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The Evidence for Using Hypnosis with Skin Disorders



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The Evidence for Using Hypnosis with Skin Disorders

By - Adam Eason, Hypnotherapist

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.


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