Breaking Bad (habits)

October has fast become known as the month of abstinence. The modern Lent, Stoptober is a movement that encourages people to undertake a healthier lifestyle for just one month, thus showing that they have the potential to quit for good.

You don’t have to wait for Stoptober to test your self-discipline muscles. You can set yourself a challenge, such as breaking a bad habit or undertaking a new beneficial one, at any time. Think about who you want to be; do you want to be a slave to nicotine or booze, or do you want to be in control? The truth is, you are in control, YOU just have to believe it.

A good therapist can help you to understand the patterns, associations and attachments you have with your bad habit. This information is powerful because it will be unique to you and can help you to untangle the motivations behind your unhealthy habit. Knowledge is power – if you really want to reset and get back to your natural, habit free state you most certainly will with the benefit of such knowledge; without the pains of having to rely on willpower alone.

As a therapist, when it comes to habit breaking, time and time again I have seen people struggle – not so much with the abstinence itself, but with the feeling of the hole it leaves behind. This is exactly why willpower alone simply won’t work. Inevitably you crave the mechanism that your brain believes is helping you, created by an association and repetitious behaviour. When thoughts or behaviours (in the case of habits, both) are repeated and neurological pathways are strengthened until the habit becomes a very natural part of your daily life. So it can feel weird, uncomfortable or even scary to let go of this coping strategy and embrace the hole it leaves behind. Good news is that really there is no hole; there was always a time before where you did not have this habit, but you will have squeezed it in somehow, for any number of reasons. Breaking a bad habit creates space for your mind and body. Embracing those spaces can revolutionise your life and you as a human being; the people who quit for good are the ones that understand this and embrace it.

Many habits are formed out of insecurity, of some sort. You wanted to fit in, or were stressed and didn’t know what to do etc. etc. Find the root and you’ll likely find the beginning of the cure. The point is that the habit started because it helped you feel better once and your brain said “I want more of that please” releasing chemicals such as dopamine to ensure you’ll get the message to do it again and again. There are thousands of years of evolution and chemical influences behind what you have been doing. Finding it difficult to kick a habit does not make you weak, falling off the wagon and getting back on it again actually makes you strong.

Habit breaking is about feeling good, secure, confident, (insert feeling) etc.  without the unhealthy strategy that has been adopted. Feeling good involves being kind to yourself. Once you understand why you smoke, for example, aside from the chemical influences in the brain and substance, you can begin to put strategies in place that will empower you to learn to live without the habit. If you are a drinker who drinks when stressed, have a look at what causes you stress. Next you can make other choices instead, for example a daily run or weekly massage might help lower your stress levels – forming new neurological pathways and ways of coping with what life throws at you.

Habit forming is a natural part of our survival. Problems only arise when the habit has a negative impact on you or others around you. It’s never too late to change and it’s always brave to ask for help. Don’t suffer in silence and you too can learn to embrace your freedom.

If you want to talk about your bad habits, phobias or conditions, see my site for more information on how I can help you.

Anything is Possible

©2020 Nancy Madden. All Rights Reserved. 

Trypanophobia: Fear of Needles

Trypanophobia is the fear of needles, blood being drawn or injections, and is often called needle phobia.

I am currently working with a client who has Trypanophobia. The non-phobic might imagine that this wouldn’t cause much of a problem day to day, but they’d be wrong.


Few people can say they enjoy getting injections or having their blood drawn, but needle phobia is far more than just a little anxiety around pain. People with a needle phobia are terrified of needles and symptoms can include loss of sleep, anxiety or even going to extremes (risking their life of lives of others) to avoid an injection or blood being taken.

Needle phobia, as with any phobia, can provoke physical reactions such as a sudden drop in blood pressure, palpitations, sweating, dry mouth and acting out of character.

More symptoms of needle phobia include:

  • Panic, fainting, or hyperventilating.
  • Fear of doctors / nurses hospitals etc.
  • Avoidance and reacting to watching other people get an injection or giving blood, even on screen or in magazines etc.
  • Reacting to seeing blood or veins.
  • Avoiding procedures that involve needles.

While many of us don’t have to face the needle very often in life, what if you have a health condition that requires regular blood testing? 

1 in 10 people in the UK suffer with a fear of this kind. How do you have dental work or manage Diabetes? Perhaps you are due to have an operation, how will an anaesthetist administer the anaesthetic? Fear of needles can affect expectant mothers, causing stress to her body and the unborn child.

Some people are health conscious because certain conditions run in families, such as cancer, so regular blood screening might save your life.

Great, if you’re ok with needles and blood draws – but what if you’re not? Some people can’t watch television or films for their fear that they might see something that triggers them. It is not unheard of for sufferers to be afraid to travel in case something happens away from home and they might be required to have an injection, while others obsess about other fictional scenarios that might force them to face their fear.

Consider vaccinations, giving blood, tattoos… Needles actually factor more in our lives than we might immediately realise, well, if we are non-phobic that is. So we can see that, as with any phobia, it can really be intrusive in, if not take over, a person’s life.


Needle phobia can run in families; children of needle phobic parents might develop it as a result of learned behaviour. Traumatic experiences with needles, such as being restrained or mistreated by a medical practitioner, can contribute to the development of the condition. Some people with the phobia may have unusual pain sensitivity and fear the pain more than the needle itself. In some cases the sufferer doesn’t know where the phobia came from.



Many people hide their phobias very well, not even able to talk about their biggest fear, but it’s likely that at some time in your life you are going to need to face an injection or have blood drawn. So what are you going to do when the time comes?

Hypnosis and EMDR can be particularly effective in treating this condition, even in severe cases, for good.

Different therapists work in different ways and with great results. I help clients to regulate their reactions first, feeling comfortably back in control. We then move on to completely desensitising their response to the stimulus. This does not mean I make you face your fear, rather we work on removing the fear so when you think about it, and do indeed come face to face with it, you simply feel nonchalant.

Some therapists promise a 1 session cure, and this can be very effective in some cases. Personally, I like to be sure that the problem and all of it’s contributors have been addressed and reset, so this can take 1 session or more, it really depends on a number of factors that have aided to the build up of the phobia. It might take little longer, it might not, but the problem won’t return if we have covered every angle. We will have a better idea of how long a treatment plan will take after the first session.


Nobody deserves to live in fear and there is help available. No matter how big or small you think your problem is you deserve to be treated with unconditional positive regard and to get the help you need to lead an anxiety free life.

If you want to talk about your Trypanophobia, or any other phobias or conditions, feel free to contact me.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy: What is it and How does it Work?

Cognitive Hypnotherapy; a modern form of talking therapy backed by a wealth of positive research.


Classed as solution based brief therapy, Cognitive Hypnotherapy, or CogHyp as it’s also known, has its roots in modern neuroscience, scientific research and a host of established therapies. Utilising the best techniques taken from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Clinical Hypnotherapy, Regression, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and coaching, the aim is to restore the connection between mind and body.

When we are facing emotional problems such as anxiety; bad habits that we can’t seem to break; phobias and so on, it can be due to what we call ‘unconscious drivers’ in our brain thinking that the behaviour is doing us good somehow. This in turn, can cause compulsive or impulsive behaviour or thinking – we do it over and over believing that this gives us some control. This doesn’t have to make sense to the logical mind, and often does not. For example and simply put, the feeling of not being able to stop smoking comes from the brain having learned at some point that it’s a good idea to smoke and in turn creates responses and feelings of compulsion to keep doing it.

We are complex beings, made up of millions of years’ worth of evolutionary survival mechanisms, most of which work very well for us. However, sometimes it’s almost as if our brains are so good at trying to protect us, that information is fired off before we get the chance to consciously interrupt the process and prevent it. This is what we mean by a ‘disconnect’ between mind and body. This disharmony can occur for a variety of reasons: trauma, learned behaviour, outdated thinking patterns etc. If you imagine that you are afraid of dogs and can’t even bring yourself to look at one on television, for example, we would call this a phobia. It is likely that once in the past you had an encounter with a dog that scared you and you ran away; your brain did its job and protected you from the thing that scared you. As this process worked for you, got you away from the scary thing. The next thing the brain does is store the response to the stimuli, so the next time you see a dog you do what you did last time – run (or at least feel like running). Every time this pattern is repeated it compounds the message to the brain that this is the right thing to do. Every time it happens the behaviour becomes more automatic until you can’t even remember how or why the cycle started.

Cognitive Hypnotherapists aim to understand how you experience whatever it is that’s bothering you, be it depression; lack of motivation; issues mentioned above or whatever has been affecting your life, and help you to take back control of your thinking and therefore your life too.



Most of us have experienced anxiety – it’s all too common in the modern world. Generally speaking, it’s a fear of what might happen. The feeling of anxiety is a complex series of chemical and neurological reactions that occur due to outdated survival responses. To deal with anxiety we look at what causes it and why you react as you do, then we make the changes that help you to feel calm and in control of how you feel.


Phobias tend to be universal and classifiable, such as: spiders, needles, cats, dogs, snakes, germs, lifts, public speaking, flying, balloons… the list is seemingly endless. Anyone can develop a phobia, of anything. No phobia is trivial; at best they can really inconvenience you, at worst they make you behave totally out of character. While phobias tend to be glaringly obvious and come in an array of forms, fears can be less obvious, niggling away at you and eroding your self-esteem. If it’s something that you are aware of or that’s holding you back, we can work with to resolve it.


Unfortunately many people suffer with self-doubt and thoughts and feelings of not being good enough. Cognitive hypnotherapy is very good for helping to change this by helping you to realise your potential and change how you look at yourself, re-enforcing your sense of self-worth. Learn to focus on your inner strengths and resources so that you can feel freer and stronger about who you are, so that you can lead a happier, more rewarding and enriched life.


Habits, including smoking, tend to be largely unconscious, with the conscious aspect being a secondary factor. The behaviour, or habit, might be viewed as a crutch or coping mechanism that you are afraid to let go of. Smoking, drinking, nail biting, self-sabotage, phone or online addiction, mindless eating, excessive exercise, cleaning and so on are just a few examples of habits you might want to break. Behind every habit there will be a reason for that behaviour and we will look behind the habit, seeking to unlock those drivers and free you from them.


It’s easy to feel lacklustre and stuck in such a busy society. Maybe you feel like you’re not doing enough or you don’t know what direction you want to go in, or why. We can discover what’s at the root of these thoughts and feelings and help you to find the direction that’s right for you. We can get to the bottom of anything that you believe is holding you back and stopping you achieving your goals. We can set new goals, boost your confidence, implement direction and help you to stay grounded so that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.


If you can’t see what you’re looking for above, there is still hope – it just means it’s not listed because the list of possible issues would be endless. Cognitive Hypnotherapy is great for working with most issues because it is such a flexible, broad and deep branch of therapy. Cognitive Hypnotherapists work with all sorts of people, to resolve all sorts of problems. Chances are it won’t be unique to the therapist. They will at least have heard of what’s bothering you; even if it’s an underlying ‘bad feeling’ it can be worked on.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings and actions are connected and when we have a problem a vicious cycle can form, one part affecting the next and so on. The idea is that by breaking problems into these smaller parts they can be more easily managed. CBT therapists work with you to show you how to challenge negative patterns so that you can improve the way you feel. CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past and using them to feel better in the present, as CogHyp does.

Cognitive Hypnotherapists help you deal with current problems by looking at where they started. The theory is, if you can resolve the trigger, you change the subsequent reactions. They also believe in the interconnectedness of thoughts, feelings and actions but instead of challenging the behaviour and learning to cope with it, coghyp practitioners want to help you to remove the triggers that are affecting your life, so you can take back control.

If you don’t know why you smoke and can’t remember why you started, your unconscious will have all the answers so that you can be free of compulsive and impulsive thoughts and behaviour.


The media has a lot to answer for when it comes to people being scared of hypnosis. The truth is, no hypnotist can make you do anything that you don’t want to do – and that’s it. Stage hypnosis is not fake, but it certainly is not the same as hypnotherapy. CogHyp is a little different to traditional hypnosis anyway. They do not need to achieve ‘deep trance’ for the therapy to work. In fact this form of therapy is largely conversational and totally conscious. You may be asked to close your eyes, but that’s just to assist your imagination in not getting distracted.

One of the underpinning principles of Cognitive Hypnotherapy is the notion that we all enter ‘trance’ multiple times of the day: when driving, exercising, acting out habits and when we are stuck with a problem – such as a phobia. There will be no watch swinging, just talking and perhaps closing of the eyes. There’s nothing to fear.


  • Do you want to enhance your life in some way; either by improving yourself or eliminating a problem, or even both?
  • Are you prepared to re-evaluate your thinking and habits?
  • Are you committed to clearing past problems?
  • Are you willing to dedicate time outside of sessions to implement and try out what you have learnt with me, and from yourself?
  • Are you ready to live an empowered life and to learn how to use your inner resources and strengths?

If you’ve answered yes to the above you are already in the right place, you just need to get in touch.

I only work with a small number of people at a time and those whom I really believe I can help, so it is important that you are totally committed to change from the get go. It’s difficult to say how many sessions you’ll need without knowing your specific case, but usually people need 2-6 sessions; obviously this is dependent on what’s been wrong and the pace you need to work at.

Pattern Matching

We learn a behaviour, often without even realising it.

Our brains automatically do something called ‘pattern matching’ and it happens all the time. The brain is an amazing piece of kit that strives to protect us and pattern matching is a great way to do this.

It works like this: something bad happens; your brain reacts by signalling a behaviour for you to react in a way that will protect you; you survive; job done.

We learn a behaviour, often without even realising it, and because it worked once the brain thinks it will work every time when you experience something similar. A lot of the time this works well, for example we learn not to touch very hot things etc. However sometimes a behaviour will work in the moment, but the brain might pattern match the same behaviour to a different type of scenario, perhaps perceiving a bigger threat than there is. A phobia is an example of this: once a spider made me jump so now I hate all spiders and run away screaming.

Think of the pattern match as the trance and the outcome as a behaviour. One of the ways Cognitive Hypnotherapy works is to interrupt the pattern matching processes that cause you a problem, fear of flying for example. The therapist will uncover what makes up your pattern match, or trance state, and work with you to change the processes attached with it – thus removing it, not learning to live with it.

See my site for more information on how I can help you.