Allergies and Psychotherapy

Christopher Morgan Locke BMHEB D.Hyp, is a consultant hypnotherapist and addiction and trauma therapist. Here he shares his thoughts on the benefits of psychotherapy on allergic conditions

I first became interested in the treatment of allergies when I noticed on several occasions, whilst helping patients process past traumas or resolve a phobic response, they reported that the treatment had also resolved an allergy. After some research I found that many colleagues could also recount occasions where psychotherapy had also resulted in the resolution of an allergy.

Modern science has taught us a great deal about allergies but we still do not know why an increasing number of people have this totally illogical reaction to everyday substances such as pollen, cat hairs and a variety of harmless foods. Medical practitioners tend to split up sufferers into the nearest pre-existing medical specialisation: migraines are referred to a neurologist who may not be trained in immunology; joint problems will be sent to a rheumatologist; a food intolerance will be referred to a gastroenterologist etc.

While these presenting symptoms could be caused by other medical conditions which need to be eliminated, once this is done the patent should be referred to a allergy specialist who can approach their condition from a more holistic point of view. But chances of being referred to a specialist in clinical hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming, or trauma therapy are remote and, at best only as a last resort referral.

Once taken lightly, clinical hypnosis has now become a legitimate and effective medical tool. The use of hypnotherapy for skin rashes, headaches and asthma is widely known as it is a particularly effective treatment for stress and past trauma. In these and many other medical conditions it is known that stress can be a trigger or, as some now believe, may be the root cause.

There are many cases where the onset of such conditions have been linked to a specific traumatic event such as childbirth, bereavement, a car crash or an assault. The medical treatments for such conditions tend to be mainly reactive to an attack or preventative by avoiding the antagonist. Unfortunately little is done to establish a root cause other than eliminating organic illness. Psychotherapy is rarely considered.

It is hardly surprising that the hard pressed GP is often forced to turned to quick fixes which alleviate annoying symptoms but do not determine root causes. In such cases clinical hypnosis can help in several ways.

The usual diagnostic regression, which allows the unconscious mind to indicate if a past event is playing a part in a current condition, can be enormously helpful in identifying the true cause of any illness, after which there are a number of techniques that can be used to help resolve the problem. Even if a root cause is not found hypnotherapy is extremely effective as a coping strategy. It can lessen itching, ease breathing and deal with the panic response that allergic reactions can trigger. With food intolerance it can be used to make it easier for the patient to avoid eating the troublesome foods especially when they are drawn to them.

What is most interesting is, when after a course of hypnosis, the allergic condition disappears completely. The reason for this is not known and regrettably there is little research in the area. Most funding for medical research comes from the drug companies and is no surprise if there is no drug or lotion to sell, no money is forthcoming for research.

As any hypnotherapist knows it is quite easy to introduce an imaginary antagonist whilst in the trance state and bring on a full attack with sneezing, runny nose, wheezing and even vomiting. You can do this by getting a hay fever sufferer to imagine walking through a pollen laden meadow or a food intolerant patient to imagine eating problem food. This reaction which can be switched on so easily, can also be switched off almost as quickly. This may be a result of what is called ‘state dependent memory’ but what defies medical knowledge is that on some occasions the allergy does not return.

The use of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) has also made some headway in this area. In the case of food allergies the therapist will identify a similar food which does not cause a reaction and will then, through a form of hypnosis, psychologically fuse that with the problem food. Once again, defying medical knowledge, on many occasions the allergy is resolved. A hypnotherapist may systematically desensitise the patient to the antagonist, which for many will reduce the reaction considerably and for some alleviate it completely.

Those wishing to pursue this route should only consult a therapist who is properly trained in medical hypnosis and not a practitioner who has only done a few days' training. The British Medical Hypnotheraphy Examination Board is an independent board run by a board of NHS psychiatristis led by a professor of psychiatry. They offer what has now become the highest lay practitioner qualification in clinical hypnosis in the UK and therapists will have BMHEB .Hyp after their names. They will be registered and probably will have NHS provider approval as well.

You can contact Chris on 020 7223 9200

First published in 1999

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