Hypnosis in the Management of Stress and Anxiety Disorders

ROBB O. STANLEY, TREVOR R. NORMAN and GRAHAM D. BURROWS

University of Melbourne, Australia

Stress is a ubiquitous phenomenon, with which we are all familiar and yet the term is used in popular and clinical contexts without precision. 'Stress' is the process whereby this distress occurs, rather than the psychological and/or physiological distress response itself. The distress response resulting from the 'stress' process is a variable reaction that involves highly individual combinations of psychological or physiological distress.

Not all 'stress' is negative. As an acute response to the environment (and for some people even the repeated acute response) stress may be a motivating force to action, and may act as a useful stimulant to problem-solving and productivity. The concept of 'eustress' has also been introduced to describe the difference between this positive motivating pressure by which some thrive, and the 'distress' which we are commonly referring to in the clinical situation. While it may be agreed that events such as natural disasters are stressful for almost everyone, the majority of situations become part of a stress process only because of their significance to the individual. What may be simply problematic and challenging for one may be threatening and highly stressful for the next. 'Stress' then is neither a diagnosis nor an adequate description of psychological distress.

The stress process results in subjective distress and/or unpleasant physiological arousal, when the real or perceived demands being made on the person by the situation exceed, or are perceived by that individual as exceeding, their ability to cope. These perceptions of an imbalance between demand and coping result in the psychological or affective state of current or impending threat as well as a disturbance in physiological arousal that if persistent may damage the homeostatic functioning of bodily and psychological processes alike. The pattern of response to the stress process is variable and dependent on both genetic factors and learned response patterns. The personal relevance and availability of coping mechanisms

International Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis. Edited by G. D. Burrows, R. O. Stanley and P. B. Bloom © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd are key factors, making it more logical to define stress by the process resulting in the response, rather than the problematic situation. Thus overall the 'stress' response will depend on individual characteristics, life experiences; other problematic or challenging situations; the availability of suitable coping strategies to resolve problematic situations; the patient's confidence in putting these into effect and their ability to tolerate partial solutions to challenging situations.

Stress is implicated as a factor in precipitating a wide range of psychiatric and psychological disturbances. For some, the repeated or chronic perception of threat or inability to cope leads to anxiety, while for others it leads to a sense of helplessness and depression. It is probable, given the similarities between the anxiety and stress responses, that the same vulnerabilities to stress show up as vulnerabilities to anxiety disorders. Similarly in depression, psychologically confronting demanding and problematic situations repeatedly, or in the perceived absence of coping strategies, may lead to a sense of helplessness and contribute to a depressive response. The same neurotransmitter processes of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and serotonergic and adrenergic mechanisms are implicated in both depressive disorders and stress vulnerabilities. To deal with chronic or severe acute stress patients self-medicate. The use of alcohol is a common strategy to reduce stress responses. Psychological dependence on this as the solution to chronic stress leads often to alcohol abuse with all its associated problems. The same problem occurs with marijuana and other illicitly obtained drugs that have some sedative effect. Benzodiazepine abuse and dependence in dealing with stress is common. Similarly other drug use such as nicotine can have an element of self-medication to dampen the physiological components of stress.

Hynotism and Self Hypnosis

Hynotism and Self Hypnosis

HYPNOTISM is by no means a new art. True, it has been developed into a science in comparatively recent years. But the principles of thought control have been used for thousands of years in India, ancient Egypt, among the Persians, Chinese and in many other ancient lands. Miracles of healing by the spoken word and laying on of hands are recorded in many early writings.

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