Sarah is in her mid twenties and a young professional working in London… On the outside she seems fine, but when I met Sarah she had forgotten one basic human instinct, how to swallow food.
Last summer she came to me with swallowing anxiety, which had gotten so bad that she had developed a phobia of choking.
This fear had resulted from an incident on holiday when Sarah had thought she was chocking on a bit of meat. Already in a highly anxious state triggered by her fear of flying, work stress and past PTSD, the panic from this incident was heightened and rooted its self in her subconscious, so much so that her mind forgot the process of swallowing solid food. Like a baby having to learn how to swallow solids for the first time, Sarah had to teach herself to do the same, for a second time, at the age of 26.
Sarah was only eating soup, which she had to blend, and at one point it had gotten so bad that she was convinced a raspberry pip could choke her to death.
When I saw Sarah, it was a month after the holiday, she told me her throat felt tight and restricted even when not eating. She said sometimes the anxiety of something being stuck in her throat and suffocating her got so bad that she actually felt like someone was strangling her.
Sarah also had an extreme fear flying and had developed agoraphobia from generalised anxiety, she would wake up in the night with a rapid heart rate and palpitations, and suffer from extreme nightmares.
Having had talking therapy and acupuncture for her generalised anxiety, neither could bring back her swallowing, so after a recommendation she contacted me.
I started off seeing Sarah twice a week for one month.
Hypnosis helps the mind find the pathway to your subconscious emotions, which would allow me to work on Sarah’s phobia of choking. Sitting in a comfortable chair I ask Sarah to close her eyes. As soon as Sarah closes her eyes her brain thinks she is moving towards sleep and that induces the Alpha waves towards the subconscious.
As you move towards the subconscious your brain becomes highly suggestive, and you are very open to following instructions.
These instructions are called Post hypnotic suggestions or anchors, and so I instruct Sarah’s mind and body to relax while eating. These positive anchors go into Sarah’s subconscious and stay there until she has to do the thing she hates doing most, swallowing. What the positive suggestive instructions do is slowly replace the negative thoughts/ emotions Sarah had previously, and replace them with positive anchors around food, allowing her to become less anxious around swallowing.
In each session I adapt the instructions to match Sarah’s needs.
Sarah’s physical symptoms around her neck have subsided and her body has begun to relax. Her sleep has got better and the heart palpitations are happening less.
Sarah begins to eat soft foods such as, pasta, risotto, porridge, something she never thought would be possible.
We begin to work on Sarah’s other anxieties, such as her phobia or flying and getting on the tube. We work on her PTSD triggered from a teenage trauma for this we use Havening (look at my blog on Havening to find out what this can do).
Sarah had not flown without anxiety since the holiday last year that triggered her swallowing phobia. In the past stepping onto an aeroplane would have caused her panic attacks. Sarah can now fly almost anxiety free, she is also taking the tube in rush hour, and is no longer petrified of getting stuck in a tunnel.
Sarah is now eating out in restaurants and no longer gets anxious before meals. She has not had a single panic attack on an aeroplane or on the tube. Sarah’s agoraphobia has almost disappeared, and she sleeping really well.
I now see Sarah once every two weeks and we continue to work on her general anxiety, so after two years of panic attacks and half a year of not being able to swallow properly she is beginning to live an anxiety free life.
I might add that Sarah has not been on any anti anxiety medication through this process.
If you like Sarah suffers from Anxiety/Phobias or recognise any of Sarah’s symptoms and would like some help, then please do contact me here. [email protected]