A number of scientific studies have been conducted, all demonstrating the efficacy of hypnosis in children with irritable bowel syndrome or functional abdominal pain. Two of these studies were performed in the Netherlands by the founders of this website, the pediatricians Professor M. Benninga and Dr. A. Vlieger and hypnotherapist Mrs. C. Frankenhuis.
The first investigation
The first study was performed between 2003 to 2007 in 52 children, age 8 and 18 years (1). Half of the children were treated by the pediatrician with all sorts of medication for the abdominal pain and the other half visited a hypnotherapist 6 times. After one year, 25% of the children who had been treated with medication were successfully treated versus 85% of the children who had received hypnotherapy. This was the first study worldwide to show that hypnosis is a very effective treatment for children with chronic abdominal pain. All children from this study were examined again 5 years later and there was still a huge difference: 68% of the children treated with hypnotherapy were still in remission compared to 20% of the children treated by the pediatrician (2).
In addition, a few small studies, performed in other countries, showed comparable results. Also in adults with irritable bowel syndrome, studies have shown that hypnotherapy is one of the most effective treatment methods. (3)
The second investigation
The second Dutch study, the Fantasia study, was much larger with 260 patients and was conducted between 2011 and 2015 (4). The aim of this study was to compare two forms of hypnotherapy, namely 6 individual sessions with a hypnotherapist, versus a home-based treatment with standard hypnosis exercises on a CD with a workbook included. We wanted to know which treatment would be best for children between the ages of 8 and 18 irritable bowel syndrome or functional abdominal pain and compare the costs of both treatments. After a treatment period of 3 months, we followed the children for one year and looked at abdominal pain, quality of life and feelings of anxiety or depression.
130 children received individual hypnotherapy with a hypnotherapist. The other 130 children received the home-based treatment with self-hypnosis exercises. The results showed that the CD treatment is effective for these children, almost as good as treatment from a hypnotherapist. After a year, 80% of the parents of the children who had gone to a therapist indicated that there was an adequate improvement of the symptoms and in the CD group this was more than 70%.
Both treatments had a positive effect on the quality of life and the emotional well-being of the children. Feelings of anxiety and depression clearly decreased and other physical complaints such as fatigue improved. The treatment with the CD turned out to be much cheaper than the individual treatment with the hypnotherapist. The conclusion is therefore that home-based treatment with standard hypnosis exercises is a cost-effective treatment option for children with irritable bowel syndrome and functional abdominal pain.
References: 1.Vlieger AM, Menko-Frankenhuis C, Wolfkamp SC, Tromp E, Benninga MA. Hypnotherapy for children with functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome: a randomised controlled trial. Gastroenterology 2007;133(5):1430-6.
2.Vlieger AM, Rutten JM, Govers AM, Frankenhuis C, Benninga MA. Long-term follow-up of gut-directed hypnotherapy vs. standard care in children with functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012;107(4):627-31.
3. Palsson OS. Hypnosis Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Comprehensive Review of the Empirical Evidence.Am J Clin Hypn. 2015 Oct;58(2):134-58.
4.Rutten JMTM, Vlieger AM, Frankenhuis C, George EK, Groeneweg M, Norbruis OF, Tjon A Ten W, van Wering HM, Dijkgraaf MGW, Merkus MP, Benninga MA.Home-Based Hypnotherapy Self-exercises vs Individual Hypnotherapy With a Therapist for Treatment of Pediatric Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Functional Abdominal Pain, or Functional Abdominal Pain Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(5):470-477.