Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday News Roundup

Using Hypnosis to Treat Dyspepsia

Dyspepsia is a common disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. The major symptom of this disorder is upper abdominal pain. There appears to be no known type of disease that underlies the disorder. Hypnosis has already been shown by several research studies to be effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, which often overlaps with dyspepsia. A recent study of 126 participants looked at the effects of hypnosis on patients with this disorder. In the study, participants received either hypnotherapy or supportive therapy and either placebo or medical treatment. The symptoms of dyspepsia were  analyzed before the treatment began, after the 16-week treatment, and during the 56-week follow-up. The results indicated that the hypnotherapy group saw more short term improvement (16 weeks) compared to the therapy and medication groups. IN the long term, hypnotherapy group showed significant improved symptoms (73% reporting improvement compared to 43% in the medicine group and 34% of the therapy group).

Curious about hypnotherapy? Check out my web page for a brief discussion of clinical hypnosis, post a comment here for discussion, or send me an e-mail.

The Americanization of Mental Illness

A recent New York Times magazine article discussed the Americanization of Mental Illness. In a statement that I found particular stunning, the article wrote that for many years we have "been busily engaged in a grande project of Americanizing the world's understanding of mental health and illness. We may indeed be far along in homogenizing the way the world goes mad." It's common sense, I think, to notice that concepts of mental illness are not understood the same across the entire world. An example from the article is polio. Polio is polio, no matter where it occurs. Is depression, however, the same in the United States as it is in Uganda, or New Guinea, or elsewhere?

I liked the idea of cultures possessing a symptom repertoire, which was discussed in the article. Different cultures across the world--and different cultures across time--have a different repertoire of symptoms that express a range of psychological conflicts. This notion is in significant contrast with modern psychiatry and psychology which "aggressively spread our modern knowledge of mental illness around the world." The end result is that our modern Western symptom repertoire is being exported around the word with the "speed of contagious diseases."

I'm not so sure this is a good thing. What gets missed, the article points out, is a "deep understanding of how the expectations and beliefs of the sufferer shape their suffering." What's stunning to me is that a deep understanding of how someone changes, heals, or grows is also lost. I'm going to be thinking a lot about this over the next few months. I hope you do, too.

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