How hypnotherapy can help with health anxiety

More of us have been experiencing health anxiety during the pandemic

More of us have been experiencing health anxiety during the pandemic - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

"Am I okay right now?"

"Breathe, slowly, concentrate on the breath." 

I am talking to myself, bringing calm to my mind in the moment.

It's a form of self-hypnosis. Breathing consciously, repeating to myself, “Everything is as it should be.”

I’m lying awake listening to the wind howling around the trees outside, but the real storm is going on inside my head.  

There’s something about the wee small hours of the night, the oppressive darkness, when thoughts repeatedly spin around looping back on themselves.  

I can almost feel the cancer spreading around my body.  

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I’m thinking about my kids, my parents, the people I will be leaving behind.  

I tell myself it's rational fear because the first time I had cancer, I felt fine, I didn’t know I had it.  

Talk about making you paranoid. 

Some clients tell me that they don’t want to go to bed because they can’t bear the thoughts that come to them in the night.

They would prefer to drink until they are unconscious rather than have the bad thoughts haunting them. 

It's perhaps not surprising that the numbers of people suffering with health anxiety are sky high.  

We check the numbers for increases or decreases in illness and death rates, in a way that we never would have in previous years, even when flu outbreaks were rampant, and many people sadly died. 

Tammy Parnell, founder of Tara Hills Therapy

Tammy Parnell, founder of Tara Hills Therapy - Credit: Julia Holland

Health anxiety is beyond the rational, the normal worry when illness does inevitably strike.

So you might get a headache and be convinced it's a brain tumour.  

You are sure that you will be the one who will get cancer, in fact you might already have it.  

Any aches and pains are signs to you that there is something wrong.

It's a form of over-vigilance and fear.  An excess of anxiety, where it is negatively impacting your life.

Constant, exhausting worry about yourself, or others, looping thoughts and obsessive checking of your own health. 

In Rapid Transformational Therapy, we observe that the way that our minds work is that we respond to the words we hear and the pictures we see.  

So if you are telling yourself constantly that you are ill, your mind will be looking for evidence that you are correct and your mind will filter out the evidence that you are wrong about it.  

Your mind will do more than this too. You will get more of what you focus on.  

So, if you are focusing on the fear and anxiety of illness, you will get more and more of it, and you will notice you being unwell...and others too.

It will prove to you that you were right to be afraid. It's a vicious circle. So, how do you break out of that?

Start with gratitude. Even in the worst situations there are things you can think of. Write them down. This works to train your mind to focus on the things that you are grateful for.

Get into a habit of thanking your body for what it can do. This might feel strange to begin with, but go with it.

Start simply by thanking your body for being alive, for breathing, for your hands working, or your legs. Get present to how amazing your body actually is, and everything it can do for you. 

Breathing rhythmically and focussing on right now is the key. Anxiety, after all, is fear and worry about the future.

Are you okay right now? Right now in this moment? Any anxiety, including health anxiety can be dialled down by breathing slowly and steadily.  

It reduces your heart rate, gives your body oxygen and tells your mind to be calm. It's super powerful and yet so simple. You can literally do it anywhere.

Give yourself a calming affirmation, a phrase that helps. So mine is: “Everything is as it should be.”

You can use one that you like. It works to give yourself something to concentrate on, and tells your mind to be calm.

In hypnosis sessions I look at what client’s triggers are and why they are over-reacting to situations.

Usually it's something in the childhood, which has given them the belief that they need to be afraid.  

I enable clients to find the source of their trigger and to re-frame their belief, dealing with the unresolved trauma and changing it so that they don’t have to be controlled by it any longer.  

It's free to book in a Discovery call to find out more about RTT hypnotherapy and whether it is suitable for you, or book a one-to-one at tarahillstherapy.com

Tammy Parnell is founder of Tara Hills Therapy and a member of the Feel Good Norfolk Collective