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Nobody wants to feel uncomfortable in his or her own skin, but for some people this a literal and daily problem. The visibility of a skin condition can be rather frustrating for those affected and are often accompanied by discomfort caused by itching, burning or pain. When the affected skin is exposed in everyday life then this can lead to negative experiences which can lead to social insecurity, a constant anticipation of rejection, which can result in feelings of shame and anger. In fact skin problems and psychological problems often go hand in hand – studies suggest that at least one third of people suffering from a skin disorder also struggle with issues such as social anxiety and depression.
One of the common skin conditions is Psoriasis which is a debilitating; non-contagious and frequent skin disease. It is estimated that about 1.3–2.2% of the population in the UK suffer from it. Psoriasis can appear on any part of the body – even inside the ears – here is a list of the typical psoriasis symptoms:
Due to an involvement of the immune system in psoriasis the following conditions frequently co-exist:
Although in reality nobody has any clear idea of what causes psoriasis current research indicates that psoriasis is caused by faulty genetic programming that leads to immune cells attacking the skin (which causes inflammation and pain) and an overproduction of new skin cells, which leads to raised and scaly skin.
There is also a lot of evidence to show that psychological stressors can trigger the onset of the disease and further evidence that shows that psychological stress related or unrelated to the disease can exacerbate the symptoms.
There are some lifestyle risk factors that influence the severity and occurrence of psoriasis:
So how can Hypnotherapy help?
Adapting a new attitude towards stress and managing stress more effectively is part of most approaches to treat psoriasis. The advantage of this towards symptomatic relief – like steroid ointments and other application- is that it helps with any co-existing mental health, fatigue and immune functioning problems.
Stress can be managed and lifestyle choices can be made that affect your overall health. With hypnotherapy you can strengthen your will power and mental determination to do so.
A lot of people who suffer from psoriasis have anger management problems often stemming from feelings of self-loathing and as a defence mechanism, which may have built up over the years to enable them to cope with the stares, and comments they often receive from people.
Hypnotherapy can help them find self-acceptance, and calm the feelings of anger, which in its self can have the effect of calming down their psoriasis.
The ‘Contagious’ Itch
The good news is that people are very suggestible when it comes to itching. Have you ever experienced developing an itch whilst looking at the picture of insects, seeing somebody itching and scratching him or herself? Maybe even just simply just reading the words ‘fleas’, ‘ants’ and ‘lice’ might produce an itch in you right now. In fact I am not immune to this – I notice that while writing this section I have been itching about every minute.
You might wonder now how the increase in itching through suggestion can help people to reduce their itchiness. The answer is that once you can make something worse through suggestions (the so called nocebo effect) means that it can also get better through suggestion (the placebo effect!). And indeed, there is not only proof that shows that suggestions under hypnosis can increase and decrease the subjective experience of discomforts like itching and pain, tests have also shown that physical functions can be regulated this way. Meaning, the circulation and immune response can be modulated through hypnosis, which is due to the effect of relaxation, which is known to regulate inflammatory processes.
Often there is unconscious behaviour involved in exacerbating or maintaining a skin disease. Nightly scratching, or daily unconscious picking or touching of the damaged skin can do harm. Through hypnotherapy these bad habits can be addressed and suggestions under hypnosis and behavioural exercises can help to make these behaviours conscious and therefore give clients the opportunity of choice – to decide not to harass the damaged skin any more, but to let it rest and heal. Additionally can alternatives to the old behaviour be explored and learned – do you maybe pick your skin when in an uncomfortable social situation? Then you will not only learn to do something else with your hands instead but also become aware of your strengths to build your confidence.
Finally the learning of self-hypnosis and the practice of relaxation exercises such as mindfulness and yoga can help to empower psoriasis sufferers and helps them regain control over their health.
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