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Hypnophobia – Fear of sleep or of being hypnotized

Hypnophobia – Fear of sleep or of being hypnotized

It might surprise readers that as a hypno-psychotherapist I do occasionally get clients who are morbidly afraid of being hypnotised. Because of the way hypnosis is portrayed in some parts of the media and entertainment, a fear of being hypnotised and losing control is a perfectly reasonable response. Hypnophobia is not simply about being fearful of being hypnotised, but perhaps even more seriously, being fearful of sleep itself.

Hypno is from the Greek god hypnos, who was the god of sleep and phobo being the Greek for fear. As I have told my students for more than 20 years, when James Braid coined the term Neuro Hypnosis he did us a disservice in that hypnosis is not about being asleep but rather in a focused state of attention which may or may not lead to relaxation. The common factor for both sleep and hypnosis for the sufferer is the perception of losing control. When a person fears sleep they do everything in their power to keep awake. They might fear becoming unconscious or even a fear of dying in their sleep. Like hypnosis, it needs to be made clear to the sufferer that even though they are asleep, they are still in control as they allow the state to occur and when and if they want to wake up they are able to.

Therapy needs to emphasise the control that a client has over their mind and body, this understanding should allow them to be able to let go in both the hypnotic process and if needed letting go in order to get a good, healthy night’s sleep.

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