Applying Hypnosis in Dermatology

Philip D. Shenefelt


Dermatology Nursing. 2003;15(6) 

In This Article

Single or Few Case Reports

Hollander (1959) reported success in two cases in controlling acne excoriee by using posthypnotic suggestion. Under hypnosis, the patient was instructed to remember the word "scar" whenever she wanted to pick her face and to refrain from picking by saying "scar" instead. It was the excoriations that resolved, not the underlying acne. Shenefelt had similar success in one case. Hypnosis may be an appropriate primary alternative treatment for the excoriation aspect of acne excoriee, with standard acne treatments for the acneiform aspects.

Gupta, Gupta, and Watteel (1997) found a very strong correlation between high-stress reactivity and depression (p<0.001) in patients with alopecia areata. Hypnosis can be used to teach patients how to control high-stress reactivity. Although there are anecdotal reports of hypnotherapy improving alopecia areata, a small clinical trial by Harrison and Stepanek (1991) of medical hypnotherapy in five patients having extensive alopecia areata showed significant increase in hair growth in only one patient. Three patients had slight increase in hair growth and one had no change. The hypnosis did improve psychological parameters in these five patients. It appears that hypnosis may be more appropriate as a complementary therapy rather than as a primary alternative treatment method for alopecia areata.

Reduction in severity of dyshidrotic dermatitis has been reported with the use of hypnosis by Tobia (1982) as a complementary treatment. Greisemer's data (1978) indicate a significant psychosomatic component for dyshidrosis, so hypnosis may be useful as a complementary therapy.

Ameliorization of discomfort from herpes simplex eruptions is similar to that for postherpetic neuralgia (see below). Reduction in the frequency of recurrences of herpes simplex following hypnosis has also been reported by Bertolino (1983). In cases with an apparent emotional trigger factor, hypnotic suggestion may be useful as a complementary therapy for reducing the frequency of recurrence.

Hypnosis or autogenic training may be useful as adjunctive therapies for hyperhidrosis, as noted by Hoelzle (1994).

Both the pruritus and the lesions may be reduced in selected cases using hypnosis as a complementary therapy for lichen planus, according to Scott (1960).

Several cases of neurodermatitis have resolved using hypnosis as an alternative therapy, for example as reported by Lehman (1978). The neurodermatitis stayed resolved with up to 4 years of followup. Hypnosis may be useful as a complementary or even alternative therapy for neurodermatitis.

Reduction of pruritus and resolution of lesions has been reported by Scott (1960) with use of hypnotic suggestion as complementary therapy for nummular dermatitis.

The pain of acute herpes zoster and of postherpetic neuralgia can be reduced by hypnosis, according to Scott (1960). Hypnosis may have a place as a complementary therapy for postherpetic neuralgia.

The intensity of pruritus may be modified and improved by hypnosis, according to Scott (1960). Hypnosis may be used as a complementary therapy for intractable pruritus.

Improvement of rosacea, especially the vascular blush component, has been reported by Scott (1960) in selected cases of resistant rosacea where hypnosis was added as a complementary therapy.


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