Hypnosis has proven to be extremely valuable in the treatment of cancer patients. Specific applications include: establishing rapport between the patient and members of the medical health team; control of pain with self-regulation of pain perception through the use of glove anesthesia, time distortion, amnesia, transference of pain to a different body part, or dissociation of the painful part from the rest of the body; controlling symptoms, such as, nausea, anticipatory emesis, learned food aversions, etc. for anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, hostility, frustration, isolation, and a diminished sense of self-esteem; visualization for health improvement; and, dealing with death anxiety and other related issues. Hypnosis has unique advantages for patients including improvement of self-esteem, involvement in self-care, return of locus of control, lack of unpleasant side effects, and continued efficacy despite continued use.
Mind-body strategies may reduce hair loss without risk of adverse side effects. Alopecia areata is a type of patchy hair loss associated with psychological factors such as stress, trauma or negative family circumstances. Researchers chose to evaluate hypnotherapy as a possible treatment for this condition because hypnosis has already proved effective in reducing stress and anxiety related to asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.
In a preliminary study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2006; 55 , 233–77), investigators followed 21 patients with alopecia areata. Subjects received hypnosis treatments along with other care once every 3 weeks for periods lasting from 6 months to 6 years.
Twelve patients experienced hair growth on at least 75% of the scalp after only three to four hypnotherapy sessions; in nine of these cases, 100% of the hair grew back. Five of the 12 suffered a relapse during the follow-up period, but no patients experienced any negative side effects.
Hypnosis might be a valuable therapy for patients with alopecia areata, the researchers concluded. They noted, however, that study findings were limited by the small number of participants. A large randomized, controlled trial would be needed to further explore the benefits of hypnotherapy.
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