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Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.
I can imagine how distressing this situation must be for you. You are clearly a loving and caring parent and this must be so scary for you. He must be very frightened about what's happening.
It sounds from his symptoms and from the fact that he checked out okay physically that he's having panic attacks about going to uni. The symptoms are very consistent with severe panic attacks. They are not intrinsically dangerous, so I want you to not be so scared. Because that will help you help him. His need is to not catastrophize all his worries and fears and if you are not so scared, it will help him a little as well, okay?
I will also at the end of the posting give you a technique he can use throughout the day to help reduce his anxiety as well for when he is in the throes of a panic attack.
Your thought about hypnotherapy is worth considering. You have a short time frame within which you need to see improvement so he can be at least functional for uni. That's true and an important consideration. Your son will definitely need therapy/counseling. But that is a longer term help for him and you are seeking something more immediate. The most common choice today is an anxiety medication. Hypnotherapy is a more novel approach but worth your looking into, especially if you are hesitant about medications.
Now here's the important statement about hypnotherapy: hypnotherapy can help with a specific problem and that's why I'm considering it here. HOWEVER, there are good, competent, and honest hypnotherapists and there are other types. Your only way of assessing is two ways: first, make sure he or she is a licensed psychologist or psychotherapist. Don't let anyone tell you they are a licensed hypnotherapist. There is no government licensure either in the US or the UK that I know of. It's all a "self-licensing" which is not good enough. So you want to know his or her license number as a psychologist and call the appropriate mental health licensing board to make sure there have been no complaints filed. Please don't skip this step if you try hypnotherapy.
I am also considering hypnotherapy with you because anxiety medications can be habit forming and with his health issues from the cancer and weight issues, I think the less medications the better. But, it is without question what most people turn to and it can be effective. Again, though, the most effective medications for quick relief of panic attacks are the benzodiazepines and they are very habit forming.
I don't know if you will find someone who does hypnotherapy and also is a psychologist/therapist working with anxiety using psychotherapy. But either way, he should consider therapy for a period of time along with the hypnotherapy. The NHS is not very comprehensive or quick with therapy, so you might want to contact a psychotherapist on your own. If your doctor isn't able to refer to anyone, here is the web address for the UK association of humanistic psychotherapists. Ask them there if they do CBT therapy for anxiety disorders or if they can refer you to someone. Here's the web site; they have a search for therapists there. http://www.ahpp.org/
Here is the British Psychology Society's directory:
Okay, again, he's fortunate that you are trying so hard to help him and thinking creatively about this. I wish you the very best!
Now, I want to give you a tool for him to use for when the worry and panic is overwhelming. Here are instructions on a therapeutic protocol called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). It's really quite easy to do almost anywhere. My patients suffering from panic or anxiety, when I teach them PMR at first are amazed how simple it is and that it is a psychological protocol. It was first used in the 1920s! Since then, of course, it has been refined and many studies have been done showing its effectiveness. You will practice PMR at first when you don't wake up with an attack so that you will be familiar with it. I want you to practice the PMR at least 5-6 times before an attack or feeling acute anxiety. Why? Because when you're in the throes of anxiety, you will only remember to do something you are very familiar with it. So practicing 5-6 times is really a minimum.
I want to stress the importance of breathing as well. Part of the physiology of what is happening to you in anxiety states is that your breathing is getting shallower. This reduces the oxygen in your blood to your brain. That increases the anxiety reaction, which strengthens the attack and you are in a vicious cycle! Not good. So breathing is the primary tool. I have found in my practice that learning breathing techniques can be helpful. But some of my patients are not interested in learning more than one thing at the beginning, so I have found that just reminding you to BREATHE deeply at the same time you are doing PMR is almost as good. If you are willing to take a yoga class and learn breathing techniques, that's the best. But, breathing deeply with your PMR will help. So, we're ready for learning PMR. I want you to print my instructions below my signature and have a copy in each of the rooms of your home where you may be when you have an attack. And again, you need to practice this easy technique at least 5-6 times as soon as you can. It needs to become as natural to you as breathing. Ah, remember breathing?
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Quickly focusing on each group one after the other, with practice you can relax your body like ‘liquid relaxation’ poured on your head and it flowed down and completely covered you. You can use progressive muscle relaxation to quickly de-stress any time.
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