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Table of Contents > Articles > Will Hypnotherapy Help Your Asthma?
Will Hypnotherapy Help Your Asthma?

If you are familiar with the shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing of asthma, you are not alone. Today, over 10 million Americans suffer from this chronic illness in which the airways become inflamed, making it difficult to get air in and out. Conventional therapies work to prevent and control symptoms with anti-inflammatory drugs, bronchodilators, and antibiotics (when asthma is the result of a bacterial infection). While conventional medications help to relieve symptoms, they may also have undesirable side effects. Over the past 20 years, researchers have taken a closer look at an alternative treatment for asthma: hypnotherapy (the name given to hypnosis when it's used for medical purposes). So, does the research support using this alternative approach to care, and if so, how do you use hypnotherapy to manage asthma?

The medical community in general does recognize hypnotherapy as helpful for a number of health conditions, including asthma. In particular, hypnotherapists can help you handle anxiety and stress, which often intensify asthma symptoms. A recent article presented a summary of 20 different studies on hypnotherapy in asthma treatment, published between 1960 and 1997 and involving over one thousand subjects from 2 to 80 years of age. The authors conclude that hypnotherapy is a powerful technique for treating asthma and that more studies are needed to explore its effects.

The authors of this study also note, however, that hypnotherapy is more effective in subjects who are more "susceptible" to it. It seems that some people respond more to a hypnotherapist's suggestions than others: about 20 percent of people take to hypnotic suggestion easily, 20 percent do not respond at all, and the rest of us fall somewhere in between. Children over the age of 5 generally respond well to hypnotherapy. You may have difficulty responding to hypnotherapy if you have a strong desire to remain in control of your circumstances. You may also struggle if you feel uncomfortable working with a hypnotherapist or are used to accepting a more passive role in your own health care. Hypnotherapy requires you to be an active partner and to commit yourself to regular self-hypnosis (which a therapist can teach you). Those who benefit the most practice 15 to 20 minutes of self-hypnosis every day.

So how does hypnotherapy work? In a typical hypnotherapy session, a hypnotherapist will work to bring you into a trance-like state. This state is a normal part of human consciousness. In fact, many of us enter this state on our own on a regular basis—we refer to it as "drifting off into space" or "spacing out." A hypnotized person is fully aware of what's going on and can end the session if he or she is feeling uncomfortable. Once a trance-like state is achieved, a hypnotherapist can suggest how you should feel about something when you wake up.

A variety of approaches to hypnotherapy have resulted in similar and sometimes dramatic improvements in asthma. For some people, self-hypnosis has helped to reduce the intensity of sudden episodes of wheezing and has helped them to avoid a hospital visit; for some it has completely eliminated the need for medication. For most, hypnotherapy is an effective addition to an overall treatment plan. More and more doctors agree: When taught by a well-trained and skilled clinician, hypnotherapy can be, and often is, helpful for managing asthma.

To find a qualified hypnotherapist, ask your doctor or look on the Internet at the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists' Web site at www.natboard.com.


Glossary

Chronic: refers to an illness or disease that develops slowly and is persistent (often lifelong)


References

Creer TL. The application of behavioral procedures to childhood asthma: current and future perspectives. Patient Educ Couns. 1991;17:9-22.

Gergen PJ, Mullally DI, Evans R 3d. National survey of prevalence of asthma among children in the United States 1976-1980. Pediatrics. 1988;81(1):1-7.

Culbert T, Reaney J, Kohen DP. Cyberphysiologic strategies in children: the biofeedback-hypnosis interface. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. April, 1994.

Hackman RA, Stern JS, Gershwin ME. Hypnosis and asthma: a critical review. J Asthma. 2000;37(1):1-15.

Kohen DP, Olness KN, Colwell S, Heimel A. The use of relaxation/mental imagery (self-hypnosis) in the management of 505 pediatric behavioral encounters. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1984;1(5):21-25.

Kohen DP. Applications of relaxation/mental imagery (self-hypnosis) in pediatric emergencies. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 1986;34(4):283-294.

Kohen DP. Relaxation/mental imagery (self-hypnosis) for childhood asthma: behavioral outcomes in a prospective, controlled study. HYPNOS - The Journal of the European Society of Hypnosis in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine. 1995;22(3):132-144.

Kohen DP, Wynne E. Applying hypnosis in a preschool family asthma education program: uses of storytelling, imagery and relaxation. Am J Clin Hypn. 1997;39(3):2-14.

Lehrer PM, Sargunaraj D, Hochron S. Psychological approaches to the treatment of asthma. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1992;60(4):639-643.

Marion RJ, Creer TL, Reynolds RVC. Direct and indirect costs associated with the management of childhood asthma. Ann Allergy. 1985;54: 31-34.


Review Date: October 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
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