Jack Harley, Therapeutic Neuroscience at Oxford University
reviewed by Dr Michael Yapko
Friday, December 11, 2020
Jack Harley, Therapeutic Neuroscience at Oxford University
Friday, December 11, 2020

Self-Hypnosis for Anxiety: How to Use Hypnosis to Reduce Anxiety


Have you ever found yourself deeply absorbed in a movie or book? If so, you may have experienced hypnosis, a naturally occurring state of consciousness. Hypnosis can be induced with help from a therapist or alone. In self-hypnosis, you listen to your own suggestions to achieve your goals. For people with anxiety, self-hypnosis can help them calm anxious nerves and soothe excessive worrying. Read on to learn how to perform self-hypnosis and reduce symptoms of anxiety.

What is self-hypnosis?

Self-hypnosis involves entering a state of deep, focused attention while giving yourself positive suggestions to achieve your goals. Self-hypnosis differs from hypnotherapy with a therapist in that the subject plays the dual role of ‘suggester and suggestee.’

Studies show that self-hypnosis can produce meaningful improvements for various health conditions, such as chronic pain. With self-hypnosis, you follow the same steps as a traditional hypnotherapy therapist would to achieve hypnosis, but you do it by reading/speaking the suggestions to yourself.

These steps might include:

  • Relaxation techniques to enter the hypnotic state
  • Providing affirmations and hypnotic suggestions
  • Visualizing yourself free from anxiety

How to do self-hypnosis

What’s the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

Hypnosis refers to the process of becoming highly focused and absorbed in order to become more receptive to changes in perceptions or new ideas.

Hypnotherapy usually refers to the use of hypnosis to help with a specific problem or issue. Hypnotherapy can be used to manage your anxiety levels, overcome smoking, increase your confidence, or to improve sleep quality. Therapeutic hypnosis can be achieved with the help of a hypnotherapist or by yourself, through self-hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis in medicine

The field of clinical hypnotherapy has undergone a revolution from a party gimmick to a recognized and vital component of behavioral medicine. It may surprise you to learn that hypnosis has been rigorously tested in clinical trials for many years.

Hypnotherapy is used by a range of healthcare professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and dentists, and is often used to treat various health conditions, such as:

What is anxiety?

The term ‘anxiety’ refers to psychological disorders associated with fear, nervousness, panic, and worrying.  Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives, but some people find it hard to control their worries. These anxiety disorders affect over 280 million worldwide each year. Anxiety is the main symptom in many conditions, such as:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Phobias
  • Panic attacks/disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder. It is a long-term condition that causes you to worry about a wide range of issues. People with this type of anxiety struggle to remember the last time they were relaxed. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder change a person’s behavior and the way they think about things, and include:

  • An ongoing sense of dread
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling frequently ‘on edge’
  • Agitation and restlessness

These symptoms may cause you to withdraw from social contact (e.g., seeing family and friends) to avoid feelings of discomfort. Generalized anxiety disorder can also cause physical symptoms, such as:

  • Trembling and shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeping difficulty
  • Dizziness and nausea

Self-hypnosis for anxiety

If you’re struggling with anxiety, you can learn self-hypnosis techniques to help relieve symptoms and achieve a sense of calm.

An overview of hypnotherapy research has confirmed the benefits of hypnosis for anxiety disorders and other stress-related conditions. Self-hypnosis can produce therapeutic benefits for anxiety by inducing relaxation and focus. Hypnotherapy can help us reduce automatic, subconscious responses and empower us to manage our emotions.

Hypnosis can help with generalized anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders. It is also beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety before undergoing medical treatments, such as:

  • Dental surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Medical scans and other tests

Hypnosis for anxiety doesn’t always need to be performed by a professional hypnotist, and similar benefits can be achieved alone using self-hypnosis.

Steps to perform self-hypnosis for anxiety

Self-hypnosis can be easily performed at home and is a perfectly safe practice. You will be in control the entire time.

1. Find a comfortable place
Begin by making yourself physically comfortable, as this will help you relax. Sit in a comfortable chair, or lie down, although the latter may lead you to fall asleep. Remove or loosen any tight clothing. Try to give yourself a window of 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted practice.

2. Relax and use hypnotic induction
Enter the hypnosis using a progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) technique. To do this, focus your awareness upon loosening the tension in different parts of the body, one by one. You may begin with the top of your head, then move down your face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back, and legs. Imagine the tension dissolving away as you move your attention to these parts of the body. A feeling of relaxation and concentration should follow, which is an essential part of the hypnosis practice.

3. Introduce a hypnotic suggestion
In a relaxed and focused state, your mind can pay attention to the hypnotic suggestions you give yourself to reduce anxiety symptoms.

Your hypnotic suggestions should be simple and direct statements. They can be positive affirmations regarding how you might react to situations, how you want to think about yourself, or how you want to feel.

You can even use visualization and imagery to help strengthen the hypnotic state. A few examples of suggestions for anxiety include:

  • I am safe and secure in myself and the environment.
  • I feel calm, confident, and relaxed.
  • I am confident and assertive when speaking to others.
  • I accept myself for who I am.

4. Return to your normal state of awareness
Whenever you are ready, start to return to your normal level alertness to conclude the self-hypnosis. Slowly count to five and tell yourself you are becoming aware of your surroundings. At the count of five, open your eyes and stretch out your arms and legs.

Tips for hypnotic suggestions

Follow these tips to make your suggestions powerful and effective in step three (Introduce a hypnotic suggestion):

  • Say it as if you mean it: adopt a reassuring, positive, and confident tone when giving suggestions. State the phrases gently but with conviction.
  • Phrase it positively and in the present tense: our mind is more likely to respond favorably to positive rather than negative instructions. Try saying, ‘I am calm’ or ‘I am relaxed’ instead of saying, ‘I am not anxious.’  
  • Make suggestions specific and realistic: give realistic suggestions that you can achieve. For example, saying ‘I will remain calm throughout the day tomorrow’ may be more beneficial than saying ‘I will never be anxious.’
  • Repetition: one of the most important rules in self-hypnosis is repetition; this allows you to drive home the suggestions and is more likely to bring positive change.
  • Use imagery: visualize the situation and feeling you associated with your suggestion while saying it. Engaging your imagined senses of touch, hearing, and smell can enhance the effectiveness of your self-hypnosis session.

Tips for improving self-hypnosis

  • Make time for hypnosis: In our busy lives, it can be easy to forget to practice self-hypnosis. It may help to set aside time each day for self-hypnosis and include it in your schedule.
  • Keep practicing: Hypnosis, like meditation, is a skill that requires practice. With practice, you may find it easier to enter a state of hypnosis. You may also notice that your suggestions have a greater effect in reducing levels of anxiety.
  • Keep your goal in mind: Remember to keep focused on lowering anxiety as you practice self-hypnosis. Remember the purpose of your sessions will keep your practice focused and productive.

The benefits of self-hypnosis

What are the benefits of being in the ‘right’ frame of mind using self-hypnosis? When people are deeply focused, they are at the peak of their personal power: they are better able to perform in athletic challenges, tolerate pain, and manage psychological problems such as anxiety.

Self-hypnosis is essentially a practice that can help you develop your focus in a goal-directed way, this is why it can be a good solution for habit changing goals, like smoking cessation too.

For those who want to experience the benefits of hypnotherapy, but want some help getting started, then you may want to look into at-home hypnotherapy apps, like Mindset. At-home hypnotherapy can give you the chance to experience a guided hypnotherapy session with a professional from the comfort of your home, before trying self-hypnosis yourself.

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Is self-hypnosis the same as meditation?

Self-hypnosis is similar to meditation in that both practices involve entering a relaxed state. The main difference is that self-hypnosis tends to have a particular goal in mind, whereas meditation sometimes does not.

Self-hypnosis aims to induce positive changes to achieve a specific goal, such as reducing anxiety symptoms, whereas meditation is generally practiced without a specific therapeutic purpose. Both practices are psychologically helpful in reducing stress and achieving calm.

All hypnosis is self-hypnosis

In a way, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Contrary to what Hollywood portrayals may imply, no-one can hypnotize you into doing something you otherwise would not have wanted to. Instead, hypnotherapy merely facilitates the hypnotic process, and you can easily snap back to reality at any time. Self-hypnosis is about cultivating the same hypnotic state as you would with the help of a therapist, alone, to overcome anxiety and other medical conditions.

The Wrap Up

People with anxiety can learn self-hypnosis techniques to induce relaxation and strengthen their self-esteem. Self-hypnosis is simple to perform and can be used therapeutically to ease anxiety symptoms by cultivating confidence and promoting an inner sense of calm. If you want to try self-hypnosis, but still aren’t sure where to begin, try out an at-home hypnotherapy app session beforehand to gain a better understanding of the practice and hypnotic suggestions in general.

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Our Sources

Mindset Health only uses high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed research, to support our articles. We work with experts to ensure our content is helpful, accurate and trustworthy.

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