Hypnosis and Bulimia
Bulimia is the most common eating disorder in Canada. It can can destroy your teeth, rupture the lining in your esophagus and even cause your heart to fail due to the mineral imbalance it creates in your body. And even though bulimia has now been labelled as a serious psychiatric disorder, it might rather be called a very nasty habit.
As with other addictive behaviours, this condition is ruled by a certain habitual set of negative thoughts, feelings and suggestions which have taken on a life of their own.
Fortunately, hypnosis is one of the more promising ways to treat this problem for a simple reason: the ability to enter into a trance actually plays a major role in the creation and maintenance of this illness. What this means is that if you are a bulimic, even though you might not realize it, you actually go into a fairly deep trance whenever you purge yourself and engage in other bulimic behaviour.
In fact, studies have shown that bulimics are among the most hypnotizable people in our society. However, rather than using this talent in positive ways, you use it to magnify and distort many faulty perceptions, thoughts and behaviours. One might say you use this ability to darken your subconscious with a stream of negative and highly critical self-suggestions, until you overwhelm yourself with feelings of self-hatred and self-loathing.
The good news is that if your ability to go deep into trance was involved in creating this behaviour, then it can be used to help stop it.
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Bulimia Fact Sheet
This is a psychological disorder that involves quickly eating a large amount of food (so fast that a bulimic often fails to really taste or savour the food). This is soon followed by feelings of remorse and despair and a purging (either by making oneself vomit or by using laxatives) of this food.
Bulimia mainly afflicts adolescents and young adults (primarily females).
a perfectionist family;
binge eating and a lack of control over food;
a distorted perception of one's body image;
the erosion of the enamel of the teeth;
an abnormal heart-beat (the purging the stomach lowers potassium levels) and cardiac problems;
low blood pressure and low pulse rate;
vitamin and mineral deficiencies;
an electrolyte imbalance;
swollen salivary glands;
scars on the knuckles (from self-induced vomiting);
feelings of self-hatred and self-disgust;
a rupturing of the stomach;
damage to the esophagus.
How Hypnosis Can Help You
Studies have shown that those who are prone to bulimia tend to be highly hypnotizable. As a result, hypnosis is ideally suited to help you manage your symptoms better because:
it can help you to reprogram negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself
it can increase your feelings of self-control;
it can alleviate harmful emotions such as stress, anxiety and depression that can make your symptoms worse;
it can make you feel more positive and joyful about life;
it can help your subconscious turn off the thoughts and patterns that trigger your feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing;
it can help your subconscious reset itself so that your life becomes much more enjoyable and manageable;
it can help by allowing you to dissociate yourself (focus your mind and attention elsewhere) from your environment when you feel an urge to purge;
it can improve your ability to follow sound medical advice and co-operate with your physicians;
it can help if there is a link between a specific emotional trauma and the onset of your bulimia;
it can help if your bulimia involves any subconscious and state-dependent processes;
it can enhance your innate capacity to heal yourself.a poor diet (especially if it is high in sugar);
physical, mental and emotional stress;
drinking too much coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks;
withdrawal from caffeine, alcohol and illicit drugs;
lack of exercise;
lack of rest;
putting too much pressure on oneself;
fear of a loss of control;
medical and dental procedures.
Some Research That Proves These Claims...
The scientific research is conclusive. If you are capable of entering into a moderately deep state of hypnosis (and virtually all bulimics can enter this state if they allow themselves to relax sufficiently), then hypnosis can help you. Here is a summation of some of these studies:
The Dissociative State
To understand some of these studies, it is necessary to recognize that a dissociative state is one where a person feels disconnected from themselves and/or their environment. There is really nothing strange or unusual about this state, because we have all experienced it many times in our life. It might have occurred when we were so engrossed in a daydream that we briefly lost touch with what was going on around us. Or maybe when we were travelling in a car and suddenly realized that we had no memory of the last ten miles because we were 'somewhere else.'
The Use of Hypnotherapy in the Treatment of Eating Disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders. VOL 7(5): 673-679. Vanderlinden J, Vandereycken W.
This report reviews various case studies involving the use of hypnosis to treat patients with eating disorders. It notes that while more scientifically rigorous studies need to be created to assess the potential of hypnosis to treat eating disorders, there is never-the-less some promising research in this field. Particularly with those who are suffering from bulimia nervosa because it has been found that bulimics are able to readily enter into a dissociative state (a trait often associated with a high level of highly hypnotizability).
The Use of Hypnosis in the Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 1990 Apr;38(2):101-11. Vanderlinden J, Vandereycken W.
As a result of the various studies that demonstrate a link between high levels of hypnotizability and dissociation among bulimics, the authors of this study decided to incorporate hypnosis into their treatment of bulimics. It then goes on to describe various ways of doing this. It concludes by noting that hypnosis can be used to help both the therapist and the patient discover new approaches to follow.
Guided Imagery Treatment to Promote Self-Soothing in Bulimia Nervosa: A Theoretical Rationale. Journal Psychotherapy Practice and Research 7:102-118, April 1998. Esplen MJ, Garfinkel PE.
Previous studies have shown that bulimia nervosa is a disorder involving the inability to regulate powerful emotions and to engage in a process of self-soothing. As a result, this report suggests that any treatment of this disorder should address these problems. It particularly recommends the use of guided imagery to help develop the ability to engage in healthy self-soothing practices.
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