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Negative patterns of thinking and behaviour

By Slavka Craig No Comments

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The article was originially published in Dunfermline Press in January 2015.

So much of our lives are governed by cycles, habits and patterns. We may have learned how to do something in a certain way when we were younger and never stopped to consider that there might be other ways of doing it.

When that involves mundane acts like lacing up a new pair of shoes or the best way to roast potatoes then it’s not too important and doesn’t have that big an impact on our lives. Where accepting and following patterns can become more damaging though is if they affect our emotional lives as well as our physical lives.

Often, you’ll hear people remark about how they keep ending up in relationships with the same negative outcomes. Gradually, they lose their resilience when it comes to dealing with these situations. Their self-esteem drops, they begin to expect bad things to happen and eventually they find themselves entering into situations that can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

I remember seeing a great sign at a hospital reception desk one day, “We can’t control the things that happen but we can control our reaction to them”. Nobody can guarantee that upsetting things won’t occur in life but what you can work on is building your resilience to them and making sure that your life keeps moving forward. After all, we make worse decisions for ourselves when our self-esteem is low.

Negative patterns don’t have to involve relationships, they can be about anything that involves making a decision. Should you go for that night out instead of studying or preparing for a job interview? Should you pick up the phone to order that pizza when you’re feeling down about your weight? Should you hold onto that grudge when the other person forgot all about things years ago?

Your brain is like any other part of your body though; through the right exercises it can be improved. We’ve all seen images of people going from skinny to muscular, from overweight to svelte. If it’s possible for our bodies to make those changes then it’s also possible for our brain to learn and implement new approaches to life.

How does that happen? Well, in much the same way as physical changes come about. From being prepared to look at what isn’t working for you and to change it for other behaviours. Identifying negatives can sound daunting – like some kind of punishment or judgment – but it’s not, it’s the first step. Once you know what’s wrong, you can set about fixing it.

Sometimes people try to cling on to even the bad things in their life. Phrases like, “But I’ve always done things this way”, “This is just the way I am”, “Why should I change?” …all of these are common. The thing is, we all have our own quirks, traits and mannerisms (and thank goodness for that!) but unhappiness isn’t a trait.

You’re entitled to try to be happy and to do something about it. By breaking a routine you actually change how your brain processes things. You’re effectively re-training yourself to think more positively. Through repetition, you can create a new ‘default setting’ for your mind, helping you to cope with things and move forward.

Remember learning to write or to drive? It was a step by step process, which you repeated until it became automatic. Learning to give yourself the best chance of happiness is the same.

Photo by Jesse Freeman  used under Creative Commons License.


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Phobias

By Slavka Craig No Comments

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This article was originally published in Dunfermline Press in October 2014.

Fears are for Halloween, not for life.

Halloween is coming up, that time of year when we get ready to give ourselves a fright with masks, costumes and scary movies. This kind of fear won’t do us any harm; it’s nothing more than a little kick-start and shot of adrenaline for our systems.

Other types of fear are far less healthy though and can, in fact, become seriously debilitating and damaging to a person’s overall quality of life. I am, of course, talking about phobias. What is the difference between a ‘normal’ fear and a phobia? Well, put simply, if you saw an escaped lion coming towards you and decided to jump out of its way – that’s a pretty normal and understandable expression of fear and it serves a purpose of survival. However, if you felt unable to walk into a shop in case you saw any kind of representation of a lion – even a cuddly toy – then that’s a phobia.

The thing is, people who suffer from phobias are usually conscious that what scares them isn’t a rational fear. They probably know that what they’re afraid of either couldn’t actually hurt them or that the chances of what they’re afraid of happening are completely disproportionate to the stress they experience.

So if the answer to removing power from a phobia doesn’t lie with your conscious mind, where does it lie? With your subconscious mind. Phobias are a result of your brain having been programmed to respond in that way to a certain stimulus. The good news is that what has been programmed can also be deprogrammed.

Phobias may be learned from a parent passing on their own phobic feelings to a child, for example, or they may have cause that’s a little bit harder to unravel. For instance, many people experience phobias relating to objects that couldn’t possibly be harmful… so how can this have come about in the first place? Well, often the answer is that the crippling terror people experience as a result of phobias doesn’t even stem from what they think they’re afraid of.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you were a young child and were in a hospital awaiting news of a family member. This would be a traumatic and confusing enough time already but now imagine that bad news was given in front of you by the doctor and they were holding a clipboard in their hands.

To protect you, your brain might have blocked out what could otherwise have seemed like overwhelming feelings. The problem being that a few years later you were unable to understand why the sight of a clipboard filled you such feelings of terror. I have treated victims of phobias before who have experienced this kind of (though not that exact example of) what is called projection, with the key being that they were not consciously aware of it.

I specialise in analytical hypnotherapy, meaning trying to find the root cause of a problem rather than looking to merely treat the symptoms. Taking people back to recall the first time they experienced the feelings that are blighting their life can finally give them an understanding of their fear. Knowledge is power, as they say, so that understanding alone can often bring a sense of control over the fear and free people from it. In other cases, the initial issue that has been repressed may then still need to be dealt with to allow the phobia to be resolved.

Though the process might sound daunting, the good news is that phobias can be treated and resolved.

In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy some healthy and fun frights over Halloween!

Photo by Giuseppe Milo used under Creative Commons License.


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Stress

By Slavka Craig No Comments

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This article was originally published in Dunfermline Press in April 2015.

We live in a fast-paced society and we have come to accept stress as a normal part of our lives.

Stress in small doses can actually be beneficial as it can motivate us, improve our memory function, drive us to do things and make us perform better at the tasks we set out to do. However, the unfortunate truth is that many of us become over-stressed and this is when the problems start. Work stress especially plays a large and problematic part in many people’s lives. These days, it’s not uncommon to see adverts for ‘stress management’ classes, coaching etc.

Though some people may tell us just to ‘shrug it off’ or ‘get on with it’, too much stress has a negative impact on both our mental and physical state. When we are over-stressed, our bodies start producing too much of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol has been linked with many health issues such as lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body. This can make us more prone to disease, decrease our bone density, weaken muscles, create blood sugar imbalances, suppress thyroid function and decrease cognitive functioning – meaning we cannot think as clearly as we would normally. Stress is real and it doesn’t come alone.

Many symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, fatigue and other health issues can be the result of stored tension and emotional and physical stress.

More and more people now recognise the importance of physical exercise on our wellbeing. Exercise raises the level of our feel-good hormones, improves circulation and helps us to lose excess weight etc. Even the government is trying to put the message across through various health campaigns.

However, what I find interesting is that there is a very little mention of the importance of looking after our own mental health, or taking care of our ‘mental hygiene’. Just as we take a shower in the morning to feel clean and fresh or brush our teeth or take exercise to improve our health, it is just as important to ‘clear’ our minds regularly. Otherwise, the ‘mental debris’ will just keep increasing and our stress levels can hit the roof, causing havoc in our system.

Scientists have now confirmed that regular mental activity such as meditation, active imagination, mental rehearsal or self-hypnosis can have a direct positive influence on our pre-frontal cortex. Put more simply, that’s the part of the brain that is involved in regulating our emotions. In turn, it has an impact on the part of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved in our response to stress.

So what does all this mean? Well, doing a regular, even just 10-minute long, ‘mental clearing’ can do wonders for your brain and boost it, so that you won’t feel so overwhelmed by stress. It will lower your cortisol levels too, giving a boost to your health overall. What’s not to like?

People can sometimes still be wary of such things but it’s all about finding what works for you and what you’re comfortable with. There are various courses out there you can try – such as mindfulness, which has become very popular and has had its benefits backed up by science.

You can take a meditation class, do yoga or learn self-hypnosis (something I usually teach to all my clients). There are also many resources available online. I have a free relaxation and stress release MP3 on my website, which you are more than welcome to download. The important thing is to clear your head regularly. Both your body and mind will thank you.

Photo published by Thomas Haynie  under Creative Commons License.


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Therapy – how many sessions to fix….?

By Slavka Craig No Comments

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As a therapist, one of the questions I’m most often asked is, ‘how many sessions will it take to fix…?’. Unfortunately, the best answer I can give you would be, ‘how long is a piece of string?’. Entering therapy is a deeply personal experience.

Everybody’s different

Every person and his or her life experiences are unique, as well as the specific circumstances that have led to the issues you’re seeking help with. What takes 3 sessions for one person can take 6 sessions for someone else. It will also depend whether the presented issues are a result of a one-off event or part of a deeply embedded pattern of behaviour that started at a young age. In these cases it will take more time to develop the new patterns of thought and behaviour that will lead to the results you’re looking for.

Therapy is something you work with, not something that is ‘done to you’

Therapy is not only about ‘fixing’ things but about allowing us to enter into a deeper relationship with ourselves; that can mean facing ‘stuff’ that may be uncomfortable but ultimately needs dealt with. If this doesn’t happen then we just bury our heads in sand, something we humans are pretty good at. Therapy allows for introspection and personal growth too.

Having a good rapport with your therapist is of the utmost importance – the client needs to trust the therapist and needs to feel accepted and understood. Building a rapport may take time so sometimes the first few sessions may focus on that. This means gaining an understanding of what lies at the root of the issue you’re experiencing and having you trust me enough to work with me on it. You have to trust a therapist before you can open up to them to give them the tools that will help you make the changes you seek. Therapy is a two-way process; the client and the therapist need to work as a team. No therapist can do all the work for you or instinctively understand what you need without your cooperation. With hypnotherapy – as with life – there are no magic fixes.

We live in a fast paced society where we expect quick results and treat a lot of things in our lives as a commodity. We often shop around and want to get the best deal and that’s fine. However, therapy is not a commodity but rather – as I’ve already mentioned earlier – a deeply personal experience. It’s not like buying a car or a washing machine. Just because you pay for therapy, it does not mean it will deliver the results all by its own. Personal effort and engagement with the process are needed too.

It’s about the right therapist, not the most convenient therapist

Not every therapist can work with every client and sometimes the two just don’t match. That’s OK though. It’s worth finding out who will work for you, because then it can be transformational both for the client as well as the therapist. At the end of the day we all learn from each other.

What will happen when you come to see me?

The first session focuses on me getting to know you better and talking about any past circumstances that can be related to your issue. It’s about building trust so you feel comfortable with me as a therapist. I may also do a mini hypnosis session or some imagery work if time permits. The first session tends to be the longest and lasts on average from 1.5 up to 2 hours.

I have my own premises so I’m able to charge people by the session, not by the hour. For me this is very important as it means your appointment can be guided by the needs of the session, not by the clock.

At the end of your session I’ll usually also give you some homework to do before the next one. As I said, you’ll need to work with me to achieve the results you want to see – so that means engaging with the process.

Are you ready to make the changes you want?

If you’ve read through this blog and feel that the way I work could be right for you, please take the next step and contact me to arrange a session.

Photo by Apionid under Creative Commons license 


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PTSD: What is it and how can hypnotherapy help?

By Slavka Craig No Comments

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Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is often associated with military personnel, who can end up suffering with it due to the nature of their work. During World War I, the condition was not recognised or understood. Soldiers suffering from it were seen as being affected by ‘shell shock’, but very little care was provided and the men were often expected to just ‘get on with it’. I would like to think that times have changed as we are more educated about the condition now, but I know that many sufferers may still feel that their symptoms, the effects of these on themselves and their loved ones, and the after-care available are not afforded enough thought or action.

What can trigger PTSD?

The diagnosis of PTSD only came about years after WWI. Soldiers can be exposed to extremely stressful situations that can result in them experiencing trauma. Similarly though, this can also be the case for the likes of firefighters, police officers, or health care professionals such as ambulance drivers. Beyond this, PTSD can also occur as a result of traumatic incidents such as rape, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, witnessing violent deaths or any other event in which the person felt a sense of intense fear, helplessness or horror.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

PTSD is a serious condition and its diagnosis is rather strict. Diagnosis of psychiatric conditions such as PTSD have to meet the required criteria published in a medical book called the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), currently in its fifth edition. The book is taken as the diagnostic standard for medical practitioners.

To be diagnosed with PTSD, your medical practitioner would have to speak to you in-depth to discover more about your experiences and your symptoms. The symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, low mood & mood disturbance and flashbacks. A flashback is a state in which you are experiencing – in a very realistic way – the sensations, memories and feelings associated with the original event. In reality, you are in an altered state and experiencing a very negative form of trance.

Because of this similarity between PTSD and a hypnotic trance, hypnotherapy combined with psychotherapy can be a very effective treatment.

PTSD is often associated with depression and anxiety, and as a coping mechanism sufferers may experience dissociation and depersonalisation (feeling detached from your own sense of reality, or as if observing yourself from a distance – ‘out of body experience’) or start using substances such as alcohol or drugs. Their family life may also suffer too.

To be diagnosed with PTSD, you do need to meet the criteria of having experienced either trauma to yourself or having witnessed a traumatic event first-hand.

What if you don’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD?

I’d like to point out that although some people – for example victims of bullying – may not fulfill the criteria for the PTSD diagnosis, they may still experience symptoms of PTSD. The treatment process is the same.

Why is PTSD a special area of interest for me?

Therapists often develop special areas of interest. And I have a particular interest in treatment of PTSD as well as research into it. My own grandfather was a prisoner of war and suffered from PTSD, so this topic is quite close to my heart. Also, my own psychotherapy supervisor (I’m currently training to add a Diploma in HypnoPsychotherapy to my qualifications), Dr.Ibbotson, is a PTSD and trauma specialist and ran a trauma clinic in the NHS for 15 years.

How can hypnotherapy be used to treat PTSD?

As mentioned above, when you’re affected by PTSD, you are effectively in an altered state and experiencing a very negative form of trance. Hypnotherapy can work to neutralise the effects of this, reprocessing the original traumatic memories and emotions in a safe way. Although therapy cannot erase those memories, it can help to change your mind’s relationship with them so that they don’t hold such a negative grip over you and they remain just that – memories.

I’m currently offering free sessions for PTSD treatment

As part of my training for my Hypno-psychotherapy Diploma (I’m currently training towards my registration with the UKCP – the UK Council for Psychotherapy, and I’m already registered as a hypnotherapist with the CNHC – the Complementary and National Healthcare Council) I’m currently offering pro bono (free) sessions for people affected by PTSD. 

If you would like to find out more about this and book an appointment, please contact me.

 

Photo from Otis Historical Archives used under Creative Commons License


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Anxiety

By Slavka Craig No Comments

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This article was originally published in Dunfermline Press in February 2015.

I’m often asked what’s the most common condition that people seek my help for and the answer is anxiety. I thought it might be useful to give a little more insight into what can be a debilitating condition.

Anxiety can take different forms; it may be caused by behaviour learned in childhood, as a consequence of a traumatic incident, or through the impact of major life events. It can have its roots in any of these but can also be added to by many aspects of day-to-day life.

Anxiety is just the way in which our mind and body respond to anything we perceive as a threat, triggering the fight-or-flight response that’s been with us since caveman days. Think how you feel when you’re anxious; your heart starts racing, getting the blood pumping to your legs in case you choose to run or to your arms in case you opt to fight.

We don’t encounter sabre-toothed tigers anymore but we still face situations that can trigger anxiety. Work stress, relationship ups and downs, taking care of the kids… all of these can take their toll.

Anxiety is like a car alarm. If the alarm goes off when somebody tries to break into the car then it’s done its job properly. However, if it’s too sensitive and goes off at the slightest gust of wind then it becomes a problem. When anxiety is too easily triggered it can also become a problem rather than an aid.

What can cause this overstimulation? Well, for one thing, we’re bombarded with more information than ever before. Now we no longer just have newspapers, TV and radio but also Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more.

It can be hard to keep up with everything that’s going on and that can play on what’s become known as FOMO – fear of missing out. How often have you looked around you to see people on their smartphones, avidly scrolling through Facebook updates or Twitter feeds? Added to this, we can feel under pressure to look like the celebrities we see in the media, to have the glitzy consumer goods that we may see friends showing off on Facebook or even to have the apparently glamorous and stress-free relationships that a photograph on Instagram can seem to portray.

Keeping-up-with-the-Joneses has been around for years, as has a desire to emulate the rich and famous, but we’re living in a time of saturated exposure and that takes its toll.

The good news is that you can do something about excessive feelings of anxiety. The first step? Breathe. It may sound simple but when we’re stressed we can struggle to get enough oxygen to our brain, making it hard to think clearly. Deep breaths will slow your heartbeat down and help you to relax.

Once you’ve begun to get the physical aspect under control, you can start dealing with the mental impact of anxiety. Try challenging the thoughts that are flooding your mind. Pause and ask yourself ‘is the world really going to end if you don’t end up buying that house/car/outfit?’, ‘are you really a bad parent if you don’t cook from scratch every night like a TV chef?’, ‘will anyone at the party really think any less of you for not being a size 8?’

Lastly, sign out of your social media accounts and go for a walk. Fresh air, gentle exercise and the chance to clear your head will reconnect you to the real world, not the world of worry you’ve created in response to what others might do, think or say.

In short, give yourself a break.

The photo originally published by Kai Schreiber under Creative Commons License.


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Depression – life through a black and white lens

By Slavka Craig No Comments

depressionIt’s that time of the year again, when the days are becoming shorter and nights longer. We are exposed to much less light, which in itself can put a dampener on our mood (not that we get a lot of sunshine in Scotland anyway!). This in itself can contribute toward SAD – seasonal affective disorder – for which buying a special lamp (lightbox) may help to alleviate the symptoms.

Because longer and colder nights allow for reflection, I started thinking about depression. People tend to feel lower during the cold months and yes, the lack of light that I’ve already mentioned plays its part. But what happens when the sad, gloomy and often hopeless moods persist and become overpowering? They can turn into depression, which is so common now that it could almost be considered the most common ‘disease’ of our modern Western society. I will not bore you with statistics because you can look them up yourself, but the fact is that depression is very common. If you really wanted to know more, find a copy of the book ‘Affluenza’ by Dr. Oliver James, which I highly recommend. Or email me and I’d quite happily send you some academic articles on the topic. (If you are an insomniac, this could be a good cure!).

So what causes depression?

That’s a very good question. Controversial past research claimed that it was because of a ‘chemical imbalance’ in our brains and decreased levels of serotonin but this view is now considered too simplistic. Depression can cause reduced levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help your brain to communicate messages from one part of it to the other as well as to different parts of our body. Hence, antidepressants work on modulating various neurotransmitters in the brain.

The fact is, though, that they do not treat depression, only the symptoms of depression. However, they do play their part in the treatment as they can provide some relief. So if you are on medication, please do not just stop taking it and always consult your doctor before embarking upon any alternative or additional methods of treating clinical depression.

Depression is complex and the best way to look at it is to take into account biological, psychological and social factors. Nutrition, upbringing, family relationships, education, genes, past experiences, sudden trauma, our own view of the world and thinking patterns all play a part. And let’s not forget societal pressures. The media constantly bombard us with the images of perfection that we all need to aspire to. If you are an adult woman, you need to be size 8 at most, no wrinkles, managing working full-time, childcare and running a busy household all done with a perfect pearly white smile on your face. Younger and younger teenage girls are dieting, wearing make-up, feeling the pressure of being ‘perfect’ already. The spike in the number of people battling eating disorders speaks for itself. If you are a man, you need to have an amazing job, look like a model and the wrinkle issue is slowly creeping into male world too. The reality, however, is that life is not like the magazines.

Depression does not choose whether you are rich, poor, tall or short. Anyone can experience it and everyone will experience it differently. There are some common symptoms though, such as lack of energy (often combined with poor sleep or even insomnia), ruminative thinking, seeing life through black and white lenses or even fantasising about being dead because it would put an end to misery. These are some of the most common symptoms.

How can depression be overcome?

The best approach for treating depression is a combination of medication and some psychological intervention. Hypnotherapy, usually combined with some form of psychotherapy, can be effective but I would like to point out that every client is different. We all have different experiences and views that shape how we view the world, so there’s no one universal approach to treatment. If you’re interested in finding the right approach for you (and have consulted your GP over this) we can combine hypnotherapy with CBT or perhaps mindfulness or another approach…Everyone is unique.

My role as a hypnotherapist is to help you see the world through different lenses, not only a black or white one. This may just mean seeing shades of grey to start with but with the ability to add more colours growing over time. The aim is that eventually you can experience life in its full, colourful beauty again.


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Self-confidence versus self-esteem

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I am writing this on the plane on my way back to bonnie Fife in Scotland after my holidays. Reading (yet another, I can’t help it) book on hypnotherapy has sparked an idea for this blog, the topic of which I feel is rather pertinent.

One of the most common enquiries at my hypnotherapy practice is from clients who seek help for issues with low self-confidence and low self-esteem. I have noticed that these terms are often used interchangeably, yet they are different. Hence I have decided to write this article. You may have noticed that my blogs are sporadic but when the inspiration kicks in, who is to argue about the circumstances?

Self-confidence is a trait that people possess when they are confident in their abilities and resources. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have a fear of the unknown, but they still have the belief to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way. People who possess self-confidence are able to act on opportunities and seize them despite fear or even anxiety, not because they don’t experience those things. The difference is that they are able to transform risk into a challenge. Without taking risks we would not move forward and would lead rather stagnant lives.
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Treating Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with Hypnotherapy

By Slavka Craig No Comments

Irritable bowel syndrome is a fairly common disorder of the digestive system and can involve diarrhoea, cramps, constipation and bloating, though symptoms may vary from person to person. It can be unpredictable and painful, causing a negative impact on sufferers’ lives.

Although the cause is unknown, many researchers believe that IBS is a result of the brain and gut axis. What does this mean? Essentially, that the mind and body are connected and that a person’s state of mind can have an effect on their digestive function. There being a relationship between our mental/emotional condition and that of our bodies is something that scientists as well as practitioners of Eastern medicine have known for a very long time.

The state of our mind can have positive or negative affects on the way the body functions. For example, it is fairly well known that prolonged stress raises the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which has a detrimental effect on our immune system and functioning. Have you ever come across someone who has developed stomach ulcers as a result of stress? I certainly have. If you want to know more about the influence of psychological processes on the nervous and immune systems in our bodies and the relationship between our behaviour and our health, then look up ‘psychoneuroimmunology’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoneuroimmunology)

Western medicine, unfortunately, often treats symptoms of diseases rather than their root causes or treating the person holistically. We are not a walking bunch of various, unrelated symptoms.
As there is no known medical cure for IBS, sufferers are often advised to change their lifestyle and dietary habits and may also receive medication to relieve the symptoms.

Stress is considered a factor that can contribute both towards developing IBS and then towards exacerbating the condition. Worrying over the situations (or potential situations) caused by the condition, like being able to find the nearest toilet, may make things worse.

How can hypnotherapy help?

For many IBS sufferers hypnotherapy, which is a proven treatment for stress, can offer much needed relief. Many IBS sufferers experience negative feelings such as anxiety, tension and even depression, which can all be linked to stress. University of Manchester have conducted a lot of research on treatment of IBS with hypnostherapy. In their own clinic they have been successfully treating IBS for decades and the treatment usually takes 6 sessions. In fact NICE guidelines recommend hypnotherapy as the second choice of treatment for IBS if medication does not work after one year post diagnosis. However many GPs do not seem to be aware of this as it is currently not available on the NHS.

Different analytical hypnotherapy techniques can be employed, such as finding out the root cause of any emotions (trauma, fear etc.) which may be contributing to the IBS and using visualisation techniques that can aid the emotional healing process. Hypnotherapy can therefore help sufferers to deal better with their condition as it offers the opportunity to explore new techniques of coping, including stress management and relaxation.

If you suffer from IBS and would like to try hypnotherapy, why not get in touch? I am trained in analytical hypnotherapy and live in Dunfermline, Fife, only 30 minutes away from Edinburgh. I have parking outside my home if you’re travelling by car or, alternatively, I’m based only around a 10 minute walk from Dunfermline Town railway station.


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Nail biting hypnosis

Nail biting is one of those habits that is so common in both children and adults. I know this only too well because I was a nail-biter from a very early age. Children often copy the behaviour of their parents, until it becomes automatic within them. In my case, I copied my father, picked up the habit from him and it ended up staying with me for almost 30 years! Other habits that children can copy from their parents are phobias – if parents constantly repeat that something is to be feared, children will inevitably start fearing the object that causes the fear in their parents. Yes, many phobias are simply inherited. But that is another topic and you can read about phobias here (Hypnotherapy for anxiety, stress, phobias ).

If the nail biting habit is not copied from parents or other significant caregivers, then the two major causes for it are stress and anxiety. Nail biting often becomes a way of coping with these as the body produces feel-good neurotransmitters (serotonin and endorphins) when a person bites their nails. This is simply because the body is reacting to the initial pain of nail biting. Therefore, many nail biters will tell you that it makes them feel good and, surely enough, that it almost feels like an addiction. However, through the constant repetition of putting fingers in one’s mouth and biting them, it becomes an automatic process. As a result, people will bite their nails even when they are not particularly stressed and they may often bite their nails without even realising that they are doing it.

Nail biting is not something people like to do but simply end up doing subconsciously. It feels like it is almost impossible to stop no matter how hard you try. Nail biters often feel embarrassed and self-conscious but can feel powerless when it comes to stopping the habit. Moreover, it can be a rather dangerous habit too, due to all kinds of bacteria and dirt getting into our bodies via the hands.

So, the nail biting habit needs to be seen for what it is – a habit that became so automatic that people engage in it even without thinking. As I said earlier, I have first hand experience with it. I successfully used hypnotherapy to break my nail biting habit a few years ago and I haven’t bitten my nails since. It was the experience of stopping biting my nails (as well as stopping smoking) through hypnotherapy that led me to train and become a hypnotherapist myself.

So how can hypnotherapy help?

I have successfully dealt with the nail biting habit and helped many people to stop it. Hypnotherapy is used to break the automatic nature, repetition and compulsion which are at the core of the nail biting habit. It is literally ‘rewiring’ and changing your subconscious brain patterns so that you do not engage in these any longer. Gradually, you will become conscious and aware of your automatic nail biting behaviour, will be able to control the urge to do it and eventually you will be able to stop the process completely.

Hypnotherapy can also be useful in helping you to control and cope with anxiety and stress so that you don’t have to use nail biting in order to deal with it. I can teach you various techniques that you can use to help to yourself relax and control stress. And, if you are a woman (or an enlightened man!), your reward may also be in being able to go and have your nails done professionally. I can tell you, it is a great feeling!

I am a trained analytical hypnotherapist based in Dunfermline, Fife, only 30 minutes away from Edinburgh and I can help you stop biting your nails just as I helped to do so to many others.