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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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My son started uni two weeks ago. He has had stomach cramping

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My son started uni two weeks ago. He has had stomach cramping and been throwing up every time he thinks about uni. He has thrown up every day for two weeks he is grey, lethargic and shaky. Had him checked out nothing physical can be found to be wrong. He is to the point now that even the thought of a friend visiting sends him into an almost panic type attack. Pupils dilate, shakes his legs, light headed and feels ill. He is 196cm and only weighing 58kg. Saw one psychologist, my son wasn't overly fused on him. Would Hypnotherapy be a good option for him. He had cancer three years ago and I feel he as lost a lot of confidence and has a poor self body image now as he is so thin. He is a wonderful young man. I am scared for him.....
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 1 year ago.

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:



http://www.bps.org.uk/bpslegacy/dcp

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?

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX


INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. After finding a quiet place and several free minutes to practice progressive muscle relaxation, sit or lie down and make yourself comfortable.
  2. Begin by tensing all the muscles in your face. Make a tight grimace, close your eyes as tightly as possible, clench your teeth, even move your ears up if you can. Hold this for the count of eight as you inhale.
  3. Now exhale and relax completely. Let your face go completely lax, as though you were sleeping. Feel the tension seep from your facial muscles, and enjoy the feeling.
  4. Next, completely tense your neck and shoulders, again inhaling and counting to eight. Then exhale and relax.
  5. Continue down your body, repeating the procedure with the following muscle groups:
    • chest
    • abdomen
    • entire right arm
    • right forearm and hand (making a fist)
    • right hand
    • entire left arm
    • left forearm and hand (again, making a fist)
    • left hand
    • buttocks
    • entire right leg
    • lower right leg and foot
    • right foot
    • entire left leg
    • lower left leg and foot
    • left foot
  6. for the shortened version, which includes just four main muscle groups:
    • face
    • neck, shoulders and arms
    • abdomen and chest
    • buttocks, legs and feet

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.

What You Need:

  • A comfortable place.
  • Some privacy.
  • A few minutes.

Again:

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5109
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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