Hypnotherapy and Skin Conditions

If you’ve ever blushed from embarrassment, you know that your skin can reflect what you’re feeling inside. It makes sense, then, that emotional trouble might show up as skin trouble.

Although cause and effect can be difficult to pin down, considerable data suggest that at least in some people, stress and other psychological factors can activate or worsen certain skin conditions.

The bond between skin and mind has deep roots, going back at least as far as skin-to-skin contact between newborn and mother. But communication through the skin is thought by many to be central to the development of feelings about the self and the world. Little wonder that our emotions might affect our skin — and that the relationship is likely to be complex.

The hypnotic state, involving focused concentration or awareness, can affect many physiological functions, including blood flow, pain sensation, and immune response.

In this state, the mind has a heightened capacity to affect autonomic functions (those we have little conscious control over, such as heart rate).

A therapist using the technique called guided imagery may ask the patient to imagine having healthy skin or picture immune cells on the march.

In small studies, hypnosis has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety; reduce pain and inflammation; control sweating and itching; speed healing; and limit behaviors such as scratching, picking, or hair pulling.

Belgian researchers reported in the August 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology that 67% of patients with significant hair loss (alopecia) who underwent hypnosis (including self-hypnosis) had total or partial hair regrowth during treatment, although some of them lost the hair again during the four-year follow-up period.

In some studies, hypnotherapy, especially combined with behavioral and relaxation techniques, has helped reduce itching and scratching in people with atopic dermatitis.

Hypnosis has been studied extensively for treating warts. In one controlled trial, which compared hypnosis to no treatment at all, 53% of the hypnotized patients — but none of the unhypnotized patients — lost at least some of their warts. Another trial compared hypnotic suggestion (of the warts healing and shrinking) to salicylic acid (the standard treatment for warts), placebo salicylic acid, and no treatment. The hypnotized participants lost significantly more warts than subjects in the other three groups.

Hypnotherapy can be a powerful, side effect free tool in dealing with troublesome skin conditions.

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