Every 30 minutes in Minnesota, a doctor is telling someone for the
first time that they have diabetes.
Every 30 minutes in Minnesota, a doctor is telling someone for the first time that they have diabetes.(1)
These newly diagnosed patients are joining the ranks of those 500,000 Minnesotans who have some form of diabetes and who are dying at a rate of 11 people per day from diabetes or diabetes-related causes. (2)
Blindness, amputation, kidney disease and other horrifying side effects are the all too likely consequences of uncontrolled diabetes. A saddening statistic is that for every Minnesotan who knows a diabetic, only 7% of those people with diabetes have all major risk factors under control.(3)
Especially threatening to Minnesotan parents is the frightening reality that:"If people become diabetic at age 10 or 15 or 20, you can predict that when they are 30 or 40, they could have terrible complications."(4)
And itís not just parents who have reason to be very concerned about the diabetes epidemic. It is Minnesota businesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, diabetes costs $2 billion annually, including medical care, lost productivity and premature mortality.(5)
Compounding this very costly problem for Minnesota businesses is a less known fact brought to light by Richard S. Surwit, Ph.D. of Duke University. Dr. Surwit has found that diabetes more than doubles the odds of suffering from depression at some point.(6)
Furthermore, it is not only the depression caused by diabetes that should concern Minnesota businesses but also the supported idea that untreated depression can cause diabetes! This conclusion was reached during a meeting of the American Diabetes Association in June of 2000.(7)
Why is this so important to businesses? Mental health may seem intangible to some, but the bottom line impact is very real ó and very, very large. According to Ron Goetzel, director of the Cornell University Institute for Health and Productivity Studies: "Depression was the risk factor associated with the largest medical cost increase. Controlling for demographics and other risk factors, employees who reported being depressed were 70 percent more expensive in terms of their medical costs when compared to their non-depressed counterparts."(8)
So what can hypnosis do to help reduce the financial and emotional costs for Minnesotans affected by diabetes?
There are many, many ways in which hypnosis is medically documented to be helpful but for now, we will discuss 7 key areas:
(1) Create greater compliance with doctorís orders.
(2) Reduce stress for patients and their families.
(3) Boost a personís desire to exercise.
(4) Lead to better food choices.
(5) Improve memory.
(6) Lessen nervousness concerning all diabetic issues.
(7) Improved sleep.
Before having a more in-depth look at these 7 areas, it is necessary to have a working definition of what hypnosis is and just as importantly, what it is not.
Also, we need to know what a hypnotist is and does.
Hypnosis has been defined in many ways but one core definition has continually that has emerged is that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. With this idea in mind one can then see that hypnosis is actually a personís ability to convince themselves of any belief.
What hypnosis is not, is someone elseís ability to control the mind of another. If this were true, jails would become useless because all the inmates could just be hypnotized to become law abiding citizens. It is also important to keep in mind that what a person sees on TV or on stage is for one purpose only: entertainment.
So then, in truth what is a hypnotist? According to the Federal Dictionary of Occupational Titles published by the United States Department of Labor under Hypnotherapist 079.157.010 it is defined as follows:
"Hypnotherapist induces hypnotic state in client to increase motivation or alter behavior pattern through hypnosis. Consults with client to determine the nature of problem. Prepares client to enter hypnotic states by explaining how hypnosis works and what client will experience.
Tests subjects to determine degree of physical and emotional suggestibility. Induces hypnotic state using techniques of hypnosis based on interpretation of test results and analysis of client's problem. May train client in self-hypnosis conditioning."
What all the above means is succinctly stated by the National Guild of Hypnotists: A hypnotist is a stress management consultant and motivational coach. Nothing more.
A common question many people ask is how is hypnosis different from psychotherapy? Psychotherapists can work with mental disorders and hypnotists work with functional individuals who want to change behaviors and improve the quality of their lives.
Now that we have a better understanding of hypnosis, letís look a bit deeper into those areas in which a hypnotist can responsibly help a person with diabetes. Remember that this assistance is only in the form of motivational coaching and stress reduction, but a positive influence in just these two areas alone can be the small difference that makes the big difference.
The first area that hypnosis can help addresses a big problem that many doctorís and nurses face with their diabetic patients: non-compliance. This may be in the form of passive resistance to taking medications or it may be a reluctance to regularly check blood sugar levels or it may be with their patientís faking their blood sugar readings.
Non-compliance can also be caused by medication reactions which many patients are unable to discuss with their health care provider. They simply stop taking it because they may initially feel worse than they did with their untreated diabetes.
There are many other causes for non-compliance but ultimately, better compliance will result from a patient being able to take greater control of their situation instead of relying on others to "fix" them.
There are two components involved in hypnotically creating enhanced patient compliance. This first is that hypnosis suggestions can stimulate a patientís coping skills by using confidence enhancement techniques. I.E., helping a patient to see their diabetes as a daily challenge instead of a daily curse.
Viewing their situation as a challenge will cause them to utilize their own strength and energy in a more productive manner thus moving the patient from a victim self-image to a strong sense that they are more in control.
The second component is to creating greater patient compliance is that hypnosis can help with self-confidence in dealing with a difficult situation. An important part of this process is that a patientís curiosity can be stimulated in such a manner as to cause them to want to learn about and practice self-care.
With enhanced ego strength comes better coping skills and as a result, a diabetic will truly understand that diabetes is a serious condition, but they can become optimistic about their treatment plan.
Thus, they will ultimately feel more committed to taking responsibility for their self-care, to following their doctorís prescribed regimen, and to learning as much as they can about their situation. In other words, their attitude is much more positive.
The second area in which hypnosis can make a big difference is in reducing patient stress and helping their families to feel less stress. In both cases, the benefits are significant. For the person suffering from diabetes there is very good news: lowering stress levels over the long term can have a lowering effect on the blood glucose levels.
According to Dr. Richard Surwit, progressive muscle relaxation (a form of self-hypnosis) will "relieve tension and improve your blood sugar control and your overall health and well-being." (9)
Families can benefit from stress reduction in many, many ways but how would family stress reduction benefit the person with diabetes?
It is well recognized that a family unit contains many emotional dynamics that cause family members to respond in certain ways. In this case, now that it is understood that stress can exacerbate a diabeticís condition, it can then be seen that high family stress levels can be emotionally contagious. Therefore, it is very important that the family consider stress reduction.
Moving on to the third method by which hypnosis can help a diabetic it must be noted that a common idea expressed regarding preventing Type 2 diabetes is the use of exercise.
Hypnosis can help a person to become more motivated to undertake an exercise program prescribed by their doctor. Usually, exercise is undertaken in very small increments in order to avoid injury and back sliding.
Increased exercise can actually start out with a patient first safely increasing their physical activity levels via hypnotic suggestion.
For example, a patient can allow themselves to accept the suggestion that they will walk an extra few minutes per day. Eventually this can become a desire to take longer walks that the diabetic actually looks forward to as an enjoyable activity.
Probably the one area that drives more diabetic health practitioners to despair is knowing their patientís are making terrible food choices. Also, it is common for many diabetics to eat poorly and then compensate with medication.
Since obesity is the driving cause behind the Type 2 diabetes epidemic and overeating is the chief cause, then it may interest the reader to know that "Hypnotherapy can often help in treating obesity, an observation that is one of the most clinically confirmed in all the literature on hypnosis."
This statement can be found on page 199 in the book Clinical Hypnosis: Principles and Applications by Harold B. Crasilneck, Ph.D. and James A. Hall, M.D. Continuing on the same page, it is stated that one study "found that more than 85 percent of 159 obese patients lost notable amounts of weight with hypnosis."
So far, it may appear obvious that creating greater patient compliance, reducing stress, changing exercise and eating habits and losing weight is good for anyone and especially so for the diabetic but how does improved memory help?
Aside from the obvious benefits of being able to find their car keys, a person with diabetes must remember several key points to maintaining good health.
-Remembering when and what one ate is actually very important to keeping healthy eating habits.
-Checking oneís feet for sores is also extremely important as many persons with diabetes can sustain a foot injury and not be aware of it.
-Remembering to dry between oneís toes can often prevent foot problems that can become very nasty.
-Remembering to check blood sugars is also very crucial to healthy diabetes management.
However, many times a person with diabetes can forget to do certain things because their nervousness levels are exceptionally high.
This brings us to the 6th way in which hypnotic coaching can help. Hypnosis has a long history of helping to calm people down and feel less nervous in many situations.
Again, simple progressive muscle relaxation, facilitated by a hypnotist can be very helpful because, after a while a patient can become used to the idea of being able to effectively calm themselves down in anxiety provoking situations.
This ability is very important because nervousness and agitation absolutely rob a person of their emotional resources to make better choices.
But probably the least known and most important issue for the diabetic is proper sleep. Poor sleep can have a profound, negative effect on a personís feeling of well being. This negative effect can snowball into feeling more stressed, having less desire to follow doctorís orders and causing the diabetic to reach for those foods that cause them harm.
According to the American Diabetes Association, "a lack of sleep causes a sleep debt, which increases insulin resistance and causes more stress hormones to be released. The result: higher blood glucose levels." (10)
Hypnosis, if nothing else, can make a person very sleepy. It would therefore stand to reason that listening to a self-hypnosis sleep session upon going to bed could benefit a person greatly. Furthermore, it can over time, coach them to make better sleep habits more of a priority.
Now, with the preceding information in mind, a person might wonder why their doctor doesnít do some or all of the above for them? The answer is that most health care practitioners are simply overloaded. Doctorís and nurses simply do not have enough time or resources to be everything to every patient.
In conclusion, there is strong evidence that hypnosis, which is actually self-hypnosis, can be very helpful to the person with diabetes in at least 7 significant way. It can have a positive influence to some degree by helping them to:
(1) Better follow their doctorís orders.
(2) Reduce stress.
(3) Boost their desire to exercise.
(4) Make better food choices. (5) Improve their memory.
(6) Lessen nervousness concerning all diabetic issues and
(7) Improve their sleep.
Thank you for reading this article. I welcome your comments and questions.
C. Devin Hastings
About the author:
C. Devin Hastings is the founder of the Diabetes Research Association of America. In 1992 he was going blind as well as experiencing other harmful effects of undiagnosed diabetes. His research led him to be published in the November, 1999 issue of Diabetes Interview and he conducts seminars nationally and internationally on the uses of hypnosis to help persons with diabetes.
You can call Devin at 612-730-2789 or email him at devin@MBH4U.com
(1) MN Dept. of Health Fact Sheet 10/27/03
(3) The Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 21, 2004; vol 291: pp 335-342.
(4) 09/04/2000, Newsweek, Page 40
(5) MN Dept. of Health Fact Sheet 10/27/2003
(6) The Mind Body Diabetes Revolution by Richard S. Surwit, Ph.D. p. 43
(7) USA Today article: Depression can bring diabeticsí health down. June 14, 2000.
(8) The Business Case for Quality Mental Health Services: Why Employers Should Care About the Mental Health and Well-Being of Their Employees. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 44, Number 4, April 2002
(9) The Mind Body Diabetes Revolution by Richard S. Surwit, Ph.D. p. 82
(10) ADA website. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-cholesterol/faqs-sleep.jsp