Hypnosis and therapy help school-related stress, experts say

8 Nov
Craig Kissoon is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. He is an avid writer and has blogged for the Independent Florida Alligator. After taking two psychology courses in high school, he became fascinated by physiological psychology and how peoples’ thoughts and attitudes can affect their physical wellbeing. He believes working with the mind and the body is the key to achieving optimal health. He plans to pursue an outside concentration in psychology. He hopes to become a writer or to work in advertising or public relations after graduation. He would like to combine his passions for communications and psychology by writing about mental healthcare and treatments.

Craig Kissoon is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida who has blogged for the Independent Florida Alligator. After taking two psychology courses in high school, he became fascinated by physiological psychology and how peoples’ thoughts and attitudes can affect their physical wellbeing. He believes working with the mind and the body is the key to achieving optimal health. With an outside concentration in psychology, he hopes to combine his passions for communications and psychology by writing about mental healthcare and treatments.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Craig Kissoon

Imagine retreating into a moment of pure relaxation where work and classes were nothing more than distant concerns.

With stress levels and responsibilities rising for college students in Gainesville and across the country, experts are recommending mind-body therapies for students suffering from stress-related problems.

A University of  Florida study, recently published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, found that hypnosis and therapy may benefit patients suffering from functional bowel disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

The lead authors of the study Oliver Grundmann, a clinical assistant professor at the UF College of Pharmacy, and Saunjoo Yoon, an associate professor at the UF College of Nursing, reviewed 19 clinical trials to examine the benefits of yoga, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback in treating these disorders.

Functional bowel disorders occur when the stomach and bowels are not working properly and include symptoms such as stomach pain and bloating.

Yoon said the results of the study, while promising are not conclusive. More studies are needed to better show the advantages of this kind of therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy where a therapist challenges their patients’ negative thoughts, helps patients feel more positive about their condition while hypnotherapy aims to reduce pain. The results of the study showed hypnotherapy had an immediate effect on abdominal pain while cognitive behavioral therapy was able to lighten mood and change bowel symptoms.

Amanda Lawson-Ross, a counselor at the UF Counseling and Wellness Center, said she was not surprised by the results of the study.

“The whole premise is there is a mind-body connection,” Lawson-Ross said. “Stress can agitate abdominal problems.”

Lawson-Ross said when people are stressed, they enter flight-or-fight mode and blood flows from their abdomen to larger muscles. Their bodies release hormones, and their digestion shuts down, she added.

Keeping calm regulates the body when people are stressed, Lawson-Ross said. She said she has helped people with irritable bowel syndrome reduce migraines, muscle tension and nausea.

“Hypnosis is a great way to alleviate stress,” Lawson-Ross said.

During hypnotherapy, patients listen to practitioners who help them focus inwardly on a calm or positive moment or setting. Lawson-Ross compared hypnosis to meditation in its ability to help people achieve deep relaxation.

“Anxiety is the most common concern,” Lawson-Ross said. “You have great, bright students who want to do well.”

Lawson-Ross said she notices a lot of students come to the CWC during exams and drop/add period. People might be dismissive of mind-body therapies and alternative medicines because they do not pay attention to mind-body connections, often for the sake of convenience.

Anxiety is the most common concern, said Amanda Lawson-Ross who is a therapist at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center. She said she sees a lot of students, usually around exams and drop/add period. She listed a few of the services the center offers to UF students. An online anxiety program Biofeedback Individual therapy Group therapy Couples therapy Information about these programs and how to join them are available at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center’s website.

Anxiety is the most common concern, said Amanda Lawson-Ross who is a therapist at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center. She said she sees a lot of students, usually around exams and drop/add period. She listed a few of the services the center offers to UF students.
An online anxiety program
Biofeedback
Individual therapy
Group therapy
Couples therapy
Information about these programs and how to join them are available at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center’s website.

“People want a quick fix,” she said.

Kathryn Broker, a senior geology major at UF, said she would never use hypnosis as a therapy treatment.

“I’m a very scientifically minded person. If I had any type of physical condition, I would rather use Western medicine,” Broker said.

Broker said she was hypnotized before.

“You become eager to please whoever is giving commands,” she said of her experience.

Kyle Burns, a junior international studies major at UF, said he was surprised by the results of the study but felt it made sense.

“I’m too stubborn,” Burns joked when discussing whether or not he would be receptive to hypnotherapy.

Some students said they are open to the idea of mind-body therapy.

“I don’t find [the study’s results] surprising,” said Sara Ladwig, a junior telecommunication major at UF. “If you feel like something can help you, it can.”

Ladwig added she is a perfectionist who tends to get nervous about a bunch of different things. “I do better if I can relax.”

Freshman Amanda Beauchamp said hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy is worth a try.

“I think it’d be interesting to see if it would work for me. I’d look forward to doing it,” she said.

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