Vocal Cord Dysfunction

  • Treating VCD with Mental Skills Training

Is Your Athlete Struggling With Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD), aka Exercised Induced Laryngeal Obstruction (EILO), is an affliction which causes an athlete’s vocal cords to close up under stress, preventing proper respiration. For athletes, having a VCD/EILO episode is terrifying and frustrating and can leave you feeling hopeless.

Unfortunately, VCD is oftentimes misdiagnosed as asthma. However, unlike asthma, VCD/EILO does not respond to medication. There are many reasons why VCD/EILO occurs, and treatment outcomes are best with a team approach. Proper diagnosis, work with a qualified speech pathologist and work with an experienced mental skills coach are key for an athlete’s success. Each part of the treatment plan addresses different aspects of VCD/EILO and athletes often have good outcomes when all three areas are addressed.

Sports are inherently stressful. Stress is one of the major factors in VCD/EILO, and occurs more often in athletes that are more prone to stress (very driven, detailed, hardworking, perfectionist). The good news is that there’s a lot that athletes can learn to manage both their everyday stress and the stress they experience related to their sport. The goal of mental skills training for athletes with VCD/EILO is to lower the baseline of stress so that the athlete can tolerate maximum physical stress.

If you’re an athlete who has recently been diagnosed with VCD/EILO, there’s hope for you! The dedicated mental trainers at Erika Westhoff Performance have come up with an effective combination of skills and techniques that can help you overcome the side effects of Vocal Cord Dysfunction.

With our help, you’ll soon be back on the road toward becoming the incredible athlete you were meant to be!

“Erika has been a very valuable contributor with a unique perspective in the treatment of young adults and athletes with exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction/vocal cord dysfunction. She has a great structure and intuitive sense for identifying areas of improvement and strengthening mental skills that translate into improvement in performance.”

– Dr. Tod Olin, National Jewish Health

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who Is Susceptible To VCD?

    Although everyone is susceptible to VCD, those most likely to be diagnosed are athletes whose aerobic and respiratory demands are high, such as soccer players. Females are more prone to VCD than males.

    Surprisingly, there are also very similar personality traits in those who are diagnosed. Typically, high achievers, perfectionists, and Type-A personalities are more prone to VCD. This may be due to the huge stress burden that these athletes carry, leading them to become quite overwhelmed and affecting their breathing.

  • How Do I Know I Have VCD?

    VCD will need to be diagnosed by your physician. Many athletes who come into my office were first diagnosed as having exercise-induced asthma, only to find their breathing issues do not respond to medication. A referral to pulmonologist then leads to a VCD diagnosis. It’s long, difficult journey, but there’s hope!

  • Can It Get Better?

    Yes! However, it will take a strong commitment on your part, and it often requires teamwork between a physician, speech therapist or speech pathologist and a mental skills coach or sport psychology professional with an emphasis on mental skills training.

  • How Does Mental Training Help VCD?

    Mental skills training give athletes the skill and techniques they need to build confidence and consistency under pressure. The fundamental skills include cognitive restructuring (change thinking patterns), relaxation strategies, imagery skills, create a complete goal plan with goal tracking, and journaling. The great thing about mental skills for VCD is that you, as an athlete, get all the same performance benefit that non-VCD athletes get who come in for help with their general performance.

  • How Does Stress Factor Into VCD?

    Links between stress and VCD are in the early stages of research. However, many athletes who have learned to systematically manage their stress before and during competition have been able minimize the incidence of VCD in the lab and in real-life.

  • How Long Does It Take?

    I offer three programs for athletes with VCD/EILO. Some athletes choose to go beyond their initial commitment and continue on, but we can decide that on a case-by-case basis.
    10-Hour program (recommended) – This program is an ideal amount of time to help athletes learn, practice and work towards mastery of their mental Skills in their sport. There will be challenges along the way, and 10 hours gives us time to work through them together. This is the most intensive, personally focused and detailed program.
    6-Hour program – This program allows learning, practicing and starting to build habits with the athlete’s mental skills. This program is personally focused but doesn’t get the athlete as far down the path towards mastery as the 10-hour. For many athletes, this is a good starting place.
    VCD Group Coaching – This program emphasizes peer support and connects athletes with other athletes with VCD/EILO. It’s always good to know you’re not the only one with these challenges, and oftentimes athletes with VCD/EILO have visited many doctors and practitioners and have a lot to share with one another. Our weekly meetings also provide participants with mental performance skills, stress management techniques and awareness building exercises. Groups are limited to 6 athletes per group to help manage group dynamics and build relationships. Athletes who choose individual coaching can also choose to join a group.

  • How Does The Process Work?

    We will start the process with a FREE consultation so I can learn more about your case and history with VCD. I will educate you on my program and the details of how it works to make sure the program is a good fit for your needs.

  • Do You Guarantee Results?

    I cannot guarantee results simply because the results of the program are dependant on your effort to practice the skills. I do strive to provide the best learning, skill development and practice strategies to set you up for success in the program.

Get In Touch

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