Autogenic Training (AT) has been available to patients in the trust suffering from anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia via referral by their GPs to the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital. This is a report of the results of the first year of the provision (May 2001-May 2002). Seven 8-week courses were completed and took place in the Physiotherapy Department of Edgware Community Hospital. The results have been very positive.
Anxiety scores fell
Panic attacks were reduced
Some patients were able to reduce or stop medication
Self-confidence returned with an increased sense of well-being
Extracts from the evaluation forms completed by trainees at the end of the course:
“An understanding of what causes my anxiety and a way to tackle it”
“I am now able to achieve a feeling of calm and well-being at will. I feel more confident in situations that used to unnerve me”
“Autogenic Training (which) has dramatically reduced my anxiety to the effect that I have stopped having panic attacks and my confidence has started to return”
“Much better sleep, able to get to sleep a lot quicker and easier and I’m not waking up”
“Middle to end of course drug-free”
“I can sleep without the help of using any medication”
“AT works for my blood essure”
AUTOGENIC TRAINING – AN OVERVIEW
Autogenic Training (AT) is a relaxation technique, a psycho-physiologically-based form of autonomic self-regulation, and a self-help resource for health. It is a method of inducing the relaxation response which is opposite to the stress response, bringing about a healthy balance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest renewal and repair) activities of the body’s autonomic nervous system.
It is particularly applicable as a non-drug approach to conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia where the root cause is most often chronic over -arousal due to excessive sympathetic activity. AT can also be of great benefit to many other organic and psychosomatic illnesses where stress and tension play a big part.
In AT (Autogenic meaning self-generated) the patient learns a set of structured mental formulae. Whilst practising, external distractions are removed and an attitude of “allowing to happen that which needs to happen” free of striving for results is established. This allows for autonomic homeostasis where changes such as slower pulse rate, lowered BP, slower regular breathing, improved digestion and release of muscle tension occurs. Excessive arousal is expected to return to lower functional levels.
The techniques developed and used in AT have been designed to support and facilitate the natural self-healing mechanisms that already exist. The emphasis is not on trying to control these systems but in helping them to function more effectively.
Patients who regularly practise AT develop a healthy dynamic balance, a ‘hardiness’, a collection of psychic qualities such as engagement, self-commitment, taking control, seeing problems not as a threat but as a challenge. A more confident and relaxed approach to life and trust in their own natural healing forces.
“Belief that I can overcome all the symptoms I used to suffer with feeling normal and not feeling my life is over”
“I am feeling more calmer than before – feeling more happier that I am dealing with it (his problem – anxiety, panic attacks, palpitations). More confident, less scared”
“Calmer, able to think more realistically about my problems”
ANXIETY, PANIC ATTACKS AND AUTOGENIC TRAINING
Anxiety is part of everyday life, an emotion that is fundamental to survival. The intensity of the feeling lies in a continuum from a normal healthy adaptive response in the service of survival to the most intense fear, terror and fright. In evolutionary terms this makes us avoid potentially dangerous situations where there is the possibility of physical or mental harm or death. For some this basic animal survival response is inappropriately “switched on” leading to disruption of normal healthy responses and a vicious cycle of anxiety, tension, restlessness, discontent and frustration is established causing great suffering and depression.
The spectrum of Anxiety Disorders includes:
an enduring characteristic of a person which remains constant throughout life.
situation specific characteristic
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
- excessive worry and tension felt on most days present for at least 6 months
- associated with increased muscle tension, fatiguability
- trembling, restlessness
- autonomic hyperactivity
- shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat
- dry mouth, cold hands
- dizziness, feeling keyed up, increased startling impaired concentration
sudden inexplicable attacks of intense fear accompanied by increased heartbeat, sweating, trembling, restlessness
- a sense of choking or smothering, unable to breathe
- numbness, tingling
- feelings of unreality, being detached from the body
- as if going crazy, as if going to die
Panic attacks foster the development of a situation where there is a dread of an attack “fearing the fear”.
specific fears where a perception of danger from the inner world is projected onto external objects or situations in the outer world e.g. agoraphobia, claustrophobia.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
where repetitive thoughts or acts are dominating life and are felt to be uncontrollable.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
where the traumatic event is re-experienced in flashbacks or dreams.