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Brockville, Ont. woman says hypnosis helped her panic attacks and anxiety

by Nate Vandermeer, CTV News Ottawa Multi-Skilled Journalist

Published Friday, November 12, 2021 2:58PM EST

BROCKVILLE, ONT. -- People suffering from anxiety or other mental health issues have started to turn to a different tool to cope: Hypnosis.

Brockville, Ont. resident Paula Fairfield says she's been able to regain control of her life and finally go back to work, suffering from agoraphobia for almost 30 years.

It was originally diagnosed by her psychiatrist, an anxiety disorder that causes fear and panic attacks in certain situations.

"I had difficulty often at jobs. If it was busy, needing to take a break, get away from the scene," Fairfield said. "Movie theatres, I had to sit on the outside seat, had to see the exit sign. Shopping was a problem."

It was so bad she left her job for medical reasons, and sometimes she could not even leave her house.

"I would have trouble out walking in open spaces without a comfort zone," she added. "Knowing someone lived here, it's ok, I can walk this way because I know that person in case I have an attack, I know that person, that's how I used to do my walking."

 

Fairfield says she tried every other option, but it wasn't until she watched a testimonial from a friend who had used hypnosis to get over her fears, that she decided to try it.

"She had excellent results and I thought, 'You know what, I'm going to look into this and have a look to see if this will help me,'" Fairfield said.

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Surinder Gill is a hypnotist and a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, who says his work has helped many people with anxiety issues and phobias, and smoking cessation.

"I would have people come to me for flying phobias, or people who have phobias of things like snakes," Gill said. "One woman had a phobia of frogs. One young girl had a phobia of needles."

Using hypnosis to have people become suggestible, they are able to change their thought process.

The current pandemic is raising those anxiety levels for some.

"COVID-19 kind of, maybe brought that up to a point where it was unmanageable for them, and so then they come to me," Gill said.

While no formal licensing exists in Canada to govern hypnosis, Gill says he makes no claim that what he does offers a cure.

"I'm not a psychotherapist, I'm not a doctor, I'm a life coach that can help people access their unconscious mind to make change to that," Gill said. 

"It means I can't diagnose any illness, I can't treat any illness, and I certainly can't prescribe anything," he added.

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When Gill met with Fairfield in August, she was ready for that change, and she noticed a difference immediately after her first session.

"She's told me that she's never felt this kind of relief from anything else that she's tried before this," Gill said.

"If I could cite an example, I was shopping with my stepdaughter and started to get that all too familiar tunnel vision, heart wanting to speed up, anyone with anxiety would know the symptoms," Fairfield said. "It passed very quickly with some of the help he had given me. I was able to blow past the moment and continue as though nothing had happened."

Before, Fairfield would have left her full grocery cart in the middle of the store and left.

"Once they've learned how they created the thought structure that brought upon the problem in the first place, then they get some really, really good results," Gill added.

"I had a gentleman call me one time and said, 'I want to quit smoking. Can you hypnotize me and help me quit smoking?' and I asked him why do you want to quit and he said, 'Oh my wife really wants me to stop'," Gill said. "That's a red flag."

Fairfield even returned to work a few weeks ago and now enjoys being around people once again, calling her five sessions with Gill a success story.

"I'm walking to work, I actually feel great and I've been able to handle quite a few things personal wise, work wise, time-wise," she said. "My time management skills are excellent now, so I would say so, absolutely."