Even prior to the current pandemic I noticed an increase in the prevalence of anxiety among the patients I was seeing both in my hypnotherapy practice and as a GP. This anecdotal observation has been confirmed by a recent study1 looking at the rates of anxiety disorders since 1998 in the UK population. It was a large observational study of UK General Practice data. The study was conducted prior to the recent Covid-19 pandemic and even then showed a sharp increase in the recording of anxiety disorders and symptoms, and that younger people were more affected. It confirmed previous findings that generalised anxiety symptoms were more common in women with up to 30% of women in the 18-24 age group being affected. Worryingly, the study also commented on the increased rate of suicide and self-harm in young people of both sexes. Thankfully I have found that both conventional approaches (psychological therapies and/or medication) and hypnotherapy can be very helpful for people suffering from anxiety disorders.
The underlying reasons for the increased rates of anxiety disorders are likely to be complex and multi-factorial. Social media, school/employment pressures, financial difficulties (especially since the 2008 financial crash and subsequent austerity measures) and concern about climate change can affect people of all ages and may disproportionately affect the young. The findings may also reflect an increased awareness of anxiety disorders and patients seeking support for their difficulties.
Against this background we are now experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic which may result in anxiety, distress, social isolation or increased financial insecurity. Some people are also experiencing anxiety, depression or other psychological symptoms as part of the syndrome of “long covid” (where a patient experiences debilitating symptoms for many weeks or perhaps months after their initial illness).
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)2 recommends that if initial self-help approaches are not helpful for people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder then medication or psychological approaches e.g. applied relaxation therapy should be used. In applied relaxation you learn how to use muscle relaxation techniques when you are feeling anxious, gradually learning to encounter and cope with any previously difficult situations. This approach can also be used in hypnotherapy, with the added benefits of being able to work through any life experiences/situations which may be contributing to the anxiety. We can also use suggestions to directly control the body’s “fight or flight” response and associated symptoms (palpitations, rapid breathing, nausea, dizziness etc).
The benefit of hypnotherapy in anxiety has been demonstrated in a recent meta-analysis3 (a type of study that brings together the results of multiple previous studies, assessing their quality and drawing conclusions from the pooled results) which found that the average participant treated with hypnosis improved more than about 84% of control participants.
“Long covid” is a very new diagnosis and we are yet to understand the underlying mechanisms and processes behind it. As well as multiple physical symptoms people with this condition may experience anxiety, depression and other psychological symptoms. Hypnotherapy may be helpful to address both the physical and psychological aspects of this condition and the patients I have supported with this condition have found their sessions helpful.
As we face ongoing uncertainty I am pleased to be able to offer remote consultations (via telephone or Zoom) after which I will make a personalised audio recording which will be sent to you the same day. This can then be used on a regular basis to support your therapy. I have found this to be helpful for patients in working towards their goals. Many people with anxiety can find it difficult to take that first step and visit a therapist, I hope that this remote approach will make hypnotherapy accessible for all who may benefit. If you have any queries or would like more information before booking I am happy to respond to emails sent via firstname.lastname@example.org or you can arrange a brief telephone consultation to discuss your needs.
- April Slee, Irwin Nazareth, Nick Freemantle and Laura Horsfall; Trends in generalised anxiety disorders and symptoms in primary care: UK population-based cohort study; The British Journal of Psychiatry (2020) doi: 10.1192/bjp.2020.159
2. Generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults: management - Clinical guideline [CG113]Published date: 26 January 2011 Last updated: 26 July 2019