Anxiety

Firstly, a simple reminder that anxiety is not a disorder.  Anxiety is a normal feeling, rather uncomfortable, but one that we need to be able to experience in order to stay healthy.  Without anxiety, blowing the rent money on restocking your fish tank becomes really easy.  We need to be able to anticipate feeling really bad or injured when assessing certain future scenarios so we can take steps to avoid them.  Anxiety is, after all, entirely future focused.  (If we are anxious about having cheated, it’s really an anxiety about what happens in the future as a natural result.)

So why do we often refer to feelings of anxiety as being bad for us?  Why do we go out of our way to stop those feeling, to repress them, avoid them, drink or drug them out of existence?

In most cases, this comes about when our brains mistakenly learn to treat more and more non-threatening situations as threatening, or to over-emphasise the danger.  This is further exaggerated in people of low self-esteem since their assessment is ‘I don’t have the ability to deal with this situation or these feelings’.  Under these circumstances anxiety becomes a chronic (persistent over time) condition and is worsened by simple day-to-day challenges.  This is when anxiety becomes a disorder, or Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to give it its proper name.

Common experiences that can lead to GAD are earlier traumatic experiences where the person was unable to deal with the situation and became highly emotional and unresourceful.  For instance, being embarrassed in front of a classroom at age 8 can lead to severe anxiety in the office whenever called-upon to present material.  This creates avoidance behaviour, such as calling in sick or not taking promotions which might require speaking to groups.

In this instance the exaggerated response is irrational.  The adult knows the material, knows how to stand and talk at the same time and knows that with a little good humour mistakes are easily tolerated.  The exaggerated emotional response, however, is not governed by logic, the response is triggered automatically when a certain environmental pattern or stimulus is present or anticipated.  Rationally, the adult knows he has the information and skills required and that he knows that no physical injury will result from his failure to recall last quarters sales figures.  Unfortunately, the Limbic system, which manages emotional responses to threats, literally doesn’t listen to reason, it’s not part of the same brain structure and nor does it use the same methods of internal communication.  It’s like two computers with no connection between them, each coming up with a different assessment.  Logical new brain: fine, whatever.  Emotional old brain: you’ll be humiliated again like before, stay home.  The result is always the same, a win for the emotional brain, since this is the part evolved to protect us from urgent threats (spears, tigers, fire).  The logical brain doesn’t even get the information once the fight, flight and flee mechanism is triggered.  It’s left to assess things only after the immediate threat has past.  Evolutionarily, it’s better to over-react to a threat than to not react, certainly when spears, tigers and fire were more of a problem…. it’s less well suited to the Facebook generation who only have to worry about being de-friended.

Catastrophisation is a feature of GAD.  Small problems become huge in the mind of the GAD sufferer.  There also tends to be over-generalisation, so from a small car accident, the GAD sufferer might believe all transport is dangerous and become home-bound.  Or the one-time threat from a large aggressive dog becomes an anxiety towards all animals all of the time.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one system of treatment that helps sufferers to understand how they mis-assess their surroundings and try to gradually train their emotional mechanism to be more ‘reasonable’.  This process works for most but can be a slow process.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy uses a number of different methods to treat anxiety sufferers, primarily looking to remove the damage done by the initial traumatic memory so that it no longer serves as a base to launch negative emotional assessments.  We also work to reset the brain’s natural filters to ensure that attention is used productively; focusing more on positive environmental activity and less on counter-factual scenarios that can cause irrational fear.

Recent research indicates that Cognitive Hypnotherapy achieves as good or better results than CBT and does it in fewer treatment sessions.

If anxiety is ruining your life and you’re ready to tackle it, book a session with me so we can put it behind you.

 

Wordweaving – The Science of Suggestion

Wordweaving™ is a style of hypnotic language developed and used within Cognitive Hypnotherapy by Trevor Silvester of The Quest Institute.

Historically, most hypnosis was done by taking the client into a deep trance through systematic relaxation and internal focus. Once in a deep trance the client was given suggestions to counteract the problems s/he were experiencing.  Some people experienced more difficulty entering deeper states of hypnosis and the sessions could fail, it can also take a significant portion of the session to reach the required state. The upshot of this is that only one piece of work could be addressed each session, assuming the client could be hypnotised, and unless the procedure was done exactly right, the outcome might not be reached.

More recently, hypnosis tends to be more ‘conversational’ using light trances where the aim is to work on the same issues using conversation as the main tool together with techniques that create the mental states required to effect change.

Wordweaving™ was created to guide hypnotists easily to creating the light trance state required but also to be highly targeted in terms of the suggestions given. Suggestions are designed to be carefully aimed to address the context of the client’s problem. Client problems are maintained by certain chronic trance phenomena, such as amnesia, and regression (being hijacked mentally/emotionally to an earlier period of your life, rather than being present). By identifying and utilising the specific trance phenomena we provide a counter spell able to counteract the mischief done by whatever force created the problem. The third area of focus for Wordweaving™ is the use of the Milton Model of hypnotic language to deepen the trance work and enhance the counter-spell.

Milton Erickson is one of the people most responsible for returning hypnotism to the prominence it has today. He described great hypnosis as being ‘artfully vague’. The vagueness helps create the trance, the artful, ensures the vagueness is still targeted. What Wordweaving™ does is ensure that the words are as artful and bespoke as possible. This increases its effectiveness and helps to modernise the overall protocols involved.

The best resources for learning more about Wordweaving™ are Trevor’s own books and the on-line course available from The Quest Institute store.

Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT, EMDR & EMI)

I’m the first to admit that there are a number of ‘alternative’ or ‘complimentary’ therapies out there that raise eyebrows.  Even hypnosis is a stretch for some sceptics despite clinical evidence.  Some of these therapies rely very heavily on the skills of the therapists to leverage the placebo effect to create a strong and lasting change.  But there are a number of other therapies including EFT, Havening, Acupuncture and Eye Movement Therapy, which seem to utilise some physical mechanism within the body to create change.

I find that using IEMT on these strong emotions creates a ‘clearing-out’ for my clients that gives them their lives back.  They describe it as having a huge weight lifted.

I’m using the term ‘Eye Movement Therapy’ here to refer to several fairly similar brands of treatment that all have the same basic method.  The original therapy was EMDR based on the work of Francine Shapiro and is recognised by the American Psychiatric Association, Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defences and WHO as an effective treatment for PTSD since 2004.

The original version of EMDR was pretty basic.  Later versions of eye movement therapy, such as IEMT and EMI, were created by hypnotists that combine the skilled use of language to create a more effective framework for treatment.  Additionally, hypnotists use eye movement models within their work generally and were able to intelligently expand its use to increase its effectiveness.

The basic EMDR treatment was to have the client think about the traumatic memory and then have them follow a light source that moved back and forth across their visual field.  It doesn’t sound much but the outcome for some people was life saving.  EMDR was used in the treatment of PTSD initially.  The ‘T’ of PTSD is Trauma and it is this ever-present, trauma that the eye movement work helps with.  Rather than being ‘present’, the client/patient is stuck in an over-whelming and emotionally hijacking memory which creates high levels of anxiety and depression.

 

How does Eye Movement Therapy Work?

We don’t know but we can make educated guesses.  If I ask you to access a memory a chain of mental processes kick off.  Typically your eyes defocus and you stop seeing me, you’re eyes will go up and to your left (usually).  At this point the visual information in consciousness is not the room you’re in but the content of the memory; the requested information is identified, the eyes move back towards centre and re-focus and you’re ‘back in the room’.  This was a quick trance and probably lasted 200 milliseconds.  A difficult memory can involve the eyes going all over, left, right, up down, to get the answer.  We see it all the time, it’s called a ‘trans-derivational search’ but most people don’t notice it.

Theorist Andrew T Austin, who invented the IEMT brand of eye movement work, has suggested that the ligaments and muscles that control the eyes are neurotically hard-wired to certain parts of the brain.  Certainly, when eyes go up we know there is a lot more visual processing going on, when they are level, the temporal lobes (voice, sound) are most active.  This has two consequences for hypnotists.  One, that we can easily follow the basic brain strategies that people use to get themselves stuck and this has been utilised by Neuro Linguistic Programmers since Richard Bandler popularised this finding in the 80’s.  The second, more recent, finding is that by forcing people to trace a different pattern with their eyes when thinking of a traumatic memory, you start to create confusion in the replaying of that memory.  Most importantly, if the memory’s not the same, it wont feel the same.

 

What Makes a Movie Scary?

Or how do we scare ourselves?  One of the basic premises of NLP is that the brain encodes similar memories in similar ways.  Scary memories might be experienced as vivid, colour, ‘in your face’.  Pleasant memories might be less focused, softer colours, more panoramic and distant.  Most people aren’t aware of these differences but the information is there with a little introspection.  These differences vary from person to person although there are some factors are quite common, such as distance and brightness.

An NLP treatment for a bad memory might involve trying to change how the scary movie is experienced, perhaps making it fuzzier, further away, less colourful and this works extremely well since the bad feelings just fall away.  The skill is in making the memory stick in the new way.  And this is where the eye movement therapy is particularly good.  Thinking of a traumatic memory and moving your eyes in a different way whilst trying to access the memory makes the usual access of that memory different.  All of a sudden the memory is fuzzier, less focused, further away, oh, and it just doesn’t feel important any more.  I shouldn’t be surprised any more when that happens but it still amazes me when it happens time after time.  The transition can be night and day for most clients and with a little persistence and a little skill, a scary and imposing movie that’s 10/10 becomes a 1/10 boring and old and “I’m done with it.”

 

Wider Application

I use IEMT for at least a part of the session in about a third of the clients I see.  It’s faster than traditional hypnosis treatments and the client knows the issue is done before they leave the room.  Whilst therapists use it primarily for PTSD, I think this misses the point and this is part of the problem of labelling our clients.  The originating cause for many of the clients I see is something traumatic that happened to them that have not properly dealt with.  This comes out in many ways such as avoidance, anger, temper, regret, shame, guilt, worry, panic attacks.  These are the emotions of depression and anxiety (see ‘The Three Pillars of Depression’).  I find that using IEMT on these strong emotions creates a ‘clearing-out’ for my clients that gives them their lives back.  They describe it as having a huge weight lifted.

If you’re troubled by trauma, or strong negative emotions, the likelihood is that these can be treated quickly and easily, without any need to go into your childhood or beat-up furniture.  Book a session now if this sounds like a good idea.

 

Simon Bates
Freedom Hypnosis.

 

Latest Research

There are many complimentary therapies available for most mental health issues. There are even many different types of hypnosis. The difficulty is often choosing a suitable, effective and value for money treatment. Until recently Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was one of the only treatment types to have been subject to clinical study and been found effective. In June 2015, Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy (a style of hypnosis developed and taught by the Quest Institute) joined the ranks of evidence based therapies after a pilot paper was published in the Mental Health Review Journal (Vol 20 No. 3 2015 pp 199-210).

Quest trained hypnotherapists routinely use the standard IAPT measures in assessing Depression (PHQ-9) and Anxiety (GAD-7); this is the same assessment that your doctor is likely to use. During the Pilot study, clients were measured at the beginning of the treatment and then once treatment was completed. The study concluded that 86 clients (73 percent) improved reliably (i.e. clinically, they were deemed to no longer be in need of treatment). This compares favourably with CBT (the only treatment currently approved by NICE for these issues) which scores around 70%.

A further issue brought to light by the study which bears repeating is that the average number of sessions needed to create the improvement was between three and four, a substantially shorter duration that the typical CBT programme.

This was a pilot study, however, a further study is being compiled currently which consists of a great around 500 cases and this will be published shortly.

Simon Bates
Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Freedom Hypnosis.

Drugs are not the answer….

The government continues to stymie research which could reduce symptoms for people with depression because of their prejudices against certain types of drug.

Psilocybin research may help relieve depression

Psychiatrists, doctors and researches continue to put their faith in some magic bullet drug even though they understand how complex and unique each human brain is and how its structure and function is built by experience that no drug can understand.

Both sides ignore the obvious.  From all my experiance, 99% of moderate depression and anxiety is not caused by chemical imbalances, mostly it’s caused by unresolved trauma (that may lead to ‘chemical imbalances’…).  Resolving trauma and related emotional problems is the only rational way to treat such disorders and give people their lives back.  Since this type of treatment can be completed in less than a month in most cases, why are we still wasting time feeding seriously ill people through such trials?  And whilst on the subject, how does it remain ethical for the other 50% – the placebo group – to get no treatment at all?  We already know the spontaneous remission rates don’t we?  It might suit the researchers but it’s not in the patients’ interest.

Imagine going to your doctor because you’ve been depressed for ages and have a poor quality of life.  You get two choices:

(1)  Enter a six month drug trial, which probably takes many months to begin and it’s probably taken a number of interviews and delays to get to this point.  There’s a 50% chance you will be given a placebo.  The drug is know to have serious side effects which are unpredictable.  It’s unknown what the long term consequences to the person’s mental health will be.  or,

(2)  Book an appointment with a psychologist for proven, effective treatments of depression, say with a Cognitive Hypnotherapist (1 months) or CBT (2-3 months).  No drug side-effects, you can start immediately.

I find it difficult to understand how fully informed people go for choice (1) so I have to question just how vigorously the doctors and researches explain these options to these vulnerable people.  People in fiduciary roles have a higher standard of care than the person on the street, so I struggle to understand how these trials get filled.  It’s clear what’s in it for the doctors and researchers; it’s clearly in their interests to keep you attached to the ‘chemical imbalance’ explanation of depression and anxiety.

At best anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication cover-up unwanted emotions.  In principle it’s no different to getting drunk or stoned to avoid unwanted pain; this is typically where people end-up after years of needing a treatment and not getting one.  Apparently these prescription drugs ‘help some patients cope’.  Frankly, I don’t think this this qualifies as a ‘treatment’ but I know there are far more qualified, better respected and better paid people out there still in bed with the medical/chemical model of depression.  And look where that’s got us.

Fear of HIV Disclosure Following Clinic Data Breach

This week the prestigious Dean Street sexual health clinic mistakenly released the names and email addresses of nearly 800 of its HIV clients.

Guardian – London Clinic Mistakenly Releases HIV Email List

Whilst there are a number of fearless individuals who are very open about their HIV status, the fact is that most HIV+ people only discuss their status with very close friends and their partners.

As a therapist, I’m not a fan of secret-keeping, especially when the emotions associated with this disclosure are a constant fear, guilt, shame, remorse or regret.  These are the emotions of depression.  I work within the HIV+ community as a volunteer hypnotist and I’m acutely aware of how much trauma and shame there still is and how this impacts upon mental health.  (Suicide rates for young gay men are insane: Suicide Rates In Young Gay Men.)

Disclosure of HIV status is an incredibly complicated issue.  Information, once out, cannot be controlled.  Do you tell  close friends, work colleagues, brothers and sisters, parents?  Many people that would be prepared to be more open about their status are often held back by the thought of disappointing or scaring their parents (a generation more used to seeing HIV+ people die of AIDS in the 1990’s).  Their parents would be unreasonably worried irrespective of the very positive current medical outcomes due to drugs such as Atripla and Eviplera.  So parents are usually the last to know.

I know that today there will be a lot of very angry, scared, shocked and exposed HIV+ patients.  I know Dean Street well, it’s an excellent clinic and their staff will be utterly devastated by this accident.  Any of us could have been the member of staff that pressed ‘Send’ without checking if you used the BCC box or the CC box.  It’s something that most people wouldn’t get over easily.  People don’t work in this field unless they really care about people.  This person will also need support today.  Whilst the consequences of the data breach will continue to violently crash through the personal and professional lives of many, it’s worth remembering that life goes on, we’re all human, and things will get better.

Whether a person is assaulted, injured, HIV diagnosed or just makes a serious mistake, it’s normal to be upset by matters such as these. We are suppose to be impacted by them.  We’re supposed to lose sleep, be agitated, relive events over and over – and then things should begin to get better.  That’s the normal path of any trauma.  When those thoughts and emotions don’t go away on their own, then it’s time to talk to a professional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme Phobias, Extreme Quacks

Initially, I avoided watching Sky’s latest programme on Extreme Phobias because I thought it might be frivolous.  I was wrong, the programme is positively dangerous.

This episode took ten water-phobics and took them through escallating levels of water exposure – all, it seems, for viewer gratification as the participants predictably fell apart emotionally.  The premise of the programme seems to be that peer pressure and pushing them through highly stressful episodes will retrain their response to water.  Well, the peer pressure does seem to make them compliant to do the tasks but they were mostly petrified throughout.  And if they didn’t want to do a task, the pressure was just raised further.

At one point, a highly emotional participant, didn’t want to do one of the scary tasks and was confronted by one of the psychologist.  They instructed them to breath and said ‘this will help you sit with that anxiety and tolerate it.’  Unbelievable!  Highly emotionally people are highly suggestible.  Why not say,  “I know you’re feeling scared, but it will quickly pass, and once it’s passed, it’s past.”  Not “you’re scared, stay scared and just put up with it!”   I was gobsmacked.  Therapists need to watch their language around scared people; they might believe what you say.

So my question is an ethical one.  Why didn’t the two ‘professional’ psychologists help the participants to remove their irrational fears before beginning?  Two obvious answers come to mind, firstly that it would spoil the TV but more likely, I think, the psychologists just didn’t know how.  And it’s this that’s really shocking.  There’s at least 10,000 therapists in the UK that know how to remove a phobia in a single session, so why didn’t these two professional psychologists know?  I can only assume that they didn’t feel the need to read outside of their field.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for instance, uses types of exposure therapy, gradually reducing the distance to the stimulus.  You start in a room with a spider, you at one end and the spider at the other.  Gradually over weeks the distance is reduced at the rate that the anxiety can be controlled.  The result of this is that after ten weeks you might have a client that’s slightly less scared of spiders together with a very bored spider.  CBT is considered one of the better systems of therapy and is the only generally available psychological treatment available on the NHS – for now.

This programme couldn’t be further away from Sky’s 2005 series by Paul McKenna, called ‘I Can Change Your Life.’  Each week a person with a different serious and persistent mental health issue was treated, quickly, painlessly and effectively, and all without the need for nearly drowning anybody.  Partly it was watching this programme that fired my interest in hypnosis and why I’m proud to be a Cognitive Hypnotherapist.  I don’t think I could look myself in the mirror if I claimed to be a mental health therapists and really couldn’t help people quickly and effectively.

The general public is unfortunately left without any decent guidance in this area.  Most doctors feel adrift in referring people for mental health services.  There simply is no good way of separating the wheat from the chaff.  The only piece of advice I can give is this: most mental health problems can be treated, quickly and painlessly.  Ask for recommendations from friends and ask them specifically, were you treated effectively, and were you treated quickly (less than ten sessions).  It’s not perfect but it’s better than most NHS referrals or answering a TV ad.

 

 

 

Recent Testimonials

I’m always grateful to my clients for their spontaneous feedback:

“I think you listen very well, your understanding of the concerns and how you addressed them.  […] I’ve been seeing the psychologists over a year, I feel I’ve benefited more over the last 3 weeks seeing you.  [And Negative feedback?]    You make me laugh to much 😂”

DG – Trauma and Panic Attacks

“Without sounding mushy, today I felt as though I was walking on a rainbow all day and felt so free and all without having to rehash the gory details to you during the session…. I think I will put on hold my proposed ‘talking therapies’ [NHS prescribed].   I truly believe I can learn more from you than from the generic NHS pillar to post routine. …. The decision is made.  My priority is to complete the sessions with you.”

EK – PTSD/Abusive Relationships

“Thank you so much for the guided meditation/hypnotherapy. I’ve been listening to it every day and loving it. It’s filled with such simple but beautiful intention and possibility. It’s colouring my life and really seems to be working to reboot my tired old brain…  Thank you so much Simon, it’s a beautiful thing and I really appreciate your kind help.”

MW – PTSD/Depression & Anxiety

 

“… just to let you know I have been listening to the cd and it is working, I got through my first year with a high 2.1 with your help so thanks for that.”

LW – Performance Anxiety/Stress

Naturally, results vary from client to client, so please call me to discuss your situation.

The Fourth ‘F’

Fight, Flight and Freeze.  The study of comparative psychology has long since identified three bulk-standard responses inherited from our forebears when under threat. These three responses have a lot in common including high emotional state, typically fear or rage, and physiological preparedness for a fight or to run away. From neurology we know that these responses are managed by the emotional brain, the old lizard brain that sits on top of the brain stem and keeps us alive with its quick and dirty responses. We also know during these responses, blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex changes, effectively shuts down our higher-learning areas, our ability to consider, to weigh choices, to deliberate. Indeed, it’s only when things calm down that our clients can explore choices and perspectives, judge long term consequences. Unfortunately,by this point it’s usually too late, they’ve already glassed their husband.

‘Strong emotions make us stupid’ – Joseph LeDoux.

‘Strong emotions make us stupid’, it’s a common refrain within Cognitive Hypnotherapy. And for many of our clients, strong emotions make them un-resourceful, leaving them with poor and, in most cases, habitual behaviours based upon ‘choices’ made as a child. It’s certainly my experience that a child that fights is an adult that fights. A child that freezes is an adult that freezes. And a child that flees, is an adult that flees.

FourthF-500I want to make the case for a fourth ‘F’ – another type of emotional hijacking. It’s a little more subtle than the others and doesn’t involved the strong behavioural change that you tend to notice with the other three. It’s also an entirely human response, one not available our distant lizard, bird or mammal cousins. The fourth ‘F’ is ‘Fantasy’.

I had a number of clients together exhibiting the same phenomenon over a short period of time, which made me curious about what was going on. And then I saw a TV drama which hit the nail square on the head. A husband was talking to his wife, telling her he’d had an affair and almost without a beat passing she returns with ‘I had a letter from Sheila, she’s having new windows put in. Do you think we should have new windows?’ The only difference was that the voice was just a little agitated and hurried, the glance was away and down. Maybe that nasty thing will go away if we don’t mention it. Now what was for dinner? This is an avoidance strategy, a type of defence to keep the pain away, a deflection, an evasion. You might also call it a type of mental ‘Fleeing’, one that only our type of hardware is capable of.

The way I found it turning up in client sessions is that clients would suddenly not answer important questions but instead start a new thread or find some other way of diverting the conversation. It’s the subconscious saying ‘oh god, not that, anything but that!’ and switching to a completely different track in the hope you’ll lose the scent. This is probably not just in response to questioning from a third party; it probably mimics their internal state every-time they should be evaluating problematic situations, behaviours and emotions. In terms of the hypnotic phenomenon, it marks out a solid ‘deletion’ of their experience, an amnesia, negative hallucination and a launching into some positive hallucination or age progression.

In most cases it’s our job to re-connect our clients to a richer map of the world, to identify the areas they previously marked out as ‘dangerous’, and safely reintegrating this information in a non-threatening way. We also need to consider their strategies too. If their reality is truly unbearable and their fantasy is allowing them to cope, we have to make a choice. Do we help them make better decisions in regards to the big choices in their lives: their partners, jobs, location? Or, say, in the case of terminal cancer, maybe improving or installing a coping strategy might be the best way to go. There’s always the tomato plants to consider! Either way, without identifying that the client has a big hole in their map, it will be difficult to help them since they’ll always be pulling in a different direction, without knowing why.

Suicide and Young Gay Men

There’s a disproportionate number of young gay men committing suicide. Very disproportionate. If the figures from Stonewall’s 2011 study of gay and bisexual men is to be believed 27% of gay and 38% of bisexual men said they had considered taking their own life in the previous year – this compares to just 4% of heterosexual men. And this was a big survey – 6,861 respondents from Britain. It gets worse.

Of the respondents, 3% of gay men and 5% of bisexual men had actually taken steps to take their own life in the previous year. Apparently the comparable rate is 0.4% of all men. It gets worse.

What if we look at just the young men? 10% of gay and bisexual men aged between 16 and 19 actually took steps to take their own life in the last year. 1 in 10. If you go to a gay bar with lots of young gay men, look over into one corner – proportionally – all the gay men in that corner took action to kill themselves last year. If that doesn’t shock you, there’s something wrong.

We could spend hours debating the real reason for this: coming out early, coming out late, permissive society, disapproving society, too many rules, not enough rules, too much drugs/alcohol, not enough, too much internet use, not enough, freedom to be gay, not enough freedom to be gay, too many gay role models, not enough,  too selfish, too selfless, being able to marry, not being able to marry, too much coddling, too little, too much religion, not enough. I hope that clears things up.  Certainly, I’ve heard arguments for all the above.

We could ask those young men what’s wrong but most people aren’t good at giving you reasons when they’re an emotional mess.  Frankly, it could be your phone running out of charge that can push a vulnerable person over the edge.

Here’s what I think.  Think about the changes that most of these men are going through in their teenage/early adult years (most of which only apply to young gay men):

  • they are coming out (to mixed reviews!)
  • they are going through the difficult years that follow from puberty
  • they will likely have their most emotionally charged relationships and break-ups in this period
  • they are becoming independent and usually separated from their usual unconditional emotional support
  • they are more likely to have moved from home (young gay men move to the cities, actually they run…)
  • they are experiencing drugs and alcohol for the first time.
  • HIV infection, or constant fear of infection

It’s a lot to deal with for people without enough life experience.  These young men haven’t learnt yet about how to be emotionally resilient. The people they are attached to emotionally and provide emotional support (friends, parents, teachers, lovers) can, and do, suddenly remove that emotional support and even reject them.

Drugs and alcohol are huge problems for young gay men.  They lead to risky behaviour that leads to guilt and regret.  But worse, they lead to huge ups and downs, often days later.  So a normal day might feel like an unbearable weight, for no apparent ‘reason’.

Generally, we all learn to be emotionally resilient over the years – at least to some extent.  The question is whether we manage to do this in time and without too much damage along the way.  Thankfully this emotional resilience can be learnt through CBT and/or Cognitive Hypnotherapy. These are also good ways of dealing with excessive drug or alcohol use, as can issues of identity and self-worth.

And sometimes, people just need somebody to talk to.