I’m always very clear with people about what hypnotherapy is and isn’t good for, and so when Freda* rang asking for help with her angina I was ready to tell her that I wouldn’t be able to help. However, the problem wasn’t her angina but the tablets that she was taking for it – Freda was having more and more trouble swallowing them, and wanted hypnotherapy for swallowing tablets. She was also cutting her tablets into smaller pieces, which can interfere with how slow release medicines are absorbed by the body.
Things were becoming very difficult for Freda – she’d stopped going out from embarrassment about trying to take tablets in public, and because her angina was getting worse as she started to miss her medication. She had no trouble in swallowing food, and her doctor had ruled out dysphagia, a physical problem that can be a sign of serious underlying conditions, and a clear sign that hypnotherapy for swallowing tablets wouldn’t be appropriate.
Instead, after a tablet had got stuck at the top of her throat, Freda had developed a fear of choking on one, and her increasing apprehension was making it worse every time. Part of the problem as well was that we all know unconsciously when our food is moistened enough to be swallowed, and the dry and chalky feel of the tablets is normally a signal that food isn’t ready to be swallowed.
Helping Freda involved practical help to get her swallowing her medication, and some work to help her relax. The practical help was looking at different ways of taking her tablets – either with her head resting on her chest, which stops the gag reflex, or by drinking through a straw, which relaxes the throat. These helped Freda to get her angina back under control, which helped her to relax in itself. It also helped Freda to start to learn not to be anxious about swallowing her tablets, and to stay relaxed as the time approached.
We worked as well on allowing her to relax mentally, to imagine taking her tablets without any trouble, and get into the habit of not expecting any trouble. With practice, both of the new ways of swallowing, and her hypnotherapy for swallowing tablets relaxation exercises, Mary’s control of her angina improved. As she told me when I rang her to see how she was getting on “I’m much happier going out again, and I can take my tablets normally now”.
Freda’s real identity has been protected, and she is happy to share her story of using hypnotherapy for swallowing tablets.