Psychophysiological Self-Regulation refers to one's innate ability to alter physiological processes by using psychological processes. While this occurs naturally in all of us — when we take deep breaths to calm down, when we concentrate on a sensation and change it — it does not necessarily occur intentionally or consciously and is commonly not practiced. Strategies such as hypnosis, biofeedback, meditation, yoga and others offer opportunities to build skills and refine our abilities to change our physiology. Hypnosis and biofeedback in particular are good fits into conventional healthcare.
Hypnosis carries with it a large number of misconceptions that are perpetuated both by its portrayal in the media, by entertainers and in the occult. Unfortunately there is no consensual professional definition of hypnosis. For the purpose of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation, hypnosis, used clinically, may be defined as a skill set, employing expectancy, motivation, careful observation and therapeutic communication that assists a person to achieve a state of intensified concentration for the purpose of altering a maladaptive set of behaviors, thought patterns and, importantly, psychophysiological reflexes including, but not limited to, anxiety responses, pain, inflammation, problems with sleep, movement and elimination. It can also be used to maximize performance and gain insight.
Biofeedback refers to the use of any device (mechanical, chemical or electronic) to measure and reflect back (or feed back) physiological (biological) information for the purpose of changing the psychophysiological process that produces that information. A mirror is a simple biofeedback device. When we look at it we change our facial expression reflexively. We can use it to practice forming a facial expression, but to do so we need to find the inner state that underlies that expression. Similarly, we can monitor sweat gland activity, heart rate and breathing which are proxies for our autonomic nervous system, setting the basis for feelings, perception, thinking and behavior and thereby learn to adjust our internal state. While one can use hypnosis without biofeedback, there is no such thing as biofeedback without a hypnotic or trance experience.
Autism Spectrum Disorders are more common in the pediatric population than are some better known disorders such as diabetes, spinal bifida, or Down syndrome. A recent study of a U.S. metropolitan area estimated that 3.4 of every 1,000 children 3-10 years old had autism. The earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the sooner the child can be helped through treatment interventions. Pediatricians, family physicians, daycare providers, teachers, and parents may initially dismiss signs of ASD, optimistically thinking the child is just a little slow and will "catch up."
All children with ASD demonstrate deficits in 1) social interaction, 2) verbal and nonverbal communication, and 3) repetitive behaviors or interests. In addition, they will often have unusual responses to sensory experiences, such as certain sounds or the way objects look. Each of these symptoms runs the gamut from mild to severe. They will present in each individual child differently. For instance, a child may have little trouble learning to read but exhibit extremely poor social interaction. Each child will display communication, social, and behavioral patterns that are individual but fit into the overall diagnosis of ASD.
Children with ASD do not follow the typical patterns of child development. In some children, hints of future problems may be apparent from birth. In most cases, the problems in communication and social skills become more noticeable as the child lags further behind other children the same age. Some other children start off well enough. Oftentimes between 12 and 36 months old, the differences in the way they react to people and other unusual behaviors become apparent. Some parents report the change as being sudden, and that their children start to reject people, act strangely, and lose language and social skills they had previously acquired. In other cases, there is a plateau, or leveling, of progress so that the difference between the child with autism and other children the same age becomes more noticeable.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as handwashing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these so-called "rituals," however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety. People with OCD may be plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts or images, or by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals. They may be obsessed with germs or dirt, and wash their hands over and over. They may be filled with doubt and feel the need to check things repeatedly.
What is the Autonomic Nervous System? Check out this information from the American Heart Association.
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