What are stress and psychosomatic diseases and how are they related to hypnotherapy from the point of view of psychophysiology?

Hypnosis is an artificially induced state, in which consciousness is not completely turned off and reactions to all stimuli except the hypnotizing words are reduced. As a result of the hypnosis process, internal inhibition develops as a response to multiple and monotonous repetitions. The main physiological condition for suggestibility is a decrease in the level of the cerebral hemispheric cortex and the functional dissection of the cortical activity, which is easy to achieve. In a state of hypnosis, the work of the brain is more similar to the work of the brain during wakefulness than during sleep, but at the same time the hypnotic state cannot be equated with either sleep or wakefulness.

From a physiological point of view, the duration of treatment is determined by the degree of inertness of the cortical processes. Usually, 5-6 sessions of hypnotherapy are enough for a person to achieve a lasting effect, but the number of sessions needed may increase, depending on the client’s individual qualities.

Emotional stress is the main cause of psychosomatic diseases.

Stress can be divided into 4 phases:

  • The phase of attention, mobilization, and activity. It is positive, as it is aimed at overcoming the problem facing the person at the cost of low stress.
  • The phase of negative emotions of excitement- which is an attempt to mobilize resources through high stress. This occurs when attempts to solve the problem during the first phase are unsuccessful.
  • The phase of asthenic negative emotions (anguish, sadness, fear), which is associated with awareness of the impossibility of getting out of a traumatic situation.
  • The phase of disruption of higher nervous activity (neurosis), in which chronic stress leads to the formation of a new state of the mind.

With prolonged negative experiences in the body, the autonomic regulation of the activity of internal organs is disrupted.

What are emotions and how can we control the display of negative emotions?

The primary reaction to a certain external stimulus occurs at the level of the subconscious – the cortex of the right hemisphere of the brain and the limbic-reticular system, after which the automatic (muscle tension) and vegetative reactions (heart palpitations and respiration) are connected.

Furthermore, these signals are recognized by the conscious part of the brain, which we regard as the emotion itself. The stereotypes of conscious emotional response are most often formed in early childhood, then they become automatic and switch to the “unconscious mode” – they go beyond the control of consciousness. As a result, these behavioural stereotypes pass under the control of the mechanisms of the right hemisphere, which is carried out at a subconscious level. Because the subconscious mind works faster than the conscious mind, it is not easy to subordinate them to your will,

Unlike emotional reactions, will is controlled at the level of consciousness. For hypnosis to succeed, a person needs to elevate  subconscious reactions to a more conscious level, which can be achieved by focusing our attention on the repetition of the desired reaction.

Psychosomatic diseases, as a rule, are the result of the linking of personality traits with psychogenic traumatization. The immediate cause of psychosomatic diseases is a breakdown of the neuro-hormonal mechanisms during prolonged emotional stress.

Emotions are accompanied by a vegetative energy supply. The pathogenic function of emotional stress relates to the fact that its vegetative expression involves excessive activation of the hypothalamus and prolonged stimulation of the pituitary-adrenal system. The neurodystrophy resulting from this is caused by a change in the content of mediators, a disorder of local blood circulation and the action of accumulated tissue hormones. Emotional stress in some areas causes the most pronounced manifestations of tissue dystrophy.

Disorders of sympathetic regulation cause diabetes, arthritis and other diseases, like parasympathetic regulation disorders – ulcer, bronchial asthma, colitis, etc. From the point of view of physiology, the origin of internal diseases can be explained as follows: the cerebral cortex can directly affect the state of the internal organs (following the mechanism of conditioned and unconditioned reflexes). Consequently, psychosomatic diseases can be caused by a disturbance of the arousal-inhibition ratio at the level of the cerebral cortex. The influence of the cerebral cortex on the internal organs is carried out through the limbic-reticular, vegetative and endocrine systems. Thus, in the limbic-reticular system, under conditions of continuous stimulation of the hypothalamus, a persistent arousal is created, which has an activating effect on the vasoconstrictor centres of the medulla. Then the excitation from the hypothalamus, through the sympathetic nervous system and the pituitary apparatus, passes to the adrenal glands, the hormones of which affect the midbrain.

The reconfiguration of vascular baroreceptors under conditions of prolonged emotional stress leads limbic-reticular structures having a great influence on the arterial vessels. Thus, the factor that causes negative emotions triggers the mechanism of psychosomatic diseases. As a result of the hypnosis process, internal inhibition develops. The main physiological condition for suggestibility is a decrease in the tone of the cerebral hemispheric cortex and the functional dissection of the cortical activity, which is easy to do. In hypnotherapy, you can replace a negative, traumatic assessment of a situation that caused a destructive emotion with a positive one, or at least reduce the intensity of that emotion.

One of the main factors of prevention is personal reconstruction using hypnosis

The main factor in the prevention of disorders of the internal organs is sufficient physical activity and the ability to launch a universal relaxation reaction (muscle relaxation and abdominal breathing), as well as personal reconstruction, which involves the awareness of a negative reaction (negative emotions and getting rid of them through self-esteem enhancement and self-hypnosis) and suggestions made  with the help of hypnosis). Extract from the textbook “Physiology and Psychophysiology” edited by MA Medvedeva and V.M. Smirnova