Even though psychogenic epileptic seizures are not prompted by unusual brain electrical discharges, these occurrences can cause emotional and mental distress. Since this mental issue is historically stigmatized negatively, its sufferers are open to medication as well as alternative therapy for treatment. This article will explore how hypnotherapy can be used to treat psychogenic non-epileptic seizures.
What Are The Differences Between Non-Epileptic and Epileptic Seizures?
In many cases, people that experience non-epileptic seizures may have similarities to the neurological disorder in that they both may encounter body shakes and falling. The difference is that their particular episodes are brought on by stress that is psychological. Typically, events that may have happened in the past were so traumatized that they keep getting played over and over in a person’s mind. Such incidents could include anything from sexual or physical abuse. Sudden change in a person’s life more often when a loved one dies suddenly can also trigger these types of events.
How Are Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures Diagnosed?
Since each person may have the aforementioned body shakes and falling, they may be incorrectly diagnosed if only an EEG is performed for diagnosis. In many cases, there should be a combination of video recording in addition to an EEG so that the behavior can be monitored for confirmation. Afterwards, a psychiatrist is usually recommended who in turn may refer a licensed clinical hypnotherapist for further evaluation.
Is Clinical Hypnotherapy Gaining Momentum?
Prior to the new millennium, traditional research dictated that a candidate experiencing psychogenic non-epileptic seizures also has a correlation with a traumatic event that happened during childhood or during their teenage years. However, in recent years, there are contrary views to challenge this theory. Adults were having similar issues that did not correlate to the earlier assumptions. Bouts with post traumatic stress disorder, depression and other dissociative disorders were also found in the PNES patients.
In two separate studies, researchers measured the efficacy of using traditional medication versus a combination of hypnotherapy with cognitive behavioral therapy. The first group had traditional motor conversion symptoms while the second group experienced seizures due to psychological triggers. Each group received eight weekly group hypnotherapy sessions while those in the first group received additional medication.
There was significant improvement in both groups. There was also a 20% drop in medication needed in the first group. The studies did not come without levels of criticism however. Researchers were unable to conduct one-on-one therapy sessions and suggested that an even greater response would need to be validated and compared versus conducting group sessions. There is also the issue of being able to monitor patients long-term to confirm whether or not additional sessions were needed. The other hurdle is the well-entrenched notion that traditional psychiatrist neurologist may dismiss PNES patients at the onset or fabricating symptoms. Researchers concluded that additional research is needed as well as incremental collaboration with the medical community.
Making The Comparison Between Alternative Therapy And Conventional Anti-epileptic Drugs
Researchers in this study sought to use a combination of alternative therapies which included hypnotherapy, aromatherapy and relaxation techniques to treat over one hundred adults with epilepsy. Results of this study were very promising as the combination of hypnotherapy and aromatherapy combined was able to help over one third of the way patients to become seizure free for over a twelve month period. It was also noted that this approach was also successful for both adults and children alike.
The success of the previous study encouraged researchers to conduct another randomized study where eighteen children were able to identify noticeable signs before a seizure occurred and apply relaxation techniques to combat it. For over six weeks, children learned various relaxation techniques. This group also had fewer epileptic occurrences during their ten week follow-up and these results were consistent at the one-year follow-up as well. While researchers in both studies felt that incorporating hypnosis was too time-consuming, they alternatively felt that successfully teaching relaxation techniques were the major contributor for the children experiencing less epileptic episodes.
Is A Combination Of Psycho-therapeutic and Psycho-pharmacological Treatment Necessary?
Sixty-six subjects that took part in the randomized study where the pharmaceutical treatment was compared against hypnotherapy methods for short-term intervention. The patients that received psycho-therapeutic treatment consisted of twelve outpatient sessions, relaxation techniques, relapse prevention along with ongoing engagement. The remaining participants had seven psychiatric appointments and they were also measured for anti-epileptic drug withdrawal.
As consistent with the previously mentioned studies, those that participated in the hypnotherapy sessions reported having less epileptic episodes at the end of the twelve session treatments. What is important to note is that the consistency was maintained by the patients that continue to have an ongoing engagement with their therapists. Those that did not maintain their interaction with their therapist had a slightly higher occurrence of epileptic seizures. Those that participated with the traditional medical treatment did not report a marked improvement nor did their epileptic seizures decline. Researchers concluded that hypnotherapy should be used to treat those that experience non-epileptic seizures with consistent engagement has follow-up to achieve positive results. They also concluded that hypnotherapy may need to be combined with the traditional medical treatment should a patient decide to go that route.
In recent years, there has been a marked improvement in exploring hypnotherapy and other alternative therapies to treat psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. While traditional pharmaceuticals do have their place, evidence continues to highlight that sufferers of this mental distress disorder ultimately benefit if a combination of treatments are considered. Lastly, ongoing engagement should be evaluated to confirm long-term successful results.