Hypnotherapy provides support for asthma sufferers by helping to reduce anxiety

A Hypnotherapy Association is marking Asthma Awareness Week (9-15th May 2011) by highlighting how the therapy can help clients cope with the condition by reducing their levels of anxiety.

According to Asthma UK, a charity dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people whose lives are affected by asthma, 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).

There is an inter-relationship between anxiety and asthma – for some people, anxiety can be a trigger for asthma, for others it is the asthma itself which causes anxiety. After all, there are few things more frightening than struggling to breathe.

The link between anxiety and asthma can lead to an unhelpful cycle of cause and effect which can be difficult to break.

In fact some of the symptoms of a panic attack (hyperventilation) and asthma overlap making it difficult to distinguish between the two. In some cases, a panic attack can actually lead to an asthma attack in someone who already suffers with asthma.

It’s not just asthma patients who are affected by anxiety – parents, partners and other carers can become anxious if the condition appears to be poorly managed.

Hypnotherapy combines psychotherapy (a talking therapy) with hypnosis and can provide clients with effective coping mechanisms aimed at reducing their anxiety generally. Used in conjunction with a patient’s prescribed medication and treatment regimes, hypnotherapy can help clients deal better with life’s stresses, thus minimising the anxiety which could precipitate an asthma attack.

There is a large body of research on the effective use of self-hypnosis, guided imagery, hypnosis and relaxation in asthma in adults and children. A review of research into hypnosis and asthma carried out in 2000 highlighted that studies conducted up to that date consistently demonstrated an effect of hypnosis with asthma. Although more research is needed, the studies showed that its efficacy is enhanced in subjects who are more “susceptible”, where the practitioner is experienced, when it is administered over several sessions, and when it is reinforced by patient self-hypnosis. Children in particular appear to respond well to hypnosis as a tool for improving asthma symptoms.

Hypnotherapy helps to reduce anxiety by assisting clients to visualise their preferred future, i.e. a future in which they are coping better with the problem that is causing them stress. This helps clients to regain a sense of perspective and breaks the cycle of anxiety-asthma-anxiety. The therapy encourages positive thinking by helping clients to focus on solutions to problems, rather than dwelling on the problems themselves.

I am very enthusiastic about the efficacy of the approach. “Clients are often relieved to learn that we will not be dwelling on their problems or on how bad things are. They soon get the hang of thinking in a more positive way – describing how they want things to be, rather than how they don’t them to be. It sounds simple, but in fact it is an amazingly powerful technique”.

For more information about Asthma Awareness Week, visit www.asthma.org.uk


- Ewer and Stewart, 1996; Hackman, Stern, and Gershwin, 2000; Maher-Loughna, Macdonald, et al, 1962

- Anbar, 2001; Anbar, 2002; Castes, Hagel, et al, 1999; Kohen, Olness, et al, 1984

- Hypnosis and asthma: a critical review, Hackman RM, Stern JS, Gershwin ME, 2000