As of today, I am again part of the online clinic here at the TalkHealth Partnership. This particular online clinic is looking at skin disorders. Those familiar with this site will know that the clinics offer lots of support from a panel of experts, but also from charities, support groups and sponsors. Those looking at the expert panel could be forgiven for wondering what on earth a hypnotherapist is doing there.
Hypnotherapy can and does help in a variety of ways; with relaxation as antidote to some of the anxiety and stress that can exacerbate some skin conditions, and used in conjunction with some of the evidence-based CBT techniques and habit reversal protocols that help stop scratching too. However, there is also evidence to suggest that hypnotherapy can be used in a curative fashion for some skin disorders, and although I shall not be advocating that hypnosis is used as an alternative treatment, I wanted to share some of the evidence that supports this use of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
Naturally, as part of my own preparations for this clinic and in addition to my own years of experience of working with clients suffering from certain skin conditions, I have been reviewing the literature and research that supports the use of hypnosis in helping with skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, ichthyosis, acne, rosacea or other conditions.
This blog entry then, is really for anyone interested in the research we have supporting what can be done within hypnotherapy rooms, however, in coming days I’ll be sharing some techniques and strategies that that have been used within the research that anyone with skin conditions can apply in addition to the conventional medical treatment they are receiving. Look out for those.
When I was a lot younger and fairly new to this field, I worked with a lot of clients who suffered from skin disorders. I was originally taught that the skin was a mirror reflection of what was going on beneath; thus acne occurred in greater prevalence among teenagers going through uncertainty and physiological change. Then if you look at other types of happenings upon the skin’s surface, such as getting goose bumps, sweating and changes in temperature, these can all be influenced by thoughts and emotions felt.
Therefore, I used a lot of mental imagery processes for treating the skin’s surface, but also worked on helping clients to be more in control of their thoughts and emotions in order to aid the condition of the skin. Some of this still holds true for me today, though the years have shown me that there is so much more we can do with the use of hypnosis to help with skin conditions.
There have been a couple of encouraging reviews that have supported the use of hypnosis as a treatment for a range of skin conditions (Scott, 1964; Shenefelt, 2000). However, there have also been a number of case studies to have been peer-reviewed and featured in journals that have show hypnosis to be effective in the treatment of eczema (Twerski & Naar, 1974; Mirvish, 1978; Sokel et al., 1993; Stewart & Thomas, 1995) as well as psoriasis (Kline, 1954; Frankel & Misch, 1973). With psoriasis, there is also a couple of randomised, controlled trials supporting the use of hypnosis as a treatment (Tausk & Whitmore, 1999; Zacharie et al., 1996).
Additionally, hypnosis has been used to help relieve the itching of eczema (Goodman, 1962; Motoda, 1971; Scott, 1960, 1964) and the itching of psoriasis (Biondo, 1975; Cheek, 1961; Hartland, 1970). Within my own therapy rooms, I tend to use the very evidence-based habit reversal (Azrin & Nunn, 1977) protocol to stop the scratching action which also tends to help lessen problems associated with some skin disorders, such as them bleeding or becoming infected and subsequently being made more problematic. The habit reversal has a 99% symptom reduction in studies.
One of the most impressive studies of the use of hypnosis in treating skin disorders was a case study and report by A. Mason (1952), a physician who used hypnosis as a treatment of a patient suffering from congenital ichthyosiform erythrodermia of Brocq (often referred to as ‘fish skin disease’). The report was published in the British Medical Journal in 1955 and showed the dramatic changes in the patient who started off with thick, scaly, immovable skin with an unusual colouration, that “fell off” as a result of hypnotic suggestions. The suggestions were initially given to just the left arm of the patient to show that the effects were attributed to the hypnotic suggestions and the difference between the two arms was incredible. Thereafter, suggestions were given to the right arm and the skin of the arms was 95% clear of the disorder after 20 days of treatment.
This is a rare condition, so there has not been the opportunity to conduct good quality controlled studies, however, there have been other case studies using Mason’s method that have had their results published with favourable outcomes (Bethune & Kidd, 1961; Wink, 1961; Kidd, 1966; Schneck, 1966).
Hypnosis has been used to help deal with and overcome allergic reactions upon the skin and has proven to be successful in lessening sensitivity of the skin and also successful at lessening the reactions to allergens (Fry et al., 1965; Dennis et al., 1965).
The largest body of research with using hypnosis as a treatment for skin conditions has been applied to the removal of warts. A study by Spanos et al., 1988) showed a 50% cure rate (percentage of warts gone) which was much higher than two different types of control groups. The numerous other studies tend to show impressive results (a number of which show 60-70% cure rate) spanning the past 75 years (Sulzberger & Wolf, 1934; Vollmer, 1946; McDowell, 1949; Obermayer & Greenson, 1949; Sinclair-Gieben & Chalmers, 1959; Ullman & Dudek, 1960; Tenzel & Taylor, 1969; Surman et al., 1972, 1973; Ewin, 1974, 1992; Clawson & Swade, 1975; French, 1977; Tasini & Hackett, 1977; Dreaper, 1978; Johnson & Barber, 1978; Chandrasena, 1982; Morris, 1985; Spanos et al., 1988, 1990; Felt et al., 1998; Kohen et al., 1998; Goldstein, 2005).
In conclusion, though we have some very encouraging results from the limited research, there is still not a strong enough body to start suggesting hypnosis can be a full-on alternative, stand-alone treatment. However, for those receiving medical care and treatment, it would make sense to potentially enhance that care with the use of psychological treatments, such as hypnosis.
Therefore, in addition to my involvement in the clinic, I’ll also offer up here on this blog, some other techniques and strategies to directly help with a wide variety of skin-related issues.
Adam Eason, author of “The Science of Self-Hypnosis: The Evidence-Based Way to Hypnotise Yourself.”
Azrin, N. H., & Nunn, R. G. (1977) Habit Control In a Day. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Bethune, H. C. & Kidd, C. B. (1961) Psychophysiological mechanisms in skin diseases. Lancet, 2: 1419-1422.
Cheek, D. B. (1961) Possible uses of hypnosis in dermatology. Medical Times.
Dennis, M. & Phillipus, M. J. (1965) Hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion and skin response in atopic patients. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 17: 253-258.
Frankel, F. H. & Misch, R. C. (1973) Hypnosis in a case of long-standing psoriasis in a person with character problems. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 50: 332-363.
Fry, L., Et al., (1964) Effects of hypnosis on allergic skin responses in asthma and hay fever. British Medical Journal, 1: 1145-1148.
Goodman, H. P. (1962) Hypnosis in prolonged resistant eczema: a case report. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 5: 144-145.
Hartland, J. (1970) Hypnosis in dermatology. British Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1: 2-7.
Kidd, C. B. (1966) Congenital itchthyosiform erythrodermia treated by hypnosis. British Journal of Dermatology, 78: 101-105.
Kline, M. V. (1954) Psoriasis and hypnotherapy: a case report. Journal of clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 2: 318-322.
Mason, A. A. (1952) A case of congenital itchthyosiform erythrodermia of Brocq treated by hypnosis. British Medical Journal, ii: 422-423.
Mirvish, I. (1978) Hypnotherapy for the child with chronic eczema. A case report. South African Medical Journal, 54: 410-412.
Motoda, K (1971) A case report of the counter-conditioning treatment of an eczema patient by hypnosis. Japanese Journal of Hypnosis, 15: 46-49.
Schneck,, J. M. (1966) Hypnotherapy for ichthyosis. Psychosomatics, 7: 233-235.
Scott, M. J. (1960) Hypnosis in Skin and Allergic Diseases. Charles Thomas, Springfield, Ill.
Scott, M. J. (1964) Hypnosis in dermatologic therapy. Psychosomatics, 5: 365-368.
Shenefelt, P. D. (2000) Hypnosis in dermatology. Archives of dermatology, 136: 393-399.
Sokel, B., Christie, D., Kent, A. & Lansdown, R. (1993) A comparison of hypnotherapy and biofeedback in the treatment of childhood atopic eczema. Contemporary Hypnosis, 10: 145-154.
Spanos, N. P., Stenstrom, R. J. & Johnston, J. C. (1988) Hypnosis, placebo, and suggestion in the treatment of warts. Psychosomatic Medicine, 52: 109-114.
Stewart, A. C. & Thomas, S. E. (1995) Hypnotherapy as a treatment for atopic dermatitis in adults and children. British Journal of Dermatology, 132: 778-783.
Tausk, F. & Whitmore, S. E. (1999) A pilot study of hypnosis in the treatment of patients with psoriasis. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 68: 221-225.
Twersky, A. J. & Naar, R. (1974) Hypnotherapy in a case of refractory dermatitis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 16: 202-205.
Wink, C. A. (1961) Congenital ichthyosiform erythrodermia treated by hypnosis. Report of two cases. British Medical Journal, i: 741-743.
Zacharie, R., Oster, H., Bjerring, P. & Kragballe, K. (1996) Effects of psychologic intervention on psoriasis: a preliminary report. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 34: 1008-1115.
(Please note, the full references for all the wart studies have not been written up here, but if you would like them, get in touch – I was losing the will to live writing up the full bibliography! Adam Eason – www.adam-eason.com)