A Pilot Study of Hypnosis in the Treatment of Patients with Psoriasis

Background: The use of psychological therapies for patients with psoriasis has been proposed based on observations that the severity of their disease may correlate with emotional stress. The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the effect of hypnosis as a treatment modality for patients with psoriasis. Methods: We performed a 3-month randomised, single-blind, controlled trial of the use of hypnosis in adults with stable, chronic, plaque-type psoriasis. Highly or moderately hypnotizable subjects were randomised to receive either hypnosis with active suggestions of improvement (5 patients) or neutral hypnosis with no mention of their disease process (6 patients). After this period, the study was unblinded, and all the patients were treated for an additional 3 months with hypnosis with active suggestions of improvement. Results: Highly hypnotizable subjects showed significantly greater improvement than did moderately hypnotizable subjects, independent of treatment group assignment (active suggestion or neutral hypnosis). Conclusion: Although this study included a very limited number of patients, the results suggest that hypnosis may be a useful therapeutic modality for highly hypnotizable subjects with psoriasis, and merits further testing in a larger patient population.

Research shows that the brain causes our skin to respond to hypnotic suggestion       types_erythrodermic-3

In a classic experiment, Japanese doctors Ikemi and Nakagawa hypnotised volunteers and told them that a leaf applied to their skin was a toxic plant, such as a poison ivy. The plant was harmless but the subjects’ skin became red and irritated. The same experimenters applied the real toxic plant to other subjects’ skin after telling them it was innocuous. The expected biological reaction of irritation did not take place.

 In 1928, Drs. Heilig and Hoff of the University of Vienna used hypnosis to alleviate outbreaks of oral herpes (cold sores). In a separate experiment, they could also trigger new outbreaks in these patients by reminding them, under hypnosis, of the painful events that had triggered them originally (such as a death in the family) and of the itching and tingling that usually come just before the sores appear.

Drs. Kaneko and Takaishi of the Osaka University Medical School used a similar procedure with hives. Fourteen of the twenty-seven patients they treated made complete or near-complete recoveries; only five reported no benefit. They too could bring the symptoms back with hypnosis, either by suggesting skin irritation directly or by bringing to mind situations that aroused anger. Additionally, two dozen scientific reports, including several large-scale studies, describe successfully treating warts by using hypnosis. In recent years, many more researchers have effectively applied these techniques to a wide variety of symptoms and conditions. Rather than dividing illness into “emotional” or “psychosomatic” and “physical,” we need to think of emotions as a factor in all skin problems.

Research About Psoriasis and Hypnosis Vol. 68, No. 4, 1999 A Pilot Study of Hypnosis in the Treatment of Patients with Psoriasis Francisco Tausk, S. Elizabeth Whitmore

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