Stress-related Illness

Most of the disorders that responds well to hypnotherapy are related to stress. Stressors are numerous and varied in our environment. Some are current while others are related to experiences earlier in an individual's life. These experiences vary from major life events such as death of a spouse or family member, a divorce, relocation and retirement to low-severity situations such as a holiday, change in eating habits, or change in sleep pattern. Not all stressors come from major life events. Many daily hassles can be stressful to the individual, e.g. health of a family member, concerns about body weight and shape, rising prices of everyday goods, misplacing objects, busy work schedules etc.

Many individuals cope with stress by using strategies such as overeating and smoking but these are not necessarily effective measures. If the stress continues serious psychosomatic problems evolve and are often accompanied by increased cardiovascular morbidity.

Stress-related illness can be a result of behavioural or physiological change. Often health behaviours that are affected include smoking, alcoholism, changes in diet, unsafe sexual practices and drug abuse. Illness may also be caused by stress through physiological pathways. Examples are: (i) increase in gastric acid secretion resulting in peptic ulcers (ii) increased catecholamines production and clotting tendencies with increased risk of heart attack, kidney disease and stroke (iii) increase in corticosteroids leading to arthritis and a lowering of the immune system.

When individuals experience stress, there is an initial tendency to become stoic, because a stoical approach is often considered a constructive approach to personal stress management. Hypnosis as a clinical intervention may come in useful because it assists the patient to realistically appraise his daily hassles and help him to deal with the stress by techniques such as relaxation, ego-strengthening, reframing or cognitive restructuring. Hypnosis can also help the patient to identify the stressors deal with the longer-term effects of chronic stress e.g. psychosomatic problems, alcoholism, obesity, smoking, etc.

In general the hypnotherapist makes the assumption that the patient has inner resources for change and transformation. These resources include creativity and a potential for healing. Hypnosis is required for these resources to be accessed. The most common hypnotherapeutic methods used for stress management are those of relaxation, ego-strengthening, suggestion and reframing. In particular relaxation is very easily taught to patients and very useful for a variety of anxiety and stress disorders.