then observe and reframe the meaning or significance of the memory. You may want to reframe events that left you with pain or feelings of embarrassment, guilt, shame, distrust, worthlessness and fear. At that time, you may have been surrounded or compromised by conflicts, limited resources, biased values and other stresses. These blocks self-sabotaged your secure and confident handling of the past event.

Regression hypnotherapy applied by a skilled hypnotherapist can transform and reframe the meaning of the event. When applied carefully, it can add new understanding and insight into the beliefs that shaped your perceptions and your reactions to the event. The process can transform, heal and resolve the memory “wounds” without “planting” false memories or accusations of wrong-doing. In the session, counselling often follows the hypnosis to help evaluate the development of these insights and new states of awareness. They can be further embraced with hypnotic progression to apply the new learning into associated goals.

Is regression hypnotherapy the same as past life regression?

Regression hypnotherapy aims to explore past events from your “current” life experiences. The general form aims to access and observe memories within your “subconscious” mind.

Age regression is another type of hypnotherapy that explores past events from your “current life”. It aims to regress you back to a specific age and relive the state of mind from that age. Some clients may think, speak and act in ways appropriate to that age. The client can then reinterpret their present life with new insights. Clients who are highly suggestible and imaginative may respond favourably to “age-related” suggestions. Some people consider this type of regression controversial.

Past Life Regression is based on the (spiritual) belief and existence of past lives - long before your current life. Some hypnotherapists may believe in past lives and are prepared to treat you within your religious beliefs. Others do not share the same spiritual beliefs or recognise it as a valid therapeutic treatment. Instead, they view it as controversial or an indulgent imaginative experience.

As the client, you may already believe in past lives and want to access and benefit from past life regression therapy. Or maybe you are just curious about which “past lives” will come to the surface in a treatment session.

Some people want to access past life regression treatment because you cannot identify any valid reason for your current negative symptoms. This does not mean that there aren’t any valid reasons – you may not have engaged in an objective therapeutic process to establish any validity.

Different techniques are used in the treatment process for all of the above types of regression hypnotherapy, depending on the approach of the hypnotherapist. Some hypnotherapists are more client-centred and others therapist-led in their style.

Regression hypnotherapy reflect on past
Various techniques can be used to heal your past

The techniques used may also depend on the client and the presenting condition. For example, inner child therapy encompasses many of the general techniques used to re-evaluate the meaning of past events and address unmet childhood needs. Gestalt therapy can be integrated into regression by taking the adult empathic mind back to the childhood mind. The two perspectives can communicate in a “here and now” interaction to encourage understanding, healing and compassion. “Sensation” therapy focuses into the bodily sensation as the cue to connect you with the past event that is causing your current symptoms. This cue-accessing technique can be used with other cues e.g. an emotion or other sensory experiences.

What happens in a typical treatment session?

Hypnotherapy treatment sessions will follow a typical hypnotherapy practice session. The preparation stage can include a discussion of your goals, presenting symptoms and background. The right questions analysis and responses given by the hypnotherapist will draw your attention into the pathway of relevance, build rapport and expectation. In a client-centred approach, the hypnotherapist will be using many of your reactions and dialogue patterns to build relevant suggestions. In a therapist-led approach, the hypnotherapist will have a more authoritative style and use fewer questioning techniques.

A discussion of hypnosis will precede the hypnotic induction stage in which suggestions are used to focus your attention and imagination to the regressive process. It may use breathing techniques or other suggestions of relaxation. In the regression stage, the hypnotherapist will take your imagination back to a past event to analyse the details. A client-centred hypnotherapist will use open-ended questions to guide your recall and will be careful about leading your mind and “planting” memories.  You may (or may not) interact with the hypnotherapist verbally or by using ideo-motor responses (or you may just discuss the regressive experience after the hypnosis is complete).

The emotional expression stage enables the repressed (or suppressed) emotions to emerge and be identified. Depending on the past event and the techniques used, it may be re-experienced in a complete or detached way. In the relearning stage, the past event is re-interpreted and connecting negative emotions released. New positive emotions are identified and reintegrated into the past event. The conclusion stage may involve discussion and counselling to evaluate the process alongside the treatment goals or presenting condition.

The process may be complete or be just one stage in the treatment plan. With regression hypnotherapy, it isn’t necessary to painstakingly regress you back through every event in your life as is often criticised by advocators of solution-focused hypnotherapy. Often, the initial “causal” event, the most emotional event and the most recent event may be sufficient to influence therapeutic change.

What conditions can regression hypnotherapy treat?

The aim of regression hypnotherapy is to identify and treat how past events affect your day-to-day life. For some people, establishing a past cause, where the behaviour comes from or the reason “why” you have your current symptoms can release internal conflicts about your history. When you know why, you can feel more at peace with your underlying motives for current feelings and actions. In your treatment, you can then establish a more coherent way forward.

Numerous benefits have been cited including removal or improvements in symptoms, reductions in fear, increased purpose and ability to cope with life, etc.

Regression hypnotherapy can be used to treat many conditions including:

Concerns and limitations of regression hypnotherapy

Regression hypnotherapy is surrounded in controversy for various reasons, over and above what can come from general misconceptions of hypnotherapy from the media and films with similar titles (e.g. Regression, 2015):

The risk of creating false memories: Memories are malleable and are prone to suggestion, especially when the treatment is therapist-led. Not all claims of sexual abuse are false, but jumping to conclusions on the basis of a hypnotherapy regression treatment can harm relationships, lead to damaging legal action and cause distress for all people concerned. A client-centred hypnotherapist is more likely to ask open-styled questions without contaminating the client’s memory.

A therapist may have preconceived notions about a client’s past:  Therapist bias can enter the therapy room from generalisations made from past treatments. Whilst therapists continuously work on their “blind spots”, it can be a reason for leading a client into creating memories that aren’t real and wrongly diagnosing a client’s cause of symptoms.

Not all “hypnotists” are trained hypnotherapists: Untrained and novice therapists may use scripted approaches and are unable to treat emotional reactions to a client’s past traumas.

Regression hypnotherapy daydream
Healing can take place within your beliefs

There’s limited scientific research: There’s limited research in the efficiency of regression as a treatment approach and some people question the need to “dig up the past” when there are other treatment approaches are available. There is also limited evidence in the existence of past lives and it is considered controversial to force these religious (or any other) beliefs onto a client who is not seeking this type of therapy. However, treating a client who does believe in past lives with past life regression is more likely to create a favourable outcome for the client. Past life regression therapists argue that past life stories don’t have to be factual as healing takes place within the metaphor of the past life story.

Some clients may not benefit from regression treatment: Treatment obstacles can include a client's receptiveness to hypnosis, those who struggle to visualise or who may fear being regressed to a major trauma, especially those with serious mental health problems. Furthermore, a client having secondary gains can be a reason to maintain their negative symptoms and resist the emotional relearning from the regression treatment process. A skilled hypnotherapist will adapt their approach to the client’s needs and will use regression selectively.

Despite concerns about regression, many people say that they benefit from this type of treatment. However, its effectiveness is very much in the eye of the beholder and some may consider regression to be a “helpful” placebo. Trying to prove whether something did or did not happen can be a pointless exercise without evidence. However, when a client “thinks” that something has happened in their past before hypnotherapy treatment has begun or when a past event is uncovered during the hypnotherapy treatment, it’s more beneficial to establish how to deal with this memory and its connected emotions when going forwards.

Regression hypnotherapy: a client-centred approach

Some people question the need to “go back to the past when it is already over”. Dwelling on the past and rereading the same chapter in your life can seem like you are reopening wounds and encouraging self sabotage. It can be argued that technically, you don’t go anywhere. You are always in the present, only going back to the preserved past that your carry now. You recollect the events from your past that continue to impact on your emotions, behaviour and formation of new beliefs.

Regression hypnotherapy turn back clock
Liberating your past traumas can help you move forward

Undoubtedly, going back to the past with a fixed mind-state would keep you stuck in a loop of regret, anger, guilt and shame. Regression hypnotherapy can help remind you that you are the author of your past. You can rewrite the meaning of that past chapter or continue the book of your life with new chapters that demonstrate your growing acceptance, trust, gratitude, forgiveness and self appreciation. Regression hypnotherapy can be enlighten and liberate you from your past and open the way forward into your future.

If you have exhausted all of your conscious efforts to resolve your psychological problems and are prepared to dig deeper into resolving your condition, regression hypnotherapy can offer you a potential solution. Regression hypnotherapy is just one tool in a hypnotherapist’s toolbox to influence therapeutic change. For an experienced and skilled hypnotherapist who uses a client-centred approach, it can be combined with other methods to form an individualised and beneficial approach to your condition.

For more information on regression hypnotherapy, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff


Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

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

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

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

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

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


What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Signs of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

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

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

Revenge bedtime procrastination has distinct behaviours. They include:

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

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

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

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

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


What causes revenge bedtime procrastination?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Who is most affected by this psychological phenomenon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How revenge can revenge bedtime procrastination affect your health?

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

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

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


How can you prevent revenge bedtime procrastination?

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

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

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

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

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

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



How can hypnotherapy help your revenge bedtime procrastination?

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

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


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


Social Anxiety Treatment

Social Anxiety Treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social anxiety treatment: what causes social anxiety?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living with social anxiety

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

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

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

You live in fear

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

Your behaviour is dominated by avoidance

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

You conform to other people’s expectations and behaviour

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

You suffer with anticipatory anxiety

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

You suffer with anxiety and panic attacks in social situations

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


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

You struggle to deal with authority and over-confidence

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

You ruminate over your fears

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

You use safety behaviours to alleviate your social anxiety

You lack assertiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common social anxiety treatments

The main options for social anxiety treatment include:

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

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

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

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

Hypnotherapy as a social anxiety treatment

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

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

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

How can hypnotherapy treat your social anxiety?

Hypnotherapy can help you challenge your social anxiety beliefs

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

Hypnotherapy can target your anxiety symptoms

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

Hypnotherapy can help you control your panic response

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

Hypnotherapy can treat your anticipatory anxiety

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

Hypnotherapy can boost your social performance anxiety

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

Hypnotherapy can improve your mental rehearsal

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

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

Hypnotherapy can develop your self-hypnosis

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

Hypnotherapy can assist your controlled exposure

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

Hypnotherapy can reframe the “cause” of your social anxiety

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

Hypnotherapy can treat associated fear and phobias

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

Social anxiety treatment: conclusion

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

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

Social anxiety treatment accessibility

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

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


Participating in exercise to relieve stress

Participating in exercise to relieve stress

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

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

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

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

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



Exercise to relieve stress: What is stress?

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

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



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

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

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



Pre-exercise considerations

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

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

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



Exercise to relieve stress: Types of exercise

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

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

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

Exercises that develop your endurance

Jogging exercise to relieve stress
Jogging is a popular endurance activity

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

Exercises that develop your strength

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

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

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

Exercises that develop your balance

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

Exercises that develop your flexibility

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

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

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

Activities that combine all components of fitness

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

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



Exercise to relieve stress: How do you benefit?

Exercise releases your feel-good brain chemicals

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

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

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

Exercise stimulates diaphragmatic breathing

Exercise diaphragmatic breathing
Exercise stimulates diaphragmatic breathing

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

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

Exercise can release muscular tension

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise can be meditative

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

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

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

Exercise can be social or solitary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise can build self confidence and self esteem

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

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


Exercise is an activity and can be so much more

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

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

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

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



Exercise to relieve stress: Summary

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


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


Coping with OCD

Coping with OCD

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

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



Coping with OCD tip #1: Use Relaxation Techniques

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

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

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



Coping with OCD tip #2: Challenge Your Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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



Coping with OCD tip #3: Identify Your Triggers

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

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

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



Coping with OCD tip #4: Confront Your Fears

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



Coping with OCD tip #7: Seek effective Therapy

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



Coping with OCD tip #9: Maintain a healthy lifestyle

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

Coping with OCD sleep
Restful sleep can help stabilise your OCD

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

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



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

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

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

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


More information on professional treatment for OCD.


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


Erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy

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.
Erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy
Is memory erasure with hypnotherapy a fantasy?
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.Depending on hypnotherapist’s approach, relaxation techniques may also be incorporated into the hypnotic induction without diminishing your focus of attention.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

Erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy
Memories might be weighing you down but they can’t be erased
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 change bad memories memory stick
Change the meaning of your bad memories with hypnotherapy
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.RelationshipsTraumas 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 confidenceAvoiding 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 esteemPast 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

Erase bad memories or forget someone with hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy can help you change how you feel about the memory
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


Reasons for drinking alcohol

17 Common Reasons For Drinking Alcohol

People have various reasons for drinking alcohol without their drinking patterns being a cause for concern. An alcoholic drink or two can be part of an occasional celebration or to complement a special meal. Other people may avoid alcohol altogether if they don’t like to taste, fear being out of control, or associate alcohol with past distress.

: Social reasons for drinking alcohol
Peer pressure is a common reason to drink alcohol

In the early stages of drinking, you may not enjoy the taste. However, the situation surrounding your drinking behaviour e.g. feeling intimidated by peer pressure, will motivate you to push through your negative taste reaction until you accept it.

After some persistence, you find out that alcohol produces many gratifying effects on your mind and body. If you perceive this effect as rewarding, then your habits will draw you in to establish a level of alcohol dependence, however small. The associations you make with your drinking experiences will shape your values and expectations to continue drinking. But the effects of alcohol on the mind and body are so deceiving that people persevere with drinking alcohol compulsively even after it becomes a problem.

The reasons for drinking alcohol listed here include a further analysis of that reason. When you want to reduce your alcohol consumption, examining your underlying motivation or reason for drinking can help you re-evaluate your perceived reward. This can start a process of change in which you can then find better emotional and behavioural alternatives that are aligned with your new drinking goals.



Reasons for drinking alcohol: two broad categories

There are generally two broad categories that define the common reasons for drinking alcohol. One category uses alcohol as a coping mechanism to ease discomfort (or for negative reinforcement). The other category involves using alcohol to be cheerful and lively at social situations (for positive reinforcement). Both categories are vulnerable to habitual and binge drinking behaviour depending on the situation and individual beliefs. Situations can involve a mix of both categories e.g. when someone’s mood is jovial with moderate alcohol consumption, but after heavy drinking their mood becomes hostile causing them to release repressed anger from childhood experiences.



What are some common reasons for drinking alcohol?

You drink alcohol to relieve stress – Alcohol has anxiety reducing (or anxiolytic properties) and diminishes the feelings of stress. This is often acknowledged in the early stages of drinking, but as the dependency grips you, drinking continues even when the stress-relieving benefits have faded. The memory of the past benefit pushes the misconception that the feeling of relief will arrive after another drink. Ironically, for those with a high alcohol dependency, the increased alcohol consumption intensifies the feeling of stress that you were hoping to escape in the first place.


You are influenced by peer pressure (social norms) – The UK has an established drinking culture and following these social drinking norms and rituals is one of the main reasons for drinking alcohol, regardless of age. Drinking influences can come from your peers, your family, the media, the occasion etc.

In a social situation, you may not want to drink, but the fear of offending someone or standing out from the crowd if you don’t “keep up” can trigger feelings of isolation, a fear of being criticised or fear of being rejected from the social group (or activity). These fears can pressurise people into drinking because it’s socially expected particularly when it is connected to occasions like weddings and large parties.

For some people and social groups, drinking is the activity and the term “drinking buddy” can be used to form a relationship in which heavy drinking is normalised. Ironically, those with a high alcohol dependency will frequently drink alone with minimal social interaction in a social setting. Peer pressure can then be used as the hidden excuse for yet another occasion to believe you are drinking and having fun with friends.

Teenage reasons for drinking alcohol
Young people can feel grown up when they drink alcohol

You drink alcohol to feel grown up – Teenagers are highly curious and suggestible when they see adults doing something that they don’t do. With adulthood approaching fast, their impatience can encourage them to imitate adult behaviour. Tell your teenage children not to do something when you are doing it yourself and it’s likely to fire their curiosity when you are not around and see what all of the fuss is about. For teenagers, acting like an adult is one of the most common reasons for drinking alcohol. Ironically, when drinking excessively, it’s an excuse for many adults to act like young children!


You drink as an act of rebellion – If you are a teenager who is surrounded by rules and is constantly being told not to do things, being defiant about breaking the rules can be exciting. And when the members of your peer group haven’t “found” alcohol yet, it can seem very cool to do something excessively that they don’t do. The need to stand out as a non-conformist can continue into adulthood however, justifying the drinking behaviour as the definition of your individuality. Being the adult rebel with a high alcohol dependency, others will probably pity your behaviour rather than admire it, thinking that you have somehow lost your direction and now hide behind the “glamour” of your rebellious drinking.


You drink alcohol to take back control – If you have experienced control, manipulation or abuse from a parent or partner, you may use alcohol to “take back control” or even take revenge on your oppressor, particularly if they don’t like you drinking alcohol. Or maybe you are struggling to control a part of your life e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder, and having something that gives your mind moments of “release” can feel like you have momentarily escaped your torture and can “control” something. Drinking alcohol to cope with the despair of abuse and to take back control and is one of the most common reasons for drinking alcohol heavily. Even when you have battled your way out of your situation, the subtle reminders of your previous loss of control can be a strong trigger to drink again. It’s a long path back to heal the damage of your situation, but alcohol never really gave you the emotional resources to conquer it.


You drink alcohol to lower your inhibitions – Social phobia or (social anxiety) is a common phobia in which the individual fears embarrassment and attention. Alcohol is often used as “liquid courage” to take the edge off shyness particularly when coping with situations like a first date or a large party filled with strangers. You can feel anxious and drink alcohol to cope in anticipation of the actual event.

As your intolerance increases with a hectic social life, those spontaneous moments of awkwardness can trigger the need for another drink. Ironically, when you then become a binge drinker, your lack of inhibition can create situations that are often embarrassing, aggressive or attention-seeking. This is something that you can obviously blame on alcohol and “shrug off” the next day to hide your blushes, rather than developing skills like using affirmations, breathing techniques to control your anxiety, self hypnosis and meditation.


You drink alcohol to improve your sleep quality – When you are going through major lifestyle changes or work-related stress, your sleep quality can be affected. Introducing alcohol as a sedative to break the sleep-worry cycle can have a short term benefit, but when the effects of alcohol wear off, you are likely to wake up in the middle of the night. As your intolerance to alcohol increases, it means that you will need more alcohol to have the same sedating effect though the night. If the stressful conditions continue, those benefits can fool you into believing that alcohol is helping your long term sleeping habits. Since alcohol is a depressant, it reduces the amount of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) necessary for quality sleep. So when you have drunk alcohol, you tend to wake up feeling fatigued with poor concentration levels. Learning how to regain your natural sleep quality will help you break the sleep-worry cycle.


You drink alcohol to manage pain – It’s common to manage chronic pain with alcohol, but in order to be effective, you will need to binge drink over long periods to achieve some level of benefit. As you build up a tolerance for the quantity of alcohol, you will need more to achieve the same pain-relieving effect. There are further dangers of causing harm to other organs when mixing alcohol with painkillers.


Drinking alcohol helps you to feel better – Another term for using a substance like alcohol to feel better is called self medication. This is a broad category within the reasons for drinking alcohol that includes gaining any perceived benefit whether it’s shared by others or just personal to you.

Self medication with alcohol
Self medication is a major reason to drink alcohol

Common reasons to self medicate (other than reasons already listed in this article) include feeling angry, lonely, depressed, bereft, worthless, frustrated, guilty, ashamed, bored etc. Using alcohol becomes the crutch to help you avoid, escape, divert, deny, suppress, repress, relieve, replace, numb, punish, block, hide, erase, stall, mask, forget etc. actively confronting or dealing with the discomfort associated with another situation.

In so many of those situations, the underlying problem doesn’t go away after you have finished drinking. Drinking alcohol just gives you a momentary release that is more bearable until you have accessed (if ever) a better way of coping with the alternative. If, for example, you drink to block feelings of guilt about something that you did wrong, your attention can be temporarily diverted from that guilty feeling that connects to the situation.

Some problems become more complex with time and latch onto additional situations causing the sufferer to feel more guilt and increase your dependency on alcohol. You don’t find an active solution to their problems; instead, drinking alcohol becomes the solution. Forming new good habits without alcohol takes time; prepare for a long road ahead.


You enjoy the taste of alcohol – Tasting ethanol for the first time as a child is rarely a pleasant experience. Evolution has hard-wired humans to dislike bitterness. But the taste can be “acquired” when it is suggested to you to “give it time” or you attach other reasons to persist with the bitter taste until you accept it e.g. because you want to fit in with your peer group.

Adding sugar to disguise the bitterness will help that acquired “liking” for you alcoholic drink and this addition also takes care of the other half of what evolution has programmed us to do (like sweetness). Flavour it with a whole range of mixers in enjoyable surrounds and your perceptions quickly convert it to the acquired taste that you enjoy.

And despite many people having drunk excessively to the point of vomiting to indicate that your body doesn’t like this, it only serves as a temporary aversion when your peers boost your drinking and vomiting achievement as “cool”.


You really want a drink – When you already perceive pleasure from something, the neurotransmitter that controls the reward centre in the brain called dopamine is playing a major part in motivating your behaviour. Drinking alcohol has an effect of increasing the release of the dopamine giving some people this temporary euphoria of enjoyment. Then add to that physiological process numerous pleasurable experiences like parties and celebrations to set up habits and your “want” and expectation to want more will be amplified.

Unfortunately, with continued alcohol use, the brain adapts to the dopamine overload by producing less of the neurotransmitter and lowering your mood. To regain your euphoria, the brain is tricked into thinking that you have to keep drinking to stay happy, meaning that you may need more alcohol to have the same effect. At this stage of alcohol dependency, your want is bordering on a “need” to feel good again. If you maintain a high level of alcohol consumption, you are on the early pathway to alcohol dependency.


You drink alcohol to warm you up – Drinking alcohol can temporarily feel warming by the receptor nerves in your skin detecting a rise in skin temperature caused by vasodilation. But this effect actually lowers the body’s core temperature as the thermoregulatory system would normally perform this function to cool your core temperature down.  Natural ways to warm up include moving around and putting on warmer clothes and wrapping your hands around a hot cup of tea if your hands are cold.


You drink alcohol to quench your thirst – Drinking alcohol has a diuretic effect, helping you to eliminate water from your body by increasing the production of urine, hence you tend to feel thirsty in the night or morning after a drinking session. It’s likely that when you are thirsty and you consume one alcoholic drink, you believe that the next drink will taste better because of the false belief that it is thirst quenching. If you are thirsty, there are many non-alcoholic drinks that will quench your thirst.


You drink alcohol to improve the taste of your food – Pairing your food with alcohol can seem like a sophisticated ritual that is built into fine dining culture.  Excessive alcohol consumption however can damage your sense of taste.

Moderate drinking activates the taste and smell receptors connected to the brain to generate a chemo-sensory perceptive experience along the lines of “ah, plenty of berry fruits...etc.” This response makes it an ingenious marketing opportunity to mark up the cost of a bottle of wine in a restaurant. When you then buy your “deliciously” described steak from the menu (another way to build expectation about having something better than it is), you are fully buying into the illusory benefits of wine pairing.


You drink alcohol to feel powerful – Power can mean several things to different people. It can mean feeling confident, self-assured, authentic, courageous, being assertive, funny, sexy, beautiful, sociable, impulsive, flirtatious, important or liberated as an ideal version of your “self”. For some people, it can mean an excessive “high” feeling of arrogance or aggression that can be admired by one’s peers (social confidence) and would not come to the surface without using an elixir to immortalise you in some way. The reason that you might feel powerful is again connected to the brain’s flooding of dopamine (pleasure neurotransmitter) that can have the effect of lowering one’s inhibitions. Then there’s the placebo effect – believe that that an amount of alcohol “caused” you to have a good outcome last time and you will drink alcohol again to “create” the same effect.

If you have low self belief and low self confidence, and fear being exposed as dull, unintelligent, ugly etc., you are probably using alcohol to fill your void of insecurities. You remain convinced that alcohol will give you “power” or another emotional boost and guess what, it will probably will!

Reasons to drink alcohol to improve sexual performance
Heavy drinking can leave your partner feeling frustrated

You drink alcohol to improve sexual performance – Drinking alcohol to improve the quality of your sex can have variable benefits. Depending on your gender, people may drink alcohol to increase your desire to be intimate, be less “fussy” with your choice of partner, lower the level of performance anxiety, increase or decrease arousal levels depending on your underlying negative issue (e.g. premature ejaculation), sustain an erection and delay orgasm. But there is an optimal amount of alcohol to achieve the desired result. Excessive alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the quality of your sex, decreasing sensitivity (common with erectile dysfunction), reducing arousal and your ability to achieve orgasm. As with using any substance excessively, achieving natural sexual satisfaction can become more difficult to achieve as you drink heavily. Many people who binge drink often regret their sexual experiences whilst being drunk.


You drink to get drunk – Drinking with the intention of getting drunk can be motivated by a number of underlying reasons. People usually get drunk to cope with negative experiences, to be more sociable, to conform to ritualised behaviour and to feel more excitable. The physical effects of alcohol include reducing stress by acting like a common tranquilliser in parts of the brain, dimming your judgement abilities so that you “don’t care”, releasing dopamine to increase pleasure and releasing endorphins (opiates) to help you “feel good”. With alcohol being legal, it’s not surprising that people want to get drunk in the short term with all of these physiological effects. Continue to binge drink over an extensive period of time and the changes in your brain chemistry steer you towards high alcohol dependency.



Common reasons for drinking alcohol: Summary

The reasons for drinking alcohol are numerous and personal but can be generalised into drinking for positive and negative reinforcement. Any behaviour associated with a substance can become habit-forming. A behaviour that is part of cultural norms and values can quickly accumulate positive beliefs as you multiply those experiences.

If you are seeking to reduce your alcohol consumption, interacting with your underlying needs will help you to focus on positive changes.

  • Relying on any substance like alcohol to cope deceives you that you are really dealing with it.
  • The perceived rewards can become a habitual.
  • Your initial rewards can be redundant, but you continue to believe that you are still benefitting even though your lifestyle has changed.
  • You can be convinced that things would be worse if you didn’t drink.
  • As your tolerance to alcohol increases, you need more alcohol to have the same effect.
  • When you drink heavily, the rewiring of your brain chemistry makes it harder to cope with those situations naturally.
  • Heavy drinking patterns can creep up on you.
  • You increase the number of health risks as your drink heavily, including risking alcoholism.


Reasons for drinking alcohol: for more information on hypnotherapy to lower your alcohol consumption contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff



Break a bad habit with hypnotherapy

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?

Break a bad habit
Habit formation is a mind-management tool
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.
Break a bad habit nail biting
Nail biting: Cue, reward, repetition: HABIT
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.
Exercise habit
Exercising everyday: A good habit?
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 weightIt’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: 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
  • Smoking/vaping
  • Habitual drinking and binge drinking (alcohol)
  • Using phones and other devices late at night
  • Taking drugs
  • Overmedicating (pain killers, sedatives etc.)
  • Sunbathing
  • 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 productivityBeing 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:
  • Procrastinating
  • Watching too much television
  • Overusing your phone
    Break a bad habit over-using social media
    Over-using social media can damage your productivity
  • Playing video games
  • Over-using social media
  • Multitasking
  • Saying yes to everything
  • Perfectionism
  • Lack of delegation
  • Being indecisive
  • Over-scheduling
  • Not having breaks
  • Poor punctuality
  • Hoarding
  • Watching too much porn
  • Sleeping in
  • Leaving keys/wallet/purse in random places
  • Leaving things until last minute
Bad habits that hurt your financesSome 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
  • Overspending
  • Gambling
  • 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 habitsPersonal 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
  • Spitting
  • 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
    Bad relationship habits cause arguments
    Bad relationship habits can be a source of amorous tension
  • 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
  • Over-compromising
  • Avoiding conflict
Bad habits that harm your emotional wellbeingIt 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:
  • Over-committing
  • 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
  • Lying
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Catastrophising
  • 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
Break a bad habit with hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy can remove the cause of your 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 habitBad 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 patternsYour 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). 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 habitHow 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 habitWhen 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.
Break a bad habit smoking
Hypnotherapy can treat the underlying needs of your habit
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.  

For more information on hypnotherapy treatment to break a bad habit contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff