Hypnosis for Panic Attacks

by Bob Walsh

I was hypnotized several times by a therapist. We were attempting to cure my anxiety with hypnosis for panic attacks, which seemed to be brought on by having to drive anywhere.

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He began by having me relax and take deep breaths. Then he had me raise my eyes toward the ceiling and count backwards from one hundred. My eyelids began to get heavy by the time we got to ninety, and I don’t remember counting back much from eighty or so. The therapist then guided me to leave my house and get in my car. I was guided through the steps of fastening my seatbelt, checking the mirrors, etc., and then we started the engine. I was led down my street and then out into the country. Seeing that I was okay so far, he then had me drive over a large mountain. He described no guardrail on the mountain road, and he made me look down.

I was scared, but still knew I was safe so I was able to look down the mountain with no difficulties. We went further down the road and then he brought me back by counting to three. While I was able to handle the drive during hypnosis, I still had difficulties driving in ‘real life’.

On subsequent sessions, the therapist had me create techniques to help me calm down, such as tapping my temple with one finger three times. This helped for a while but didn’t last in the long term.

Having been through that experience, I am not sure I could recommend hypnosis as an option for panic attacks. The main objection I have to it is, while it’s easy for someone to be hypnotized, the suggestions they receive are short-lived. Some claim they have lasting results; others do not. I don’t believe that hypnosis can help get to the core issue of the problem, which is essential if the problem is to be brought to the surface and subsequently resolved.

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In my own example, the benefits were short-term only. Within a few weeks after my sessions ended, I was in the same position as before- afraid to drive in elevated places like mountains or bridges. The post-hypnotic techniques I was given did not help. Whether it was because the root cause of my problems still had not been resolved, or whether I was subconsciously fighting my own efforts is not known. It is also possible, that I lacked the submissive and open-minded attitude required to allow hypnosis to work. It’s important to approach the technique willingly. I believe it’s also important to believe at the outset that it will work, before allowing it to be done to you.

Also imperative is that it be done by a licensed and well-trained hypnotist. We’ve all heard stories about unscrupulous therapists who convinced their subjects to perform sexual favors or transfer all of their money to the hypnotist’s bank account. I personally don’t know if any of those stories are true, but just to be safe, I’d have a friend or family member sitting in waiting room. I’ve also heard that no hypnotist can make you do anything you don’t want to do. I’m not entirely sure I believe that either. Statistics may verify that hypnosis does indeed have therapeutic value. Based on my own personal experience, I would sooner think it be relegated to the entertainment venue.

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