Sophrology is probably best known as a self-help method used to reduce stress and promote mental and physical well-being. It also has many applications as an accompaniment to certain serious medical conditions.
Which diseases can be eased with Sophrology and how does it help patients who are in treatment?
Here are some of the most common practical uses of Sophrology in medicine:
Cancer and Sophrology
Sophrology has two main purposes as an accompaniment to cancer treatment:
1) Helping the patient accept the diagnosis and deal with the associated shock.
2) Supporting the patient during the treatments and their side effects. Support is important so the patient continues and complies with the treatment. It’s not always easy to follow through with the additional recommendations, like dieting, exercising and not smoking or drinking.
Sophrology helps during the long, painful periods of medical treatment and the lasting changes in lifestyle that are required to deal with the illness. Numerous studies show the benefits of relaxation and visualisation on the undesirable effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomitting. There are also benefits on the psychological impact of the illness, such as anxiety, depression and anger. In France Sophrology is part of the « Cancer Plan » treatment proposed by the Ministry of Health.
Due to its wide range of applications, Sophrology helps deal with:
- Physical ailments like nausea, pain and fatigue.
- Emotions such as stress, fear, anxiety and depression.
- Cognitive difficulties, such as memorising and concentration.
- Difficulties in relationships when the patient feels isolated (losing autonomy and control, and the change of self-image from healthy to ill).
- Existential angst and spiritual breakdown.
In short Sophrology helps the patient:
- Transform negative thoughts and beliefs.
- Overcome the treatments, their numerous requirements and side effects.
- Increase awareness of the progress of the treatment.
Neurodegenerative Diseases and Sophrology : Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
These neurodegenerative diseases are incurable and slowly lead to death. They progressively impair functions of movement, behaviour, memory, motivation and perception.
Parkinson’s symptoms are commonly associated with uncontrolled trembling and movement. But most patients suffer additionally from problems of articulation, speaking and writing, balance, hallucinatory troubles and visual incoherences.
In short symptoms can be summed up as:
- Psychological: anxiety due to illness and loss of confidence.
- Physical: troubles with physical impulse control and the undesirable side effects of the medication.
Sophrology as a gentle accompaniment helps rediscover a physical and mental balance, increases confidence and eases tensions. It improves physical movement and the patient’s perception of their body and its capabilities.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and ultimately fatal condition that causes debilitating memory loss and extensive deterioration of cognitive and functional abilities.
Symptons can be summed up as:
- Psychological: depression, anxiety and irritability.
- Physical: loss of memory and motor skills, and trouble sleeping.
Besides the emotional support, Sophrology helps partly recover memories through its visualization exercises, stimulate concentration and motor skills.
Fibromyalgia and Sophrology
Fibromyalgia is characterized by muscle pain all over the body accompanied by fatigue, concentration and mood issues. Symptoms are often triggered by physical and psychological trauma. Women are more likely to develop Fibromialgia than men. So far there is no cure but medication and mindfulness exercises help control the symptoms. The symptoms of the disorder set each other off/trigger each other, creating a vicious circle.
Sophrology helps break this vicious circle and aids in dealing with:
- Widespread dull physical pain.
- Fatigue and problems sleeping due to the pain.
- Cognitive abilities, like impaired ability to focus and concentrate.
Tinnitus and Sophrology
Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual noise is present. It is debilitating and interferes with the patient’s daily life and activities. Around 15% of Americans suffer from Tinnitus and its symptoms like ear pain, decreased hearing, vertigo and the associated psychological impacts. Yet there is still very little understanding as to why it occurs. The latest research on the topic from the State University of New York, Dalhousie University and the University of Southeast China has found that a much larger area of the brain is involved in the hearing process than previously believed. An insight which will hopefully increase possibilities of some treatments. So far treatment is limited to a multidisciplinary program. The most common being Habituation, a therapy that helps the brain get used to the abnormal sound and lessens the intensity of Tinnitus.
Due to its high stress management qualities Sophrology is used in treating Tinnitus to:
- Decrease stress due to the fear of Tinnitus (the fear could also worsen it).
- Decrease anxiety.
- Help with sleeping difficulties.
- Help with difficulties in concentrating.
Sophrology has been recognized for its benefits as an accompaniment for many medical conditions. Its unique characterisic of specific gentle exercises creates a bridge between mind and body – and connects them. This gives Sophrology an edge over other mindfulness techniques and Psychotherapy in dealing with these diseases.
Note: It’s important to choose a Sophrologist who is specialised in the accompaniment of each particular disease.
Herrmann, N., Chau, S.A., Kircanski, I. et al. Current and Emerging Drug Treatment Options for Alzheimer’s Disease. Drugs 71, 2031–2065 (2011). https://doi.org/10.2165/11595870-000000000-00000