Asthma: Prevention Through Imagery
Asthma causes the airways in the lung to inflame and become sensitive to specific triggers that cause them to narrow, reducing the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs, resulting in coughing and shortness of breath. Triggers include pollen, exercise, and house-dust mites. It is one of the commonest chronic diseases, affecting around 7 percent of the population. More children are suffering from asthma over the last 20 years, but why this should be so is a matter for debate.
The effects of stress
While stress does not cause asthma, psychological factors can exacerbate the condition. Strong emotions like anger, stress, or joy can trigger an attack. Older children and adults sometimes find that their asthma gets worse at times of stress, such as during an argument.
Suffering a severe asthma attack is, in itself, very stressful. When an attack occurs, hyperventilation is accompanied by anxiety, aggravating the breathing problems, which can result in a vicious cycle of escalating symptoms. It should be noted that hypnosis is a preventative treatment, and should not be used in an acute attack in which life-saving medications must be employed.
Hypnosis has a role in promoting relaxation and in the exploration of underlying anxieties, which are known to exacerbate the condition. Relaxation can reduce the incidence and severity of asthmatic episodes, and self-hypnosis can alleviate asthma at the start of an attack. Here, visual imaging of the expansion of the airways can be used. Hypnosis is not appropriate, however, when someone is in the throes of an attack. To suggest to an asthmatic patient that she is not wheezing during an attack would reduce respiratory drive and endanger breathing.