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Case Study Issue 73 - Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

by Carol Squire(more info)

listed in case studies, originally published in issue 73 - February 2002

Elizabeth presented with various problems. At the initial consultation, she complained of feeling stressed, lacking in energy, and mild depression. Although extremely tired, she was sleeping badly, waking at about five in the morning. Aged thirty, and unattached, she still lived in the parental home and worked as a medical secretary in a busy hospital. Unhappy at work, she often felt that everything was "spiralling out of control".

An only child, Elizabeth was adopted at six weeks old. Her parents were strict disciplinarians, who still tried to control her life and had a strong influence over her. Intelligent, musical and highly creative as a child, she had wanted to study art and music, but succumbed to her parents' wishes by studying subjects that they felt provided better career prospects.

Although experiencing quite a privileged upbringing in the material sense, Elizabeth had always felt that her achievements were never good enough, and that she suffered constant unwarranted criticism from her parents. She had also recently begun a search to find her birth mother, and this was causing a tremendous amount of friction at home, as her parents disapproved. Her GP suggested prescribing mild anti-depressants, but Elizabeth preferred to try an alternative solution to help solve her problems.

As we talked, she was quite hesitant, saying that she usually preferred to find her own solutions to difficulties, and wasn't very good at 'opening up' to anyone. She also found the prospect of hypnotherapy quite daunting, and was rather nervous about losing control.

However, she soon relaxed and what emerged was a picture of a rather isolated and lonely person, who, although essentially emotional and tactile, had been encouraged to repress her emotions - in fact someone who was punished severely as a child for very minor incidents, and was discouraged from crying.

At the next session we began some gentle relaxation (I preferred to introduce hypnotherapy sessions gradually, to try to alleviate any nervousness).

Using appropriate music as part of my sessions, I also like to tape the relaxation, as clients can continue to benefit from using the tape between appointments. Beginning with some standard relaxation techniques, and then some simple visualization using healing colours, Elizabeth was asked to find a colour appropriate to her, to imagine breathing in that colour, allowing it to be absorbed into the body; then to imagine that colour soothing, healing and releasing tensions and stress, thus helping her to become very relaxed.

Elizabeth enjoyed the session and also using the tape at home, and by the fourth appointment was beginning to feel much better and was looking forward to our weekly meeting. It was during our conversation at the beginning of the session that she suddenly remarked, as a complete aside, that her irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) was much better too. I was extremely surprised as I had no idea that Elizabeth suffered with IBS, even though she had mentioned seeing her GP when I had asked if there was anything medically wrong at her initial consultation.

IBS is a painful condition, with symptoms including mild to severe abdominal pain, excessive flatulence, frequent stools, heartburn and bloating, and can be extremely incapacitating. It had been diagnosed by her GP, who had tried treating it with various forms of medication, but with very little success. Elizabeth often avoided going out, because much to her dismay she could not always control her bowel and was often in extreme pain. When questioned why she had not mentioned it before, she replied that she was completely embarrassed by the condition and wasn't certain that it was relevant; however, she had already noticed a definite improvement in her IBS since she had been having hypnotherapy.

We decided that we would try to target the problem specifically during our sessions, and she was now sufficiently confident to allow a deeper form of relaxation (or trance state).

Once deeply relaxed, I asked her to imagine that she was watching some very turbulent water - she replied that she was on board a ship, and that the sea was very rough. I asked her to visualize the sea becoming very calm, as the ship turned into a sheltered inlet, and to imagine the golden warmth of the sun soothing and penetrating her abdomen; to feel warmth flowing through her system, like liquid gold, relaxing and calming any churning and smoothing away the pain.

Displaying signs of agitation for a while, she visibly began to calm down as the session progressed. I gradually brought her back to normal consciousness, and with tears streaming down her face she said that she had recalled a childhood incident that had occurred at school. She was about six years old, and had always as a child suffered what her mother called a 'nervous stomach'. Too frightened to ask to be excused, she had had an embarrassing accident. Sent home from school, her mother had punished her and, mortified, she had totally blanked out any memory of the incident. She recalled the fear and humiliation, which she subconsciously must have carried all her life. This was not an easy moment for Elizabeth, as this abreaction had occurred quite spontaneously.

As the treatment continued, Elizabeth was looking and feeling much better, and continued to use the relaxation tapes between sessions.

Finding that by using the relaxation techniques her system became much calmer, she was much more confident and was now sleeping very well. She also decided to make some radical lifestyle changes, which included moving out of the parental home and changing her career.

The IBS eventually disappeared completely, although I still see her from time to time for the occasional 'top up' session.

What is of particular interest with this case is that, even before I was aware of Elizabeth's IBS, hypnotherapy was having such positive results. I have used it to great effect many times since to help alleviate this painful and embarrassing condition.


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About Carol Squire

Carol Squire successfully practised for many years as a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and healer, operating from her own practice in Skipton, North Yorkshire, and her home in Barnoldswick, Lancashire. A licentiate member of the National Council of Psychotherapists, a member of the National Council of Hypnotherapists, and a Member of the European Studies Institute, Carol is a graduate of the University of Central Lancashire with a BSc(Hons) in Health Sciences for Complementary Medicine. She is currently developing her interest in writing, which will hopefully reflect her knowledge of complementary therapies, and she can be contacted on Tel: 01282 815354;

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