Using hypnoanalysis and guided imagery to identify and manage emotional aspects of multiple sclerosis

Explore (NY). 2020 Oct 13;S1550-8307(20)30314-1. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2020.10.002. Online ahead of print.


Background: To date, no studies have used hypnosis to examine and manage the potential emotional causes of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the scientific field; therefore, we decided to compare the effectiveness of hypnoanalysis and guided imagery for determining and manage these emotional causes.

Methods: Fifteen participants with severe MS were included and assigned into 2 groups: hypnoanalysis and guided imagery. In the hypnoanalysis group, the participants underwent 10 hypnotic sessions to understand events related to the cause of the disease, which were restructured (the events were modified by adding the psychological resources that each involved person needed); in addition, other techniques were used to investigate the causes and solutions according to the participants' unconscious. The guided imagery group received 10 group sessions of body relaxation and guided imagery, which were recorded for practice at home. Outcome measures, namely, disability (the Expanded Disability Status Scale, EDSS), quality of life (QoL, measured with the SF-36) and number of relapses, were evaluated 4 months previous the intervention, at baseline, post-intervention, and 3 months later.

Results: Hypnoanalysis revealed that stressful events and psychoemotional maladaptive patterns acted as causal, detonating, or aggravating factors of disease, and psychoemotional changes were the most frequent and varied solutions. No changes were observed in disability between the two groups. The guided imagery group showed an improvement in 2 subscales of QoL when compared with the hypnoanalysis group (which disappeared at the follow-up); this difference is probably due to the increased number of sessions and probably due to psychoemotional maladaptive patterns being more frequently mentioned than difficult circumstances in life and/or unsolved past events. However, the techniques used in hypnoanalysis were effective in understanding the potential emotional causes of MS, which showed high intra- and inter-participant consistency.

Conclusions: The daily use of guided imagery overcame the restructuring of negative past events to improve QoL in patients with MS.

Trial registration: ACTRN12618002024224 (retrospectively registered).

Keywords: Clinical trial; Guided imagery; Hypnoanalysis; Multiple sclerosis.