Can hypnotherapy cure anxiety and panic attacks on the Tube?


Liz Connor / 6 days ago / Abstract:

If you live in London, you’ll know that the morning commute can be uncomfortable at the best of times. Squeezing into a miniscule space with several other people’s unpleasant body odours is no one’s idea of fun.

For most people, including myself, my journey to work was merely an irritating daily chore to endure. Every morning I’d switch off from my surrounds by listening to a podcast or attempting to squeeze my book into a tiny gap of space underneath my fellow commuter’s armpits, tuning out from the hustle and bustle around me.

That was, until two years ago, when I boarded a Piccadilly Line train from Earls Court to Leicester Square at rush hour.

Half way between Knightsbridge and Green Park, the packed tube train pulled to a standstill in a section of the tunnel.


This is nothing out of the ordinary. If you use the London Underground system regularly, you’ll know that the trains are prone to stopping and starting and the nature of rush hour means that the trains can trundle along at a snail’s pace.

As we patiently waited for the train to move along, the driver announced that a passenger had been taken ill on the train in front of us, explaining that we may be stuck in the tunnel for some time while the paramedics dealt with the situation.

It was only a minute later when I felt the train switch off around me, that I became acutely aware of the fact that we were underground with very little space to move.

Before I could register my own thoughts, I felt a sudden surge of panic swell through my body as I became all too aware of the fact I was trapped, underground in a busy crowd of strangers.

I struggled to breathe, my hands started shaking and it felt as though the train was closing in around me. In one minute I’d gone from calm to having an uncontrollable panic attack.

I had lived in London for nine years and been on countless trains that had pulled to a standstill with no problem. So as you can imagine, this overwhelming loss of control came as a distressing surprise to me.

If you’ve experienced Tube panic before, it can feel like you’re the only person that’s suffering and, even worse, like you’re going crazy. The reality is that two in three people are affected by mental health issues at some point in their lives, and experiencing panic attacks in public, although embarrassing and terrifying, is not unusual.

With the additional fear of panic, the basic act of journeying to and from work can be an exhausting and unbearable ordeal.

Unwilling to be deterred by this debilitating new development, I decided to see if hypnotherapy could help.


I had no idea what to expect from hypnotherapy. If, like me, you’re a newbie, you’re probably imagining swinging pocket watches and being put into a deep sleep. Neither of these things happen.


One of the tasks is to imagine myself replaying the moment I had a panic attack on a train, and rewind to a time where I felt safe on the Tube. This didn’t stand out to me during the sessions themselves – but the exercise has proved to be a helpful tool whenever I’m stuck in a claustrophobic situation.


On the way home, I take the Tube, and my fear has significantly lessened.

I wouldn’t say my discomfort with being Underground has completely gone – hypnotherapy isn’t a ‘quick cure’, but a basis for building healthy thoughts. It’s certainly helped to the point where I can take the train every day and no longer feel like I have to avoid the Underground.

If you’re suffering from Tube panic, there are ways to resolve your past traumas and change your automatic response to being underground. The first stage is seeking help.


Coping with Tube phobia

In order to have a phobia you need to have belief about travelling on the Tube. You say something in your head, make a picture in your mind and have certain feelings associated with it – even breathe differently. By changing these actions you can change your experience.

Make it humorous

A quick method to change this pattern is to change the way you approach the fear. Imagine the Benny Hill theme tune playing as you think of getting on the Tube. If you have an inner dialogue that you say in your head i.e. “tubes are stressful”, repeat that to yourself in a high-pitched Mickey Mouse voice. This will make the idea of boarding the Tube much less daunting.

Scramble the negative emotions

Another helpful tip is to scramble the negative images that you associate with the travelling on the Tube. What would it be like if you made that image small? What would it be like if you make it black and white? Imagine running the whole event backwards, like you’re rewinding a DVD.

Create a positive trigger

Think of or imagine a time when you felt completely calm and relaxed i.e. sitting on a beach or being around people you love.

Imagine going back to that time and notice all the images, feelings and sounds that go with this event. When you have fully connected to this positive event, squeeze your fist to create a link between the emotion and the gesture, and as the emotion fades release your fist.

Keep repeating this as many times as you like and then test it by squeezing your fist while thinking of what you are fearful of when getting on the Tube. Notice what you feel now. If it’s strong enough, next time you get on, just the act of squeezing your fist will bring back that calm feeling and reduce your fear of travelling on the Uunderground.

Be aware that this requires homework, so make sure you regularly repeat this process to maintain the positive feelings this new positive trigger should create.

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