skin problems

Psychodermatology: Hypnosis, Self-Hypnosis, Meditation and Autogenic Training in Dermatology, Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery, and Dermal Health

* Gerrard Sunnan MD has written an extremely comprehensive paper covering various aspects of how the mind relates to skin health and how hypnosis can help with skin disorders. . .

 

Psyche and skin are connected, and in this relationship, mental stressors can aggravate and even give rise to skin pathologies. On the other hand, mental techniques such as hypnosis, focused meditation and autogenic training can activate the mind’s contribution to the skin’s well-being. This paper introduces some fundamental concepts in psychodermatology.

The fact that the skin and the mind are intimately connected may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. How can the brain, let alone the mind, have serious influence on the largest of the bodily organs, the skin? They seem to be so far apart, conceptually and anatomically. Yet, if we look at core concepts emerging from twentieth century medicine, a central one teaches that all organ systems in the body are interdependent, all working as one multiconnected entity. And, in this equation, the mind, as a locus of life’s power, remains a determining force.

Psychoneuroimmunology and psychodermatology, relatively new appellations, define this concept as it pertains to the skin, and open links between psyche and emotions, skin disease, and skin health. Embryonically, the skin and the nervous system are closely linked, as shown by the fact that certain emotional states can commonly be expressed through skin blanching, flushing or blushing.

Strong emotions can impact on skin’s well-being. Stress, in all its manifestations, is well appreciated to worsen all manner of skin problems. Appeasing the mental stressors that impact on skin harmony therefore can assist the modulation of psychosomatic skin conditions, and stimulating relaxation and wellness can encourage dermatological harmony so that the skin can flaunt its optimal radiance. This makes it an optimal time for laser hair removal and similar procedures without causing stress.

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* Psychodermatology: Hypnosis, self-hypnosis, meditation and autogenic training in dermatology, plastic and cosmetic surgery, and dermal health. © 2014 by Gérard V. Sunnen, M.D
By the way, if you need an excellent and trusted plastic surgeon specializing in facelifts, visit Dr. Frankel at 201 South Lasky Drive, Beverly Hills, California USA.

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Hypnotherapy for Skin Conditions

The skin is a mirror of the inner self, and we frequently use phrases which reflect this: ‘getting under your skin’, ‘thin skinned’, ‘thick skinned’, ‘itching to do something’ for example. These all reflect the fact that it is recognised as a measure of our vulnerability. We use these phrases without thinking about them. It is only when the skin begins to malfunction that these expressions really start to have a meaning.

To understand where non-viral or bacterial skin conditions come from, it is appropriate to look at where the skin develops when we are in embryonic stage. The epidermis and nervous system originate from the ectoderm, and as such, when the embryo fully develops a strong series of connections exist between the two. Therefore, an imbalance within the nervous system may frequently be reflected in the epidermis itself. It can be a signal of an implicit vulnerability to a situation, or a response to that initiating trigger itself. Therefore, treating the symptom alone for psychogenic disorders is not as effective as treating the trigger as well. This is why hypnosis for skin conditions can be so productive.

Hypnosis is effective for the treatment of dermatological conditions in three specific ways. Firstly, treatment of the root cause; secondly, remission of the symptom, and finally through treating the conditioned response to the symptom. It is very important to be aware of the very distressing effects which these types of condition have on the individual, and their sense of self. An initial consultation would consist of, among other things, finding out what the patient enjoys doing, and what they do to relax. This information is then fed back to the patient in hypnosis to establish biofeedback connections with positive associations. When talking about something we enjoy, we begin to come out of ourselves, and take our mind off things which are a concern. This demonstrates that there are times when the patient is not so aware of their problem, and this they do naturally by becoming occupied in something else. This is done also to establish that the symptom is not always constant, and therefore manipulable. One of the most important questions which the therapist must ask before treating the patient with hypnosis is to find out which of the three component parts of the problem, the cause; the symptom; or their reaction to the symptom is the thing which is of most concern to them. The emphasis here is on which element of the condition they wish to take control of first.

Control

With any condition with a psychogenic component, the patient suffers from feelings of being out of control and this is made worse by the visibility of the symptom. This visibility has social implications and can hold the patient back from forming the social bonds which in themselves can take them away from the problem, i.e. manipulate the symptom.

Stress

Stress increases the vulnerability of the autonomic nervous system and this has a direct effect on the epidermis. This increases the dermatological symptoms and sets the patient into an anxiety loop. The worse the external stress becomes, the more the autonomic nervous system reacts in response, the worse any dermatological reaction. One of the most effective ways the therapist can help in alleviating the symptom is to teach the patient self-hypnosis for stress reduction. This allows the patient to regain a level of control of certain autonomic functions of the system, such as breathing and regulation of the heart rate. This serves the twofold process. It demonstrates that autonomic functions can be manipulated using hypnosis, and by reducing the stress component of the problem, the symptom itself will reduce.

Treating the Trigger

There are two categories into which individuals with a problem fall. The first is those who need to know why they do something before they can move away from the problem, and those who feel they have already dealt with that aspect of the problem and simply require a remission of the symptoms. Those people who need to know why they have their problem require treatment involving analysis or regression. The aim of these techniques is to give an insight into the root cause of the problem. This work can be done in a context free manner, so it is not necessary in hypnotherapeutic treatment for the material to come to consciousness, only that the emotional content is released in a cathartic manner. The underlying principal is that the release of the emotional component will eradicate the need for the symptom. For those whose primary concern is the eradication of the problem, i.e. those who feel that the initiating reason for their condition is not relevant to them anymore, the trigger still needs to be dealt with. In these instances, dissociation techniques are often used. These techniques concentrate on a resolution or re-integration of a problem part – the part which caused the problem. With dermatological conditions which provoke a conditioned reflex such as scratching, the most distressing aspect for the individual is the feeling that they are scratching without any conscious awareness, such as in their sleep. The principal of dissociation brings back the part which scratches, and re-integrates it into the whole, therefore eradicating the need for the symptom, and bringing the trigger under conscious control.

Dealing with the symptom

As the symptom provoked can itself cause additional problems, such as poor self image, and a lack of confidence, this aspect is addressed through ego-strengthening techniques.

This reduces the stress and helps take the patient out of themselves, and away from focussing on the condition. As some dermatological conditions respond well to exposure to ultra violet light, creative visualisation in hypnosis can be used to take the patient to a warm beach, where they can safely experience the healing effects of the sun. If the patient is receptive to imagery, the same physiological and psychological changes will be produced as if they were actually experiencing it. Changes in skin pigmentation corresponding to sun exposure have been seen in this therapeutic application of visualisation. Finding out what the patient uses effectively to ease the symptom can also be fed back in hypnosis, and therefore amplified on the unconscious level at which the problem has been operating. A final aspect in dealing with the symptom in this type of hypnotherapeutic intervention is the generation of new, healthy skin. This can be done in one of two ways. Either the patient is asked to remember a time when their skin was healthy, i.e. a time before the condition occurred, or imagery is used of how they wish themselves to look when their skin is healthy.

Coping with the reaction to the symptom

In addition to the symptom itself, the conditioned response needs to be extinguished. Scratching or itching, which gave temporary relief to the patient from the condition, itself becomes a habit. Even when the trigger has been removed and the new dermatological response generated, the reaction still remains in place and must also be deconditioned. If this is not done, at any time in the future should the individual become stressed or their immune system depleted, the habit can resurface and cause an apparent re-occurrence of the symptom. Once the patient becomes aware that their skin condition is deteriorating, they begin to focus on that area, they become more stressed, and the pattern becomes a vicious circle until the condition starts afresh. The scratching or itching can be dealt with by hypno- desensitisation, a gradual process which weans the individual off the behaviour.

Glove anaesthesia

Glove anaesthesia is a hypnotic technique which can also be used in hypnosis to allow the patient to alter perception of sensitivity. A specific technique which uses suggestions of cold and numbness is used for dermatological conditions. This is used to produce vaso-constriction for a numbness or coolness to reduce sensitivity to the itch itself. This is done by teaching the patient how to produce analgesia in their hand. They are then taught how to transfer this lack of sensitivity/numbness or coldness to any part of the body they wish. This stage of the treatment reduces the physical need for the itching or scratching, and allows the skin to begin to heal until the habitual element of the behaviour is extinguished. In certain instances, warmth can be generated to produce vaso-dilation to increases the blood supply to the area where it is needed, and speed up the physical healing process.

Case study

A twenty-five-year-old female patient presented with severe eczema, particularly on her hands. Her condition occurred periodically over nine years and she had tried various treatments from steroid treatment to homeopathy.

When asked what her main concern with regard to the condition was at that moment in time, she responded that she was currently working on a high pressure project which she found particularly stressful.

Her primary concern was that she should be able to get through the project without the undue stress which caused her palpitations and trembling. In the first consultation

she was taught self-hypnosis which she was to practice every evening and whenever she felt the need during the day. This improved her ability to go into a hypnotic state, while also allowing her to take direct action to control her main area of concern. Once the project was completed, she returned to continue her treatment. She was aware of when the condition started and felt that this was no longer relevant to her. A dissociation technique was used to re-integrate the part which ‘took over’ when she scratched. This was done to bring the trigger back under conscious control. In a subsequent session, imagery of relaxing warm beaches was used, as she had stated that exposure to sunlight alleviated her symptom. As part of the post-hypnotic suggestion she was asked to look for changes in her skin condition, and to become as involved in her environment as possible.

The redness of the skin was by this time reducing, and she noticed that the more severe thickening of skin on her hands was also lessening. Continued use by the patient of self-hypnosis during this time, as well as positive ego-suggestions increased her ability to take control of herself, and she noted that her confidence was increasing in social situations. As the timescale and number of sessions was also under her control, she indicated that she felt confident to discontinue with the sessions and would continue to practice her self-hypnosis. At this stage it was suggested that should she wish to return in three months time, or if she felt the need to contact the therapist during that time, she could. This was done as a safety net proviso, and allowed the patient ongoing security should anything come up in that time. After four months the patient returned to show what she called her ‘new self’. The skin was healthy, and only the more severe areas around the finger joints still showed slight discolouration. The patient was happy with her progress and discussed all the things which she now felt confident to do.

Conclusion

Working with dermatological conditions is one of the most rewarding types of treatment in hypnosis. The changes which take place can be viewed directly, and as the condition improves, so confidence increases, and the patient gets into a positive mind set about themselves and their future. If you wish to undertake a course of hypnotherapy for dermatological conditions, go to your medical practitioner first to check that there is not a physiological basis for your condition.

 

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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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Hypnosis and the Mind-Skin Connection

In this remarkable article published by the Harvard Medical School, the way in which our skin often reflects our emotional state is explored.

Blushing is shown as an example of how this connection between our emotions and our skin exists.

This link has proven to be so strong that it has led to a new field of medicine, Psychodermatology, where both a physiological and a psychological approach is taken to addressing skin problems, often simultaneously: “Many skin problems clear up or improve with standard therapies, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and topical medications. The aim of psychodermatology is not to substitute psychotherapy for medicine, but rather to recognize that emotional issues may also be involved, especially when a skin condition resists conventional treatment. It’s important to evaluate and treat a skin problem medically before looking into its psychological aspects. But sometimes, a drug or other medical approach that doesn’t work on its own becomes more effective when combined with psychological strategies.”

The article also describes three psychotherapeutic techniques that have proven to be particularly useful in this field, beginning with Hypnosis, “The hypnotic state, involving focused concentration or awareness, can affect many physiological functions, including blood flow, pain sensation, and immune response. A trained hypnotist is not necessarily required; many people can successfully practice self-hypnosis through relaxation, meditation, or focused breathing techniques (see below). 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 pullingBelgian 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 dermatitisHypnosis 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.”

If you have a lingering or difficult to deal with skin condition, this article is well worth a read, and may help you to find a permanent solution. You can find it here.

 

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Hypnosis and Dermatology

In dermatology, hypnosis may help decrease pain and pruritus in the skin; intervene in psychosomatic aspects of skin diseases; and lead to the resolution of some skin diseases, including verruca vulgaris. Suggestion without formal trance induction may be effective in some cases. Sulzberger and Wolf reported on the use of suggestion to treat verrucae.

Hypnosis can regulate blood flow and other autonomic functions that are not usually under conscious control. The relaxation response that occurs with hypnosis also affects the neurohormonal systems that regulate many body functions. Studies on the influence of hypnosis on immediate immune responses have shown the ability of hypnotized volunteers to significantly decrease the flare reaction to the histamine prick test. Similarly, in one study, the effect of hypnotic suggestion on delayed cellular immune responses has shown significant effect on the size of erythema and on palpable induration but no significant effect in other studies.

A report by Braun on different allergic responses; dermatologic reactions; and effects on seizure disorders, pain control, and healing in the same individual with multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder) shows how much influence the mind can have on physiologic reactions and disease processes, depending on the personality present. The report also described the differences in physiologic responses and disease conditions for selected individuals under hypnosis compared with their normal waking state.

Hypnosis may be used to increase healthy behaviors, to decrease situational stress, to reduce needle phobias, to control harmful habits (eg, scratching), to provide immediate and long-term analgesia, to ameliorate symptoms related to diseases (eg, pruritus), to accelerate recovery from surgery, and to enhance the mind-body connection to promote healing. Hypnosis can be especially helpful in dealing with skin diseases that have a psychosomatic aspect. Griesemer, who was trained both in dermatology and in psychiatry, recorded the incidence of emotional triggering of dermatoses in his patients during 1 year in his practice. He developed an index for various skin diseases, with 100 indicating an absolute psychosomatic component and zero indicating no psychosomatic component to the skin disease.

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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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