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Client Story: What anxiety feels like

Please note that this client story is based on a real client however names, dates and any identifying information has been changed to protect anonymity.

 

I have chosen this client story as it demonstrates beautifully how anxiety actually feels to the people who are suffering with it.  If you would like to know why anxiety feels the way it does then head over to my blog on the role of adrenaline in anxiety.

 

Sam:

Sam was a business owner and relatively successful when they contacted me for help with their anxiety. Their anxiety was focused on their health and revolved around the idea that there was something seriously wrong with them.

When their anxiety got to the point that they were having panic attacks they felt that it was important that they did something about it. Sam had seen me speak at an event and liked my straightforward approach.

Sam was experiencing light headedness and palpitations on a fairly regular basis however medical investigations had ruled out anything physically wrong and their GP had advised getting help for anxiety.

Triggers:

There were a few things that would set off Sam’s anxiety; travelling in the car, travelling by plane, crowded spaces and being away from home.

Damaging belief:

Sam was convinced that they would become a medical emergency when in any of the trigger situations. So for example would imagine causing a crash by having a heart attack at the wheel of their car or being in a group of people and collapsing making them the centre of attention.

Thoughts:

  • What if I have a heart attack when I’m driving
  • What if I have a panic attack
  • What if I need medical attention and there is no one on the plane?
  • If I collapse in this room, then I will disrupt everyone and look stupid
  • Am I having a heart attack?
  • I’m going to look stupid in front of everyone
  • I’m not taking care of myself so I’m going to die young
  • Palpitations mean I am going to have a heart attack

Feelings:

  • Heart racing
  • Palpitations
  • Stomach upset

Actions

  • Constantly checking pulse
  • Repeatedly visiting GP
  • Avoiding travel where possible
  • Avoid talking to people

Cognitive distortions

Health anxiety is more common than people might think and Sam’s case had many similarities with a lot of the health anxiety clients I work with. I work from the basis that it’s not the situation that is causing the anxiety, it’s the thoughts about that situation that are.  These thoughts are our cognitive distortions. You can find out which cognitive distortions are impacting your anxiety here.

In this case we can see several examples of cognitive distortions.

I like to get my clients to identify their own negative thought patterns and in this case Sam identified that they were engaging in the following:

  • Catastrophising
  • Polarised thinking
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Fortune telling
  • Shoulds

 

Turning thoughts around

The great thing about this case was that Sam had been to the GP enough times to have had their entire cardiovascular system thoroughly checked out. If you are having severe symptoms of anxiety then please do check with your GP first and make sure there is nothing going on.

Because we had this evidence that all was well, I felt very confident working with Sam to change how they think about their health.

Examining the evidence is the starting point. We know logically that there is nothing wrong.

 

Over time, thoughts become beliefs

This is really important because as we practice negative thoughts over and over again, we become more convinced by them. It sounds simple to just think positive thoughts instead but if you practice thinking more positively or realistically if you prefer, then you will start to believe that too.

True positives that we knew Sam could rely on:

  • I have had everything checked and the specialists say I am in good health
  • Many of my symptoms are anxiety and will pass
  • I am a healthy person, I eat well and exercise

 

Hypnosis work

Through hypnotherapy I was also able to teach Sam how to calm themselves in the situations that cause them anxiety. This is done through breathing techniques, safe place imagery and something we call a hypnotic anchor.

This gave Sam some tools to control the symptoms.

I also used hypnosis to help improve those situations further by helping Sam visualise situations that would have previously caused anxiety but could now be tackled calmly and confidently. The final stage of this process was to help Sam feel excited about travelling by visualising the benefits of travel, for example, a nice holiday or an interesting business event.

 

Cognitive behavioural therapy exercises

As well as the hypnosis work, Sam did a lot of work between sessions to understand how their thoughts were affecting their feelings and spent time finding positive alternative thoughts to use in those situations.

We also set up something called the STOPP process which is a process by which you can notice the negative thoughts and do something about them rather than reacting in the same way as before.

 

Results

Sam initially rated their anxiety at it’s worse a 10/10 (10 being the worst thing you have ever experienced). By the end of the course they rated it a 3/10 and commented that it was still there a little but that they didn’t worry about it as they had the tools to manage it.

Sam also attended a large function and enjoyed it!

 

If you would like to experience how hypnotherapy can help you take control of your anxiety then find out more about my Anxiety2Confidence course here.

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Discover which common negative thinking patterns you have.

The way we think has a huge impact on our mental health. If you are looking to overcome your anxiety or just improve your mental health then first you need to know what thoughts are making things worse.

This download gives you a list of the most common ways we think negatively. All you need to do is see which ones you do most.

Also, keep an eye on your emails! I will be sending you a really useful video that goes with this exercise.