In this study, I share how hypnosis and cognitive behaviour therapy can be used effectively to treat anxiety and stress. Names have been changed but this is a real case study with one of my clients.
Tom is a good looking young man in his early 30’s. He was brought up by an overprotective mother and was told that he had to be careful from a very young age. He was anxious about most things and found social situations difficult. He was shy at secondary school and struggled with making and keeping friends. He later married Maria who he met at university, but she was the only girl he dated. He has two daughters ages 6 and 9 and they go to their local village school.
When Tom first came to see me he was nervous, did not give me eye contact and shyly smiled a hello. As we chatted Tom relaxed noticeably and said, “I have been anxious and nervous all my life, even in junior school and secondary school. I struggled with knowing what to say then and now my wife takes all the responsibility at home and I let her so I don’t have to.”
He then admitted that his wife made the appointment to see me; she made all the appointments – to see the dentist, doctor etc. If the children had parent-teacher meetings at school, his wife Maria went. She made all the social engagements and at parties, she was the one that socialised, while he was quiet and talked only when he was asked a question. Even when they had takeaway meals, Maria made the call, as he was too shy and nervous.
Because of Maria, Tom was able to avoid social situations that made him uncomfortable and awkward. However, this problem was starting to affect his work as he had taken on a bigger role in his job, needed to do presentations, go to conferences, and talk to business colleagues socially. When Tom was younger he worked at a small local family company owned by someone in the village, and he never had to put himself in front of other people. However, when the owner sold the company Tom had to move jobs to a bigger company. Initially, he was still able to hide himself away, but he soon got recognised his talent and expertise and was forced to take a bigger role.
At the last business event, he was very nervous, spent a lot of time before the event in the toilet and when he finally spoke to the other people he was panicky and his voice was shaky. He said, “I was able to talk quickly and not give myself away. When I was asked a question, I struggled to get my words out due to my nervousness, when eventually I got my words out it was so very embarrassing as I stuttered”.
After that embarrassing situation and feeling humiliated, he started to panic, even more, could not even pick up the telephone without feeling panicky and he started to worry more. He asked himself – Why was he like this? – shy, timid and fearful of everything. He must be the only one in the world to feel like this; he just cannot seem to shake this off. After he spent his day at work feeling pressurised and anxious, he would get tired, fatigued and disheartened combined with negative thoughts, he wanted to give up work but could not as he was the main income earner at home.
As his wife was sociable and had a lot of friends, she took a lot of the responsibilities on her shoulders. The more she did, the more he would withdraw and let her take charge. He had no real close friends to speak of and their social life consisted of friends of his wife. Even when they were out with friends or had a party at home he never knew what to say and felt uneasy.
His anxiety took over when he was the centre of attention and this became very difficult due to expectations at work. When he knew he had to make important phone calls or do a public presentation his anxiety would overwhelm him and would find an excuse to pass this job to his colleague at work. But he knew that this could not continue, the negative cycle that he was stuck in had to change. It was affecting him both at home and at work, and putting him under a lot of pressure.
Tom started cognitive behaviour therapy with me and used the cognitive strategy sessions to relearn the way he thought and felt about himself. He was ready and willing during therapy and progressed well, did all the homework and practice he was set. He did a number of practical presentations with me and then also went home and practiced with his family.
His family was enthusiastic and supportive because he was talking more, felt happier, and addressed his anxiety during these social and speaking occasions. When he made a mistake or the anxiety took over he was able to inject some humour in the sessions we had together. When he was anxious about his social skills or presentation he saw it for what it was, a chance to try and tell people about the subject he was passionate about.
As he found humour and de-stressed during the situation, he saw his anxiety for what it was, which was not as scary as he thought. He was able to put his fear and anxiety into perspective with my help and developed the chance to build his self-esteem. ‘Everyone makes mistakes so what?’ became his motto.
He started to slowly communicate socially more, taking charge such as speaking on the phone or ordering the family’s takeaway. He realised that in public he was not a centre of attention and he could make mistakes and it was okay. With cognitive behavioural therapy, he felt comfortable speaking at meetings and also started to do be more relaxed at public speaking events. He also took more and more of his own responsibilities at work where before he would shrink away or defer to others, and also at home. His wife Maria is happy and pleased with his metamorphosis, and his marriage is flourishing.
“I am happier and feel confident in myself now”, Tom said. “Whereas in the past I let the anxiety take over and I felt frustrated and angry at myself, I am now enjoying my new found freedom from the stress and negativity. I am giving speeches now and do make mistakes, but laugh at them. I am in control of my life and feel confident in my ability in dealing with any issue as it arises.”
Many people adopt behaviours that help them avoid stressful situations like Tom did by allowing his wife to run the social aspects of their lives. However, you could be missing out on opportunities to enjoy an exciting social life or a rewarding career by letting your anxiety dictate how you live.
Take the first step to getting some support so that you can control your anxiety, nervousness or negative thoughts, and gain confidence in being you. If you would like to speak to me about how cognitive behaviour therapy with hypnosis could help you, please contact me by calling 0796 715 1790 or emailing email@example.com
Andrea Smith is a Qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Cognitive Behaviour Therapist with a Masters in Psychology. As the founder of For Minds Sake, she is dedicated to helping clients change unwanted behaviour patterns using Cognitive Behaviour Hypnotherapy.