Using Choice Overload To Reduce Anxiety:

Ever noticed how when you struggle with anxiety, every possible option you can think of seems to be the worst case scenario. Whether you run movies in your head or find your inner dialogue is filled with doubt, dread and worry, it's like a sort of tunnel vision that invariably leads to things going wrong or ending badly for you in some way.

And as you'll know, the more you have those anxious thoughts, the worse you feel; and the worse you feel, the more your head fills with those anxious thoughts.

I remember sitting in a restaurant a few months back with my girls. We were nearly finished when a new family arrived on the next table. A quick read of the menu and three of the four had made their decision and were ready to order. One of them was not at all ready. She sent the waitress away so she could have more time. Then when the waitress came back she sent her away again. Even from our table you could sense the tension rising in her as she tried to choose what to have, a task not aided by the rest of the family who kept upping the pressure on her. Finally she chose. Only to then call back the waitress a couple of moments later as she'd changed her mind. At that point her frustration poured out and her family received a rather loud verbal lashing that I'm sure didn't do too much to improve the mood during the rest of their meal.

Now there may have been other factors at play yet certainly from where I was sitting it looked like a classic case of choice overload - when there are too many choices we can become well and truly mentally stuck in a fog of indecision.

And I was reminded of the restaurant story after reading an abstract of some new research that looked into which parts of the brain were active during choice overload. 

One technique I sometimes talk to clients about is how they can use choice overload to diminish the run-away train of anxious thoughts.

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New anxiety hypnotherapy video testimonial:

There are few things as satisfying to a hypnotherapist as watching someone progress from being filled with anxiety, worry and dread when I first meet them, to having them tell me how much happier and better they feel once we have worked together.

All that anxiety, worry and dread can take over your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. You may start dwelling on things that have happened, worrying about things that may happen in the future and you may also find yourself becoming self critical and negative about yourself and life.

You may already have read the many testimonials on my website pages, and watched the videos from people who have worked with me. And now there's another great anxiety hypnotherapy video testimonial to add to this ever-growing collection.

In the video below, Shaun give his feedback on his anxiety hypnotherapy sessions and how much they helped him.

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Does Adding Hypnosis To Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Help Treat Acute Stress Disorder?

In my last couple of blogs I've written about the research suggesting that adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy tends to enhance the results achieved.  

Or as Kirsch wrote, "The results of this meta-analysis indicates a fairly substantial effect as a result of adding hypnosis to cognitive-behavioural psychotherapies...hypnosis enhances the effects of cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy across a broad range of problems" (Kirsch et al, Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy: A meta-analysis).

I've written about how adding hypnosis can benefit weight loss results and about the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy with hypnosis for managing fatigue during breast cancer radiotherapy.

Today I'm writing about the benefit of hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy in treating acute stress disorder. And once again we have research to tell us about the added benefit of including hypnosis in the treatment.

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Plus Hypnosis - Fatigue During Breast Cancer Radiotherapy:

In my last blog I wrote about the research that demonstrates that adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy has a fairly substantial effect. That is, hypnosis enhances the effects of cognitive behavioural therapy across a broad range of problems.

One area where the effectiveness of a combined approach of cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnosis has been studied is with regard to treating radiotherapy related fatigue. This particular study involved women scheduled for breast cancer radiotherapy.

As the researchers noted, fatigue is frequently rated as the most distressing symptom faced by breast cancer radiotherapy patients. Fatigue typically increases over the course of the treatment and has detrimental effects to patients' physical, psychological, social and occupational functioning. In addition, there are other relevant factors such as catastrophising about fatigue and emotional distress.

As an aside, even before this particular study, an earlier one had demonstrated support for the use of hypnosis with breast cancer surgery patients. 

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Should all Cognitive Behavioural Therapy include Hypnosis for better results?

Some may consider it a big question, but should cognitive behavioural therapy be making use of hypnosis as a means to increase the likelihood of positive therapeutic outcomes?  

Perhaps we should start with this from Kirsch, in his meta-analysis of 'Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy', in which he analysed existing studies in which cognitive behavioural therapy was compared with the same therapy supplemented by hypnosis. He wrote:

"The results indicated that the addition of hypnosis substantially enhanced treatment outcome, so that the average client receiving cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy showed greater improvement than at least 70% of clients receiving non-hypnotic treatment."

Pretty impressive stuff there in his analysis across a range of issues including weight loss, anxiety and insomnia.

So why isn't hypnosis part of the mainstream CBT therapy process if the evidence suggests that it is likely to help people get better results?

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Weight Loss and the Impact of Self-Hypnosis:

I remember way back being overweight well into my teens. In those days, it seemed much less common of a thing to find people who were overweight or obese. I'm sure they were about but all the evidence suggests not in as great numbers as they are today. Weight loss is now an industry, a problem and still a challenge.

Back in those days I remember standing out like a sore thumb at school because of my size. I ate too much junk, paid no attention to healthy eating and had beyond little interest in exercise (I hated P.E. with a passion and did all I could to get out of it!). Maybe people were slimmer because (like my mum) they were doing the Jane Fonda aerobics video or the Callenetics one.  

Anyway, I started to lose weight when I got so sick of being fat and the limitations that went with it (including wearing trousers with an elasticated waist!), that I decided to do something about it. I cut down on the junk, I moved more and I even went through many months of sweating it out every night on an exercise bike in my room.

These days obesity is often described as an epidemic despite all the knowledge we have about healthy eating and the benefits of exercise. And although many people start out with the motivation and determination to lose weight, for most, after a few months they find that unhealthy habits creep back in, along with overeating and the tailing off of physical activity. Those bad habits and overeating, often along with a sense of being out of control over eating, often mean that any weight loss achieved soon evaporates. 

And in many weight loss programmes and systems, the psychological aspects of eating, such as emotional eating to suppress unwanted thoughts and feelings, and using food as a form of reward, are often overlooked.

A recently published randomized control trial has now reported their findings. They set out with this objective: "Obesity is a worldwide epidemic; most obese individuals who lose weight after lifestyle educative treatments, soon regain it. Our aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of a training to teach self-conditioning technique (self-hypnosis) added to standard care in determining weight loss compared with standard care in patients with obesity.

The results of their trial (discussed below) would assess whether a self-conditioning approach, based on self-hypnosis, is able to help people to modulate unhealthy patterns of eating and sustain weight loss in the long term.

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Binge Drinking - the next day impact of heavy alcohol drinking:

Next month marks the annual 'Go Sober For October' campaign where thousands of people quit alcohol for the entire month to raise money for MacMillan cancer support (an awesome charity by the way).

And let's be honest, it really should be relatively straight forward to not need alcohol for a few weeks shouldn't it? Whether you are taking part in 'Go Sober For October' or have just made the decision to cut down your alcohol consumption, you are likely to benefit from sleeping better, feeling more energised and just feeling healthier (as well as saving a fortune that you would have spent on booze). And there's the added benefit of no hangovers (along with those hangover promises you make to yourself about how you'll never drink excessively again....).  

Some recent research has looked at the impact on the next day effects of heavy drinking and how it impacts on your thoughts and performance. 

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Health Anxiety - Is it Cancer?

When I'm working with someone with health anxiety, perhaps the biggest concern is that any physical symptom being experienced could be a sign of having cancer. And with so many references to cancer around us, it's perhaps no surprise that the anxiety heads in the direction of what is perceived to be the worst possible case.

In the last 24 hours alone, I've heard a cancer charity advert on the radio, seen a similar, watched a programme where a character had been diagnosed and heard about a relative receiving treatment. It can seem like it is all around us, impacting everywhere, and that is the fuel that anxiety needs to start imagining the worst.

And of course, 'Doctor Google' doesn't help here because just about any symptom 'could' be a sign of cancer. Of course, it could be a sign of something else or even nothing at all, yet those nagging thoughts continue to grow stronger and ramp up the panic. The internet just isn't that great at helping you to self-diagnose effectively. 

Once you calm the anxiety down (and ditch trying to be an online doctor), your thoughts become clearer, more logical and more reasoned. You can make better decisions about what you should do next.

Just recently I've had my own reasons to be thinking about cancer and my own future health.

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Are Mental Health Apps Helpful For Anxiety?

There has been an immense level of excitement in the Regan household over the last 48 hours, with levels not far off those experienced at Christmas. And it's all been because my daughter saved up and ordered herself a fitbit. From the moment the online order was placed she has was asking when it would arrive and whether it would come while she was at school the next day or whether it would be the evening. I reckon we were getting a dozen mentions, questions and references about it every hour!

The following evening, when it hadn't arrived by the evening, she could be seen going and standing by the door to look out for the delivery driver, and then things moved into the realm of questioning whether the order had actually gone through ok. Perhaps it had been lost? Maybe the company had delivered it to the wrong house? Would it arrive? Would it ever arrive?!!!! (By this point I think we were all just hoping it would arrive soon!).

The no sooner had it been delivered than she was sprinting down the stairs to unbox it and get started (those running steps obviously wasted because they weren't counted by the fitbit).

And the excitement didn't stop because no sooner was she awake than she was wanting to look at the app to find out how she had slept (no more relying on guesswork about sleep from now on!). And then the joy of updates every ten minutes on the number of steps she had taken. I say every ten minutes but it seemed like a lot more!

Now I don't mind all this excitement about walking and moving because it can only have a healthy goal of having her being more active. That can only be a good thing in the age of screen after screen.

And I think this is an example of technology and an app that serves people well if they want to improve their health and wellbeing.

But what about the ever growing multitude of mental health apps? Are they good for anxiety and other mental health issues?

A recently published study took a look at mental health apps to identify how they frame mental health, including who has problems and how they should be managed.

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Anxiety in the workplace - More Action Needed!

Over two years ago I was published in the Ely Standard newspaper calling for more action to be taken to be taken to combat anxiety and stress in the workplace ('Ely hypnotherapy expert calls for more effective action on stress and anxiety levels').

Sadly, a new survey published by mental health charity, Mind, suggests that poor mental health affects about half of all employees. Their survey of 44,000 employees revealed that poor mental health at work is widespread and only half of those who had experienced problems with anxiety, stress and low mood had talked to their employer about it. 

I remember when I struggled with anxiety in the workplace. When it was bad it would impact on my performance and there were times I was too anxious to even go to work. Back then, mental health was much less understood and recognised so there was no way on this planet I would ever have discussed it with my employer. Indeed, I was certain back then that it would have a detrimental impact on my career and I was very aware of cases of colleagues off work with anxiety or depression and how it quickly became common office news.

I really would like to hope that times have changed with mental health having been elevated as an issue that can affect anyone and with more understanding about it than ever.

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