Young People With Tourette's Reduce Tics Through Self-Hypnosis, Researchers Say
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Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD
July 12, 2010 -- Self-hypnosis taught by using videotaped instruction may help children and adolescents control the tics that characterize Tourette's syndrome, a new study finds.
Researchers at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital and the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine enlisted 33 participants ages 6 to 19. After being taught self-hypnosis techniques aimed at reducing Tourette's symptoms, nearly all of the patients experienced a dramatic increase in tic control after only a few sessions, researchers say.
The study is published online in the July issue of the Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Self-Hypnosis for Tourette's Syndrome
The study participants were shown video clips of a young boy with Tourette's before, during, and after self-hypnosis training. Then each child or teen was taught self-hypnosis in individual sessions.
The participants were assigned to practice self-hypnosis techniques three times daily and also to answer questions designed to increase their awareness of tics and how they felt when experiencing them. All of the young people had motor tics, and three also had verbal tics in initial evaluations by experts.
Jeffrey Lazarus, MD, who is now in private practice in California specializing in hypnosis, says self-hypnosis helps people experience a state of mind that combines relaxation with concentration on a desired point of focus, pushing other thoughts or feelings into the background.
"Once the patient is in his or her highly focused special place, work is then done on controlling the tic," Lazarus says in a news release. "We ask the patient to imagine the feeling right before that tic occurs and to put up a stop sign in front of it, or to imagine a tic switch that can be turned on and off like a light switch."
Patients are also encouraged to conjure up their own images.
The researchers say that nearly all of the patients had significantly improved tic control after only a few sessions -- 12 after two sessions, 13 after three visits, and one after four.
Self-Hypnosis Treats Tourette's Without Drugs
This type of non-drug therapy to control tics is attractive because medications used to control Tourette's symptoms can be associated with negative side effects, the authors say.
Also, the researchers say that doctors are reluctant to prescribe drugs for mild or moderate tic disorders, which many kids outgrow anyway.
The use of videotape as a teaching aid presents several advantages, Lazarus says.
These include standardizing the way the method is taught, shortening the time required to teach self-hypnosis, and making the method more accessible to younger children. Tourette's syndrome afflicts an estimated 200,000 people in the United States. Symptoms generally show between the ages of 5 and 18.
"Viewing a series of videotapes of another patient gives patients the reassurance that they are not the only ones in the world with this problem, and it gives them hope and the motivation that they can take control of their bodies and life challenges," Lazarus says.
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Lazarus, J. Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, published online July 2010.
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