Two blogs ago I looked at the issue of medically unexplained symptoms. Linked to this is the issue of pain. Pain can, of course, be caused by structural damage (such as a broken bone). Often it has a psychological basis – there is no physical reason; it is driven by emotions. The jargon for this kind of pain is tension myoneural syndrome or TMS.
This raises two important issues for the person experiencing pain: the need to rule out a physical cause (so do consult your GP) and then to accept the diagnosis. For many, dealing with a diagnosis of TMS is extremely challenging – because it often strikes people who feel emotionally well and who, because of the way they feel, are convinced that the pain has a physiological cause. Furthermore, research shows that people with TMS focus so much on the physical pain that it stops them from focusing on the psychological pain. In effect, the pain is a way of drawing their attention away from their difficult emotions. It’s not that different from people who comfort-eat when angry – the eating distracts them from their anger, but a long-term solution is to work out the cause of the anger and how to manage it.
So, in answer to the question in the heading of this blog: no, pain caused by TMS is not all in the mind. The pain is real. Nor is its strength an indication of the severity of the emotional cause. We all respond differently and the real issue is the effect of the pain – whether intensely strong, stabbingly intermittent or nagging away in the background – on you.
If an inexplicable pain is affecting your life, psychotherapeutic treatment could well sweep it away by helping you understand and deal with its emotional cause.
15/09/2010 | Posted in Psychotherapy,
Recent studies have revealed that between one in six and one in three people in the UK consults their GP about what turns out to be medically unexplained symptoms – symptoms that are either not related to an illness or are unusually exaggerated for that illness. The majority of those symptoms has a psychological foundation, though the cause can often be missed.
Take, for example, the case of a woman (let’s call her Sarah) who comforted her aunt through her last days and was with her when she died. Several months later, Sarah began to feel out of sorts. She slept badly, largely because she repeatedly woke to find her left arm a leaden weight, cold and without feeling but causing pain including inside her chest. Worried, she imagined this was a sign of a heart problem and booked an appointment with her GP.
Tests showed no signs of a heart condition but a few questions revealed that Sarah had been unexpectedly affected by her aunt’s death – and she recalled that her aunt had died, from lung cancer, while lying on her left side with Sarah holding her left hand. The GP was reluctant to prescribe sleeping pills – sleeplessness was not the symptom that needed treatment. Instead, he referred Sarah to a psychotherapist where she talked through her aunt’s death and other stresses; the symptoms ceased.
Medically unexplained symptoms can affect all parts of the body and in various ways. About a third of them are musculoskeletal (including but not only back pain), roughly a fifth are abdominal (such as digestive problems), a smaller proportion has ear, nose or throat problems, others experience fatigue, dizziness or simply don’t feel right. Some symptoms can be extreme, such as paralysis or blindness; others are less severe.
Common experiences include people with depression who feel pain more intensely and people with asthma whose asthmatic attacks increase when they are under stress – but there are no hard and fast rules; symptoms and their severity vary from person to person.
We don’t know how the mind, brain or body turns the psychological into the physical; the fact is that it does – and we’ve known this for millennia. The solution is to consider whether the symptoms might be triggered by an underlying emotional cause and, if so, to seek psychological support. [Source: Therapy Today]
01/09/2010 | Posted in Psychotherapy,
In an earlier article, we discussed how hypnotherapy can be used to help those who wish to improve their performance in the gym, on the field in their chosen area of sport or even in the workplace. Here are just a few of the benefits that you can get from practising hypnosis, either with a hypnotherapist or, after a few sessions, with your own self hypnosis techniques:
- relaxation: this is the first point that many people make when they have had their first hypnosis session, how relaxing they found it and how nice they felt afterwards. Hypnosis is a very relaxing feeling, however, it doesn’t end there. When it comes to the area of sport, an athlete will have nerves. These feelings of nerves can be good to a certain point but they can work against you.
- visualisation: perhaps surprisingly, visualising yourself achieving your goal, working harder or better and getting what you want makes a big difference between an average and better-than-average performance in any area. By picturing something, you are making that image more powerful and life-like and hypnosis can intensify this image much more than we can in our conscious mind alone.
- improving performance: the one we all want. It has been shown that hypnosis can help control pain and most athletes are familiar with ‘getting in the zone’ and that sports performance is as much about mental willpower as it is about the physical aspect. Our best performances happen when our mind and body are in sync and hypnosis can help with that.
18/02/2009 | Posted in Hypnotherapy,
Every pregnant woman wants a comfortable birth, swift recovery and a healthy baby - and many consider hypno-birthing. Here are the main ways that hypno-birthing can help with childbirth:
- relaxation – hypnotherapy will help the woman to relax and this gives greater bloodflow to the womb which helps birth.
- overcome fear – pregnant women hear a lot of horror stories about what can happen and this can cause increasing anxiety. Fear can really change a birth as it causes tension, restricts blood flow and hence increases pain; so hypnosis can help a woman to stop being so fearful and have a more natural birth.
- relaxes the baby – if mum is relaxed so is baby; on the other side of the coin, a tense mother releases adrenalin and hormones into her blood stream which distresses the baby - and, if the baby is distressed, medical staff are more likely to intervene.
- postnatal recovery – if mum is relaxed and blood flow is increased, then the blood flow will help tissue recovery and give a good milk supply; stress is known to restrict milk production so a mother who has had hypnotherapy has a headstart.
Hypno-birthing is becoming more popular with women having weekly sessions leading up to the birth.
06/11/2008 | Posted in Hypnotherapy, Hypno-birthing,
A common problem with surgery is the pain we feel afterwards. Recovering from surgery can be painful and take some time. Other side effects could include infection or bleeding.
A hypnotherapy study was published in the Anesthesa & Analgesia journal in 2002 to determine if hypnotherapy could play a role in handling the side effects from surgery. It talked about how past research had only focused on the pain element but this study looked at how the hypnotherapy was given and whether it could help with other side effects. It involved researchers analysing results from 20 studies, all of which were controlled and all of which used hypnosis with patients having surgery. It concluded that hypnotherapy was very effective at treating post-surgery side effects and, from all the 20 studies, those who received hypnosis had a better outcome after surgery than 89 per cent of those in the control group that did not have hypnotherapy.
The study concluded that hypnotherapy is beneficial when it comes to helping people deal with post-surgical side effects and their healing and the researchers involved in the study were said to
“strongly support the use of hypnosis with surgical patients”.
10/10/2008 | Posted in Hypnotherapy,
The findings of a study from Bangor University were presented on 11th September 2009 to The British Psychological Society's division of health psychology annual conference. It stated that people suffering from arthritis can alleviate their pain by using hypnotherapy and mental imagery.
Rheumatoid arthritis is progressive and a disabling disease affecting just under one per cent of the adult population in the UK. It is very painful and can affect a person’s ability to do everyday tasks. Despite medical treatment, many still suffer with high pain levels and often turn to alternative treatment - including hypnotherapy - to lessen their fatigue and pain.
The study from Bryan Bennett and colleagues at Bangor University asked 42 patients to visualise their pain and attempt to manage it. The results showed that the imagery techniques and hypnosis were effective at reducing pain and tiredness. Bryan Bennett commented:
"All the participants were asked to identify what areas of their life were important to them but were negatively affected due to the rheumatoid arthritis. By doing so they were taking an active part in their own therapy. By employing the techniques they were taught, they were able to self-treat when necessary - allowing them to control their pain and enabling them to get on with enjoying life".
Pain is not the only side-effect of arthritis. The diagnosis itself can be devastating, leading to people feeling many negative emotions such as anger and depression. This in turn can lead to insomnia, mood issues and a lack of appetite. Furthermore, many wonder what their future may be like, and what medication they'll require, and this can lead to losing the self-image they have held of themselves.
Techniques such as visualisation and positive affirmations are effective, as is self-hypnosis as it helps to focus your mind on your body and immune system. A good hypnotherapist will be able to teach you self hypnosis techiques so you can then continue to use it at home.
17/09/2008 | Posted in Hypnotherapy,
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, otherwise known as CBT, is a type of psychotherapy. According to a recent study reported in Reuters, it seemed to improve the quality of sleep in dialysis patients. CBT is a non-drug therapy and the investigators from the study said that it seemed to be quite effective with dialysis patients suffering from sleep problems. Dialysis is the procedure to remove toxins from the bloodstream when a person’s kidneys are failing to do it sufficiently for them.
According to the study chief, Dr. Hung-Yuan Chen from National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, told Reuters: “Sleep disturbance in dialysis patients is a "puzzling and prevalent complaint. However, only hypnotics are available for clinicians to solve this problem at present".
CBT has proved effective in the past for insomnia in the elderly and also cancer patients and those with chronic pain. The study included 24 patients, with 14 randomised to have one hour per week in a psychiatrist-led CBT session. Almost 80 per cent in the CBT group had improved changes in sleep patterns, and also had a decline in a blood protein called interleukin-1-beta, which has been linked to inflammation. The results after four weeks, although impressive, were not statistically significant according to the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.
15/09/2008 | Posted in CBT,
IBS, otherwise known as irritable bowel syndrome, can cause serious problems for sufferers who want to get on with their daily life. It can give bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation or flatulence. Around 15 per cent of the UK population is affected, although only half tend to seek medical help.
As we accept more and more, the mind and body are intricately connected - and the gut even more so, as there are more nerve cells in our intestines than in our nervous system. IBS sufferers can testify that emotional upsets aggravate the condition and so learning to minimise stress can help them; emotional retraining can help to control it. Early studies from a small number of specialists have indicated that the mind-body approach is more effective than each singularly.
Psychotherapy and hypnotherapy have both been shown to contribute to controlling the condition and relieving the symptoms. In hypnotherapy, patients usually visualise their colon functioning properly. In cognitive behavioural therapy, or short term psychotherapy, patients can change their symptom-provoking thoughts, such as thinking that a certain situation will cause their symptoms to reappear or thinking that their colon will always cause them problems.
In a UK study of 204 patients, where over two thirds of patients were helped with hypnosis, 81 per cent maintained their improvements for up to six years afterwards. Stress reduction or relaxation techniques have proved just as helpful as avoiding certain foods.
05/09/2008 | Posted in CBT, Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy,
The different uses for hypnotherapy seem to be expanding every year, and we seem constantly to discover new ways of using hypnosis. Hypnosis as an alternative therapy is still new and not entirely understood, even by those who use it every day, because it deals with our minds. Our minds have always been an enigma even to ourselves, we still know so little about our unconscious mind.
The exposure of hypnotherapy seems to be increasing even more this year, as celebrities such as Chris Martin, Nicole Richie, Lily Allen and more have been hitting the headlines with hypnosis this year. People have also seen it in use on Celebrity Fat Club and Paul McKenna has now moved to LA to promote work over there.
Many people may be intrigued by hypnosis, but still wonder what it can do for them so here is a short selection:
- get rid of old habits: things like smoking, nailbiting, overeating, drinking, blushing or any other habit that we want to stop. With hypnosis, there are no drugs or side effects, just positive results;
- phobias: this isn't just creepy crawlies but also fear of dogs, needles, flying, dentists, claustrophobia, agoraphobia, water and many more;
- develop new habits: hypnosis can help you instill new habits like increasing confidence, motivation and public speaking as well as healthy eating, studying, networking, talking, even romance!
- pain management: this is a media-grabbing one. Hypnosis can be used to help stop pain, but is almost too effective. It has even been used in surgery or childbirth as an alternative to anaesthesia. It is very important to seek medical advice before using hypnosis to remove pain as pain shouldn't be removed without ensuring if there is a physical problem that needs resolving first.
Another benefit of hypnosis is that you can use self-hypnosis to reinforce benefits yourself, ask your hypnotherapist to teach you.
12/08/2008 | Posted in Hypnotherapy,
Earlier this month, country music star Adam Harvey had his fans on the edge of their seats during his Australian tour. He and his support act, Catherine Britt, performed an unforgettable show in Melbourne, leaving everybody wanting more. Harvey took the centre stage, entertaining his audience from the moment he started singing, with the whole theatre singing and dancing along with him. Both singers joined together to perform the finale songs, ending the show on a high.
Afterwards, in an interview with the Star newspaper, many were surprised to hear that Harvey had, for many years, suffered from nerves which reached an unbearable peak when he started supporting artists like Gina Jeffreys and Kasey Chambers about 10 years ago. Harvey decided to go for hypnotherapy and said that, since then, he has not suffered from nerves at all. Harvey said:
"I enjoy being close to the audience. For a performer, it’s a relaxing feeling. I ended up having hypnotherapy and ever since then, I’ve never felt nervous."Since then, Harvey has gone on to become a six time Golden Guitar winner and nerves have not been a problem.
15/07/2008 | Posted in Hypnotherapy,