Tourette Syndrome and Hypnosis

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Tourette Syndrome
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If you have followed some of my earlier posts, my son and I have started on a new adventure in treating his Tourette Syndrome.  We recently have been seeing a doctor who specializing in hypnosis.  Since I was researching this technique, I thought I would share what I have found.

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder which is defined by multiple motor and vocal tics lasting for more than one year.  The disorder was named for a French neuropsychiatrist who successfully assessed the disorder in the late 1800’s.  Symptoms change periodically in number, frequency, type and severity–even disappearing for weeks or months at a time No definite cause has yet been established, but considerable evidence points to abnormal metabolism of at least one brain chemical called dopamine.   Estimates indicate that some 200,000 people in the United States are known to have the disorder.

Associated conditions can include attention problems (ADHD/ADD, impulsiveness (and oppositional defiant disorder), obsessional compulsive behavior, and learning disabilities.  There is usually a family history of tics, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD.  Tourette Syndrome and other tic disorders occur in all ethnic groups.  Males are affected 3 to 4 times more often than females.

While there is no cure, medications are available to help control its symptoms.  They include atypical neuroleptics, neuroleptics, anti-hyperactive drugs and anti-depressants. Unfortunately, there is no one medication that is helpful to all people with TS, nor does any medication completely eliminate symptoms.  In addition, all medications have side effects. Most neuroleptic side effects can be managed by initiating treatment slowly and reducing the dose when side effects occur. The most common side effects of neuroleptics include sedation, weight gain, and cognitive dulling.  Neurological side effects such as tremor, dystonic reactions (twisting movements or postures), parkinsonian-like symptoms, and other dyskinetic (involuntary) movements are less common and are readily managed with dose reduction. Discontinuing neuroleptics after long-term use must be done slowly to avoid rebound increases in tics and withdrawal dyskinesias. One form of withdrawal dyskinesia called tardive dyskinesia is a movement disorder distinct from TS that may result from the chronic use of neuroleptics. The risk of this side effect can be reduced by using lower doses of neuroleptics for shorter periods of time.

There are also non-drug therapies, such as hypnosis.  Stressful situations can make symptoms of Tourette Syndrome worsen. Tension and anxiety can also be attributed to worsening the symptoms. Hypnotherapy has been found to improve the symptoms of Tourette Syndrome. Hypnosis is a relaxed state of consciousness. This state allows people to be more open to suggestions. When these suggestions deal directly with their symptoms and anxiety, they are able to relax and make these suggestions a part of their life, thus reducing their symptoms. After a few sessions, people with Tourette Syndrome can dramatically improve their overall lifestyle.

During deep hypnosis the metabolism, breathing and heartbeat slow down, and the brain produces alpha-waves, which indicate deep relaxation and are also induced by meditation.  It is a state that most of us naturally drift in and out of during the course of a day: when we become engrossed in a task or a film, when we drive home on ‘automatic pilot’, when daydreaming.

Hypnotherapy itself can take several different forms. The most usual form is ‘suggestion hypnotherapy’, which aims to break patterns of thought and behaviour by means of positive suggestions and guided imagery.

A case study was conducted involving an adolescent male with Tourette Syndrome. He was referred to a hypnotherapist from his physician. The male had a total of 9 hypnosis sessions over a 6-month time period. The model used involved a 4-step treatment process including progressive relaxation, finger-tip temperature feedback using a biotic finger band,  and guided imagery. Immediately following treatment and at the 6-month follow-up, he reported minimal to non-existent symptoms. The hypnosis sessions had helped him reduce stress that triggered the symptoms and it helped him regain control of Tourette Syndrome.

Progressive relaxation is a method of deep muscle relaxation based on the premise that muscle tension is the body’s physiological response to anxiety-provoking thoughts and that muscle relaxation blocks anxiety.

Finger-tip temperature using a biotic finger band is a primary tool for general relaxation training.  The temperature feedback instrument shows when blood flow is increasing by showing an increase in finger temperature.  Because blood flow in the hands responds to stress and relaxation the client learns to relax by watching the rise and the fall of temperature.

Guided imagery is a gentle but powerful technique that focuses and directs the imagination. Imagery involves all of the senses, and almost anyone can do this. Neither is it strictly a “mental” activity it involves the whole body, the emotions and all the senses, and it is precisely this body-based focus that makes for its powerful impact.  Even though it can be considered a kind of meditation, it is easier for most westerners to use than traditional meditation, as it requires less time and discipline to develop a high level of skill. This is because it seduces the mind with appealing sensory images that have their own natural pull. And because it results in a kind of natural trance state, it can be considered a form of hypnosis as well.  Guided imagery works because of 3 very simple, common-sense principles:

  • To the body, images created in the mind can be almost as real as actual, external events.
  • In the altered state, we’re capable of more rapid and intense healing, growth, learning and performance.
  • When we have a sense of being in control, that, in and of itself, can help us to feel better and do better.

Research and studies have shown that hypnosis, relaxation techniques such as bio feedback, and guided imagery are helpful in reducing the symptoms of Tourette Syndrome. It can enable Tourette Syndrome sufferers to lead a more normal lifestyle with fewer tics and interruptions. Hypnosis also gives them more control.

Information provided by:

Tourette Syndrome Association

Learn more:

What is guided self imagery?

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