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Epilepsy and Hypnosis/Hypnotherapy

Is hypnosis safe for epileptics?

I have noticed that hypnotherapists tend to worry a lot about epilepsy and a question that gets raised quite often on forums takes the form of, “I have a client coming with problem X, who also has epilepsy, is it safe to work with them?” Not an unreasonable question.

Now, I’ve seen rather a lot of epilepsy in my time working as a nurse – both in Accident and Emergency and in Neurology/Neurosurgery. In the neuro departments, epileptic seizures are something the staff become very used to dealing with, ranging from “pseudo-seizures” through to full-blown “grand mal” seizures.

I’ll write more about this shortly. But first I want to look a little at why it is that hypnotherapists are overly sensitive to epilepsy. After all, I rarely see any concerns expressed about hypnosis and diabetes, and realistically underlying diabetes is much more likely to cause problems than an underlying seizure problem.

It’s all about culturally bound anxieties. In Britain, though less so these days, a common concern around children used to be “appendicitis” – it was one of our enduring worries every time a child got a stomach ache. It is actually quite rare, but regardless I can recall being warned extensively about the perils of an inflamed appendix in classes at junior school, and later the endless stream of worried parents bringing their children into A&E with the immortal words, “I think he has suspected appendicitis, doctor!”

But meanwhile, unlike the USA people here in the UK rarely suffer “hypoglycaemia” as a condition though this trend is increasing. Nor do we yet suffer systemic yeast/candida infections, as people do in the USA. The culturally bound health anxieties differ across the continents.

I was told last year that systemic candida infection has reached epidemic proportions over there, although I think this most unlikely to really exist in the levels reported. Victorian Britain was somewhat worried about its bowels and the state of the nation depended very much upon its collective movements and flow. The Chinese concern themselves with Chi and in parts of Africa and Asia, penis function and penis health are of the highest cultural importance with the rather inevitable mass “penis panics” occurring periodically.

Penis-Snatching Panics Resurface in Africa

“It seems that the day before, a traveler visiting the town had shaken hands with a tea vendor who immediately claimed he felt a shock and sensed that his penis had shrunk. He cried out in alarm, gathering a crowd, and a second man then said it also happened to him.”

More here:

As a subculture, hypnotherapists tend to worry about epilepsy. I don’t really know why, they just do. I think there is still a residual fear in the condition itself that lies subtly in the cultural background. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that epileptics were institutionalised and kept away from the normal folks as they were all potential maniacs who would attack the nice people and corrupt the masses.

This social role was soon replaced by the “dope fiend” but that didn’t stop epileptics being relegated to special schools and mental hospitals to keep the rest of us safe from their strangeness.

That prejudice is much less these days, but cultural beliefs and understandings take a long time to change.

So for me, the question is, “does hypnosis cause epilepsy?” The answer is, of course, yes.
And no.

Some individuals will only convulse in a certain state, like agitation, or sleep, whilst others just convulse regardless of their “state.”

But does hypnosis cause epilepsy. Well, no, of course, it doesn’t, but it might be a trigger. Unlikely, but it is possible. A meteorite might crash through the roof and kill you too. Possible, but unlikely.

The real issue is not so much, “will my work with this client cause them to have a seizure?” but rather, “if they should have a seizure, what am I going to do?” It all comes down to standard risk assessment and protocols. I just have to add that if you really think you are going to cause a seizure in your client then might I suggest you seriously rethink what you are doing?

Anyway, if you see enough people with problems then eventually at least one of the following will happen: sudden death, heart attack, diabetic collapse, asthma attack (the most likely, I think), hysterical freakout with self-harm and so forth.  I think it a mistake to think just in terms of, “What if they have a seizure?” – but rather, “What if there is a medical emergency, what shall I do?”

Well, the answer is simply, “Deal with it!” And if a therapist does not know how, well, then they can jolly well go and find out.

Andrew T. Austin
  • Andrew T. Austin
  • Andrew T. Austin is formerly an NLP master practitioner, clinical hypnotherapist, and a nurse with a background in accident and emergency (A&E) and neurosurgery.

    He is the developer of Metaphors of Movement and Integral Eye Movement Therapy.

    #NLP #neurolinguisticprogramming #hypnotherapy

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