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Hypnotherapy, for treating anxiety disorders and managing life - Questions you need to ask

Anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD,

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So, what is anxiety?

While the term anxiety is universally postulated as a common condition, it is perceptively viewed as more than one condition, at least in a practical sense. From a practical perspective, it is the nature of its cause that changes its type (social, generalised, separation, panic etc) and any approach to its treatment. However, as a condition it has a unique commonality, in that anxiety is a consequence of the activation of the brain's fight or flight response. In fact, the only major difference between a stress disorder and an anxiety one is the cause of its activation. Stress occurs when the brain's perceptual defences detect danger (real or imagined) and anxiety occurs as a consequence of the anticipation of those perceptual defences. For example, if you are on a plane and experience extreme or clear air turbulence, fear (stress) is a natural (unconditioned) reaction to that stressor. However, if you are having a coffee in the airport lounge and you start to imaging the plane bouncing all over the place, that is different! This situation also invokes the stress response but is labelled anxiety because it's a consequence of the anticipation of danger, not the actual presence of it!

As a condition, anxiety ranges from a mild condition, say, mild social anxiety to the more extreme forms of OCD or agoraphobia. Because the origins and progression of anxiety are multi-varied, its treatment needs both specific and reasonable consideration. This is because the resolution of anxiety, from being disordered to becoming ordered (normal) effectively requires changes in brain function. My view is somewhat divergent from the general view of many hypnotherapists, who, seemingly believe that changes are made to the subconscious mind! However, if we look at the way medical professionals attempt to treat anxiety, pharmacologically, they do so via targeted brain treatments. And any benefit the patient experiences is a result of brain-based changes in the plasticity and neurochemistry of the brain.

This is not to totally discount the mind theory, it's merely to see it in a more factual way. The mind is merely a philosophical construct, that renders the explanation, of almost inexplicable processes, capable of being understood! In that sense, the mind is akin to a communication system that allows the faculties of consciousness, imagination, perception, thinking, intelligence, judgement, language and memory to emerge into awareness. Of course, all of these faculties work outside of our conscious awareness of them. Awareness is the final link in the chain, the moment when we have an awareness of the outcome, so to speak. However, we are never privy to the actual processing part of the process. Outcomes are a consequence of brain-based processes, not mind based ones! And while someone may say "I changed my mind," any change occurs as a consequence of changes in brain responses.

However, before you consider seeking treatment for anxiety, it can be useful to answer this question because anxiety is both natural and necessary for a normal life. So, the question is, is your anxiety too much? Meaning, is it out of sync with what is deemed normal? As I said, anxiety is a natural part of everyday life but it can occasionally go off the rails. When that happens too often, for too long and to a greater intensity, then it's time to get it checked out because you may have an anxiety disorder! Professional healthcare experts suggest that 10% of the general population in Singapore have an anxiety disorder, an alarming figure! However, in a post-Covid-19 world, that figure will be much higher as people's lives are going to be undoubtedly altered because of this pandemic!

What causes it?