Look anywhere on the Internet for information on mental health or anxiety and you will find people telling you that what they think is best. More often than not there is some kind of financial advantage waiting for them if you follow their philosophy – it could be by buying their ebook or visiting them for treatment. The question is, how on earth do you know if what they are saying is true – can they really help your anxiety?
Most people who suffer from things like anxiety and low self esteem have a habit of thinking negatively. They would tend to look for reasons why treatment won’t work, rather than look for reasons why it might. Add to this the fact that many of the treatments on offer for anxiety have not been ratified by proper scientific study and you have recipe for skepticism.
There is one important tool in the armoury of marketing and information: the testimonial.
Testimonials try to circumvent the problem of statistical proof by providing empirical evidence, that is to say word of mouth endorsements. There is no substitute for rigorous statistical analysis and scientific study but empirical evidence does have its uses. For one they allow you to hear what someone who has experienced the treatment has to say about it. There are possible drawbacks, such as the fact that no one publishes negative feedback about what they are trying to sell. There used to be a site called remedyfind.com that allowed users to rate therapies and drugs. Of course it wasn’t 100% scam-proof but it did give some fairly interesting information. It’s major drawback was arguably the fact that people don’t normally go on the Internet to talk about success unless they are making money from it! People with really effective anxiety cures get on with their lives.
I think testimonials on websites are worth reading, but be careful! I found some cases where remarkably similar or even identical testimonials are used by more than one site! Some organisations, like the IAPH, have created ways to certify testimonials as authentic. I think this is a good thing.
Ultimately, any anxiety cure worth it’s salt will stand up to statistical analysis in the long run.
UPDATE 21-10-08 Please reas this post in conjunction with this post: Hypnoanalysis.
As I have said elsewhere, looking for a solution – dare we say Cure – for anxiety and other mental health problems through regression is controversial. At the moment, hypnoanalysis (also called pure hypnosis) is at the cutting edge of addressing anxiety, panic, depression etc through releasing emotion attached to past trauma, especially in terms of guilt and shame. Let’s look at the treatment of these anxiety and self esteem conditions through the eyes of a hypnoanalyst.
They believe that anxiety, depression and other common mental health (and many physical) problems arise from trauma that occurred in very early childhood. They believe that the trauma is ring-fenced off in a part of the brain where they are probably unconscious but sort of seep out – poisoning the rest of life by supposedly protecting us from perceived threats or causing low self-esteem and low self-worth.
Through the process of hypnoanalysis we are able to use free association to link memories and move back on a paper trail through our memory banks. The mind is not guided in this, it is allowed to free associate between memories and thoughts old and new. Some of the memories might be from very early childhood, others from school and even some from adulthood – nothing is “wrong”. Eventually, the trail will lead back into that ring-fenced area, where all the anxiety and depression come from. When a memory in that area is remembered and to an extent re-experienced it is like lancing a boil. The trapped emotion is released, it is a massive relief and all symptoms of anxiety and depression and whatever else was bothering the client is cleared up. This is normally achieved in about six to twelve sessions.
Hypnoanalysis for anxiety.
Anxiety and Hypnoanalysis.
Phobias are treated in many different ways. Some people favour a Flooding technique where someone is subjected to what they are phobic of until their symptoms subside and they learn, the hard way, that there is no danger and therefore nothing to be afraid of. Another popular treatment is desensitization, either with or without a Cognitive element (where faulty negative thinking is challenged).
Of course the alternative healthcare brigade come out in force for phobia treatments, with everything from EFT to Zero Balancing being touted as a instantaneous miracle cure.
Desensitization is the most common approach however, so let’s examine it in more detail. The theory goes that for some reason (and in desensitization the reason for the initial fear, the cause of the phobia, is not considered at all important or relevant) a fear response has become attached to an object or situation. They theory states that if the subject can be persuaded to confront that situation and accept that there is no danger then they will remove that fear response, and no longer have the phobia.
The good news is that it does work well for lots of people, especially those with non-complex phobias, ie phobias of specific things like spiders or colours or types of weather. The bad news is that it doesn’t treat any hidden causes or deal very well with secondary gain – so people with more complex phobias, like agoraphobia, may find that it causes their condition to change rather than improve – perhaps they will get back some of their mobility but not actually get over their anxiety disorder which has its roots in negative self image or trapped emotion. I should point out that many modern psychologists don’t believe in repressed emotion as causes for anxiety or phobias and see exposure with cognitive therapy as the only worthwhile treatment for phobias and anxiety disorders.
The problem is, some people have phobias eve thought they never had a bad experience which attached a negative feeling to the situation. For example there are people who have never had trouble flying, but suddenly develop intense fear before a flight out of the blue. One wonders if this could be a case of someone attaching a negative experience from the past to a current event. If this is the case then that would seem to lend credence to the belief that we need to deal in some way with negativity from the past.
Is massage therapy any good for anxiety? Massages have been around for years. It is one of those treatments that like acupuncture can be traced back through the ages. In fact it is probably even older than acupuncture – after all to place your hands on some part of your own or someone else’s body that is in pain or trauma is one of the most natural thing. Research on the therapeutic efficacy of massage is fairly thin on the ground. Of course practitioners swear by it and certainly so do some clients. There is no doubt that it can be helpful for muscular injuries, but is it any good for anxiety, stress or any other mental health problem?
The answer is that temporarily speaking it probably is of some use. Research has found that the touch of another human being is calming and so in times of stress and anxiety this is likely to be helpful. And of course feeling a hand on your back, especially when it belongs to someone who cares about you, is bound to make the horror of a panic attack feel less bleak.
But what about long term? Is there any curative effects of massage vis a vis anxiety disorders? I personally was certainly once promised a cure by an ayurvedic expert. Of course it didn’t work at all and no doubt the therapist went on to promise the next unsuspecting client the same miracle. In truth there is no scientific or psychological reason why massage should provide any long term solutions. I would be inclined to look at it as a topical, symptomatic treatment that might make you feel temporarily better. It doesn’t help with any faulty thinking or core issues and is unlikely to bring about any lasting biochemical changes in the brain that might reduce anxiety, such as Serotonin or Dopamine stabilisation. That said, as short term treatments go it is much better than self-medicating alcohol or drugs!
Don’t expect miracles from massage, and don’t believe therapists that promise too much unless they can back it up with peer reviewed research or allow you to speak to a client they have helped.