Research suggests hypnotherapy is a highly valuable tool for treating gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and abdominal pain conditions in children. Interestingly, home-based self-hypnotherapy is equally effective as individual-hypnotherapy provided by therapists.
Thirteen percent of children around the world suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional abdominal pain syndromes (FAPS). IBS and FAPS produce symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain and diarrhoea by disturbing the large intestine. The difference between the two conditions is that, FAPS produces pain in addition to the other symptoms, whereas IBS does not. Children diagnosed with these gut conditions require long term management and treatment to control symptoms. Treatment plans usually consist of dietary advice, education, and pain-relief medication. In addition to these conventional treatment measures, hypnotherapy (HT) has been shown to provide relief for up to 5 years after treatment.
HT is the method of taking a patient into hypnosis, with the objective of forming new feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. This method of treatment has been shown to provide relief to children where other symptomatic treatment has failed. Due to costs associated with individual therapy, the availability of appropriate paediatric therapists, and increased wait times for appointments, the accessibility of hypnotherapy is limited.
A study published in JAMA Paediatrics investigated the efficacy of home-based hypnotherapy for IBS and FAPS in 260 children from tertiary, and secondary care centres in the Netherlands. The children were followed-up for one year after treatment. From July 15, 2011 through June 24, 2013, 260 children were allocated at random to receive either home-based HT with a CD (CD group) or individual hypnotherapy performed by qualified therapists (iHT group). The CD group was instructed to perform the exercise 5 times a week for a duration of 3 months, whereas the iHT group met with a counsellor for 6 sessions in 3 months.
Results of the study showed that home-based self-HT is just as effective as individual therapy provided by therapists. It provides an equally significant decrease in pain scores and improved negative beliefs surrounding pain. Significant improvements in anxiety and depression are also documented. Even though home based self-hypnotherapy treatment demonstrates positive results, it remains inaccessible. The increase in accessibility through home-therapy via the use of a CD, would, in turn, reduce wait-times for appointments with a child’s paediatrician, decrease the need for more personnel, and lower personal costs. These advantages form a good rationale for measures to be taken to incorporate hypnotherapy into the national guidelines for the treatment of IBS and FAPS in children.
Written By: Dr. Apollina Sharma, MBBS, GradDip EXMD