Case Studies Using Hypnotism To Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Case Studies Using Hypnotism To Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Dealing With Extreme Fatigue


Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as CFS, is branded by chronic and disabling mental and physical fatigue that are medically unexplained. There is a growing proof of anomalies, but the contribution of psychological factors in its origin and chronicity should also be acknowledged.


The sufferer ascribes the myalgia and fatigue which perseveres beyond an initial infectious occurrence to a continuing viral infection, and construes them as showing that activity hampers recovery. A rancorous circle is established in which depression and the perpetuation of symptoms come up as a result of avoidance of activity.


This notion has inspired the use of hypnotherapy to augment exercise in graded phases by inducing an attitude that is more positive towards activity. This happens to be an approach to combat chronic fatigue syndrome causes that has been met with results that are encouraging.


Nevertheless, it would seem wrong to entirely qualify chronic fatigue syndrome to sufferers’ illness attributions and inactivity, if only because there are sufferers who are working part-time and are moderately active.


This type of model has difficulty clearing up why the symptoms are unstable within a day or over a longer period of time. Additionally, a lot of sufferers also have the belief that exercise, even when it is carefully controlled, will make them ill, so they prolong the complaint. They refuse to think about any therapy like this.


In light of the controversy over chronic fatigue syndrome, and the resistance of some sufferers to increased physical effort, a decision to encourage direct cognitive control over myalgia and fatigue that made up an important feature of the syndrome was made.


Prominently, a control like this should help break the rancorous cycle of inactivity, fatigue, and depression as described by Wessely.


For this reason, hypnosis was chosen; mainly because of its success in the perception of muscular effort and the control of pain. Other benefits derived from hypnosis include the rate at which experiential control can be created.


Furthermore, posthypnotic proposals can be given in order to control myalgia and fatigue, increased well-being, regular practice of prescribed techniques and effective coping. Below are some cases in which hypnosis was used in the hope of removing CFS.


Adrenal Fatigue Treatment


The patient in this case study led an outdoor life that was very active.  Once he became ill, he was diagnosed with severe joint and muscle pains, and complete exhaustion. Chronic fatigue syndrome was diagnosed. He was discharged from hospital after ten weeks of absolute rest with no improvement in his condition.


When he was first brought in, he was in a much-debilitated state. He was avoiding light and sound. Despite the fact that he was reluctant to make any mental or physical effort, he could solve mental arithmetic tasks very well for short periods of time.


He also had high scores on both delayed and immediate tests of verbal and visual memory, but his performance on a test of logical reasoning was very poor.


Hypnotic induction had to do with progressive muscular relaxation using imagery to achieve going deeper. This patient was a good subject for hypnosis. The intervention had four components;

  1. Involve the patient and his wife in the process of recovery and assessment.
  2. Control sensations of myalgia and fatigue
  3. Improve mental activity by envisioning scenes of enjoyable activity, both remembered and fantasy.
  4. Enable patient to gain control without the use of hypnosis.


In numbers 2 and 3, the use of hypnosis was employed. For component number 1, the subject kept a daily diary with the help of his wife. Also included were an eight-item vitality and mood scale. There were also spaces for comments on events that happened daily, and achievements, like when he has experienced success with the techniques that was introduced.


The patient also recorded positive symptoms and thoughts. In order to help understand hypnosis, he readily accepted a consonance based loosely on the dissociation theory of Hilgard. According to the theory of Hilgard, attention can be moved away from the feelings of pain, and the exertion of the muscles can be made to look like it’s effortless and automatic.


The subject was helped to control pain with movement, resting myalgia, and the after effects of effort, all by the demonstration of basic hypnotic sensations such as hand anesthesia, arm levitation, and hands pulled together.


Suggestions were given for improved mental activity through the use of remembered activities. Suggestions regarding post-hypnosis were also included so that he could practice the technique on his own, and also for the general feelings of his well-being.


The subject reported enjoying successive sessions and was thereby encouraged to use self-hypnosis to practice control over sensations.


Ten weeks after the patient made his first contact with the team; his diary sheets recorded social interaction and increased activity. Although his quality of life and his level of activity have increased since then, just like a lot of other sufferers, progress has been slow.


Cognitive limitations are his most disturbing complaints now, especially in maintaining attention, and these are less responsive to hypnosis than the feelings of fatigue and myalgia.




Symptoms Of Exhaustion


The research proposes that there may be two groups of CFS patients; a group with relatively swift inception and no history of psychiatric symptom, and a group with steady inception and a fair history of depression and other psychiatric disorder. It has been proposed that the former may denote patients most likely to have been affected by a virus. This paper gives the description of the treatment of a young woman with a very swift inception of chronic fatigue syndrome without any history of psychiatry.


A twenty-one-year-old patient reported relatively swift inception of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) with cognitive impairments being her worst symptoms. Corresponding with research that has been made on the swift inception of CFS, the patient had no history of psychiatry, and specialized testing did not propose that somatization was likely.


Overcoming Constant Fatigue


EEG research and neuroimaging has recorded brain dysfunction in CFS cases. Therefore, a quantifiable EEG was done, comparing the patient to a normative database. This test revealed extreme left frontal theta brainwave activity in a space previously involved in SPECT research.


The approach of a novel treatment was considered, using a combination of self-hypnosis training and EEG neurofeedback, both of which proved very beneficial. The patient experienced improvement in vigor, fatigue, and confusion evaluated pre and post through joint interviews with both parents and with the Profile of Mood States. Most of these changes were sustained at five, seven, and nine-month follow-up testing.

Mark Barrus

Mark Barrus is the Director of Healthy Life Centers. I have been in the Hypnosis industry for over 20 years, and have written many articles about the efficacy and effectiveness of Hypnotherapy to overcome unwanted habits and actions. Twenty years of Case Study research and examination have helped me to inform the industry on the results and be a leader in the field. I originally worked with Dr. Richard Neves, the former head of the American Board of Hypnotherapy, training other Hypnotherapists in Advanced Smoking Cessation protocols. In February 2005, we also started Healthy Life Centers, in Orange County, CA

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