Nowadays, modern science understands most of the workings of the body. However, there are still odd challenges that require unorthodox or unusual solutions, as in the case of a 14-year-old boy suffering from a chronic cough.
The cough started normally enough as a result of a cold. But once the cold had been cured, the cough persisted. A series of tests, medication, and eventually psychological help failed to produce any results.
Soon, the boy became a target for derision by both school mates and teachers. He was eventually expelled from school for disturbing class, and not allowed to return until he had his cough under control.
Finally, he was admitted to CARIH, the Children’s Asthma Research Institute and Hospital. Further tests proved definitively that the boy was not asthmatic.
So, doctors suggested the use of aversion therapy, which involves giving the patient mild electric jolts to stop compulsive behavior. It is a technique that has been used successfully for over 80 years.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for the unwanted behavior to disappear completely within just 5 sessions of treatment, with no relapse whatsoever.
In this boy’s case however, the results were nothing short of astonishing.
The boy was first monitored to assess the frequency of his cough, which was found to occur 22 times in one hour.
Next, it was intended for the boy to receive an electric jolt to the wrist after every cough. Surprisingly though, following the first cough and single electric jolt, the boy’s coughing disappeared completely.
The boy did not cough for the rest of the day, nor the next. In fact, he was sent home and returned to school and resumed his studies normally.
More importantly, a follow-up assessment 21/2 years later found the boy still symptom-free and doing well at school, having just made the Dean’s list for the first time in his academic career.
Creer, T. L., Chai, H., & Hoffman, A. (1977). A single application of an aversive stimulus to eliminate chronic cough. Journal Of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 8(1), 107–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/0005-7916(77)90116-1
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Habits, Technology & Behavioral Change