Can hypnosis be used in the treatment of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)?
By Vivian Kulaga, PhD
MCS, also known as chemical hypersensitivity, is an acquired illness where a person becomes extremely sensitive to very small concentrations of chemicals in their everyday environment. People with MCS can be sensitive to a variety of chemical substances but some of the most common are fragrances (even from shampoos or laundry detergent), cigarette smoke (even third hand smoke from a smoker’s clothes), chemicals from typical cleaning products, and chemicals present in air “freshener” sprays and plugins. The tiny concentrations of these chemical substances usually go unnoticed by the healthy individual. However, for someone who has MCS, even the smallest exposure can lead to incapacitating symptoms. Common symptoms can include but are not limited to headaches, dizziness, nausea, malaise, fatigue, weakness, insomnia, confusion, trouble concentrating, breathing difficulties, asthma, widespread pain, irritability, depression, and seizures. MCS is a serious condition and is considered a disability. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, persons with environmental sensitivities (such as MCS) are entitled to protection by the Canadian Human Rights Act that prevents discrimination of persons with disabilities [1,2,3].
MCS is much more common that the average person may realize. Large population studies report that between 3 – 6 % of Canadians and Americans have been diagnosed with MCS by a medical doctor [3,4,5,6]. The true prevalence of MCS and other related environmental illnesses is likely much higher, as most affected people go undiagnosed since there is an absence of awareness among the general population and even among the medical community. Also, the number of doctors trained in the diagnosis and treatment of MCS and other environmental illnesses is extremely small, and the wait times in Canada for medical attention is long (up to 1.5 years).
While MCS is an extreme form of chemical sensitivity, population studies show that around 30 % of North Americans appear to have some form of sensitivity to chemicals. Specifically, they report that 30 % of Canadians and Americans say they have adverse reactions to fragranced products; 17-19 % of the Americans surveyed reported experiencing breathing difficulties and other health related problems when exposed to air fresheners; 10 % reported irritation to scented laundry products [4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11]. Research has also shown a significant overlap between chemical sensitivities and asthma, with many fragranced products triggering asthma symptoms [12,13].
So how can hypnosis help?
Research has suggested that the neural pathways in the brain and nervous system responsible for chronic pain and abnormal pain may be similar to those involved with the sensitization to chemicals that leads to chemical hypersensitivity (MCS). Research has also shown that the activity within the brain associated with pain perception is highly modifiable by interventions such as hypnosis, therefore it has been suggested that hypnosis may also be effective at modifying symptoms of chemical sensitivity .
In my own practise of hypnosis, I have already seen the benefits of hypnosis in reducing the frequency and severity of symptoms related to MCS.
I highly encourage the exploration of using hypnosis as part of the treatment strategy in helping people with MCS recover and lead normal lives.
Remember to make your office and space safe and comfortable for everyone by avoiding the use of fragrances and fragranced products. Finding options labelled “frangrace free” is always best.
Below is a list of products that contain fragrances and harmful chemicals that can seriously affect persons with MCS and should be avoided or substituted with non-toxic, FRAGRANCE FREE versions:
Perfume and Cologne
Shampoos and Conditioners
Hairsprays and Gel
Lotions and Creams
Soap and Body Wash
Air Fresheners and Deodorizers
Potpourri, Essential Oils, Incense, Candles
Industrial and Household Cleaners
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2. Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilites. Public Service Commission of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.psc-cfp.gc.ca/plcy-pltq/guides/assessment-evaluation/apwd-eph/ch8-9-eng.htm on August 19, 2013.
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available from http://www.statcan.ca/cgi-bin/downpub/listpub.cgi
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