Hypnosis is often portrayed as a control tactic to get people to commit crimes or fall in love, for instance. Hypnotists are often also seen as wacky magicians who put people on stage and get them to neigh when they hear the word “horse.”
What Can Hypnotherapy Help With?
The way hypnosis is shown in the media may make it seem like it’s just for fun, but there’s more to hypnosis than its entertainment factor. In fact, hypnosis can benefit your health and well-being.
“In healthcare, hypnosis can be used as a psychological treatment to help you experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behaviors. It’s done in a clinical setting and performed by a trained, licensed healthcare professional, like a psychologist or a physician,” says Alison T. Grant, MD, physician at Penn Family and Internal Medicine Cherry Hill.
Hypnosis usually includes suggestions for relaxation, calmness, and overall well-being, which may last just during the session but can sometimes be reactivated later by the patient. Common approaches involve instructions to think about pleasant experiences or verbal cues to draw you into a trance-like state.
Hypnotherapy which is the form of therapy that uses hypnosis as either a standalone or supplemental treatment can benefit your health in a variety of ways.
What Can Hypnotherapy Help With Here are six common health issues hypnosis can help:
Trouble Sleeping, Insomnia, and Sleepwalking
Hypnosis may be a helpful tool if you sleepwalk or struggle with falling and staying asleep. If you have insomnia, hypnosis can relax you enough to get you to sleep more easily.
If you’re a sleepwalker, hypnosis can also train you to wake up when you feel your feet hit the floor and help you avoid sleepwalking escapades.
And if you just want to sleep a little better, hypnosis can help with that, too. Learning self-hypnosis techniques can increase the amount of time you sleep and the amount of time spent in deep sleep — the type of sleep you need to wake up feeling refreshed.
How it works: Verbal cues put you in a trance-like state, similar to how it feels when you’re so involved in a book or movie that you don’t notice what’s going on around you. After hypnosis — or even during — you’ll fall asleep.
Relaxation techniques including hypnosis can sometimes ease anxiety. Hypnosis tends to be more effective in people whose anxiety stems from a chronic health condition — such as heart disease — rather than from a generalized anxiety disorder.
Hypnosis may also be able to help if you struggle with a phobia a type of anxiety disorder where you are intensely fearful of something that does not pose a significant threat.
How it works: Hypnosis works to help anxiety by encouraging your body to activate its natural relaxation response through the use of a phrase or nonverbal cue, slowing breathing, lowering blood pressure, and instilling an overall sense of well-being.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms
The effectiveness of hypnosis on IBS has been consistently supported by clinical studies. IBS is abdominal pain created by your bowels, and hypnosis can help improve symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.
Dr. Grant explains that, “sometimes IBS can cause secondary symptoms, like nausea, fatigue, backache, and urinary problems. Hypnosis has shown to be able to help with these, too.”
How it works: Hypnosis leads you through progressive relaxation, providing soothing imagery and sensations to combat your symptoms.
Hypnosis can help with pain — like what’s experienced after surgery or from migraines or tension headaches. And it can help with chronic pain, too. People with pain related to conditions like arthritis, cancer, sickle cell disease, and fibromyalgia, — as well as people who have lower-back pain — may experience relief from hypnosis.
How it works: Hypnosis can help you cope with pain and gain more self-control over your pain. Additionally, studies indicate that hypnosis can do this effectively for long periods of time.
“Giving up cigarettes is not easy. There are many methods to help you quit, such as nicotine patches or prescription medications. While the research is still out, many people have found that hypnosis has helped them kick the smoking habit,” explains Dr. Grant.
Hypnosis for smoking cessation works best if you work one-on-one with a hypnotherapist who can customize the hypnosis sessions to match your lifestyle.
How it works: In order for hypnosis to work for smoking cessation, you need to truly want to quit smoking. Hypnosis can work in two ways. The first is to help you find a healthy, effective replacement action, and then guide your subconscious toward that habit, rather than smoking. This could be something like chewing a piece of gum or taking a walk. The second is to train your mind to associate smoking with undesirable feelings like a bad taste in your mouth or a foul odor from smoke.
As with smoking cessation, there aren’t many studies yet that can confirm the effectiveness of hypnosis on weight loss, though some studies have found modest weight loss — about 6 pounds over 18 months – through hypnosis. It is usually most helpful when hypnotherapy is used in combination with diet and exercise changes.
How it works: When you are hypnotized, your attention is highly focused. This makes you more likely to listen and respond to suggestions for behavior changes, such as eating a healthy diet or getting more exercise, which could help you lose weight.
Is hypnosis real?
Hypnosis is a genuine psychological therapy process. It’s often misunderstood and not widely used. However, medical research continues to clarify how and when hypnosis can be used as a therapy tool.
What exactly is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a treatment option that may help you cope with and treat different conditions. To do this, a certified hypnotist or hypnotherapist guides you into a deep state of relaxation (sometimes described as a trance-like state). While you’re in this state, they can make suggestions designed to help you become more open to change or therapeutic improvement.
Trance-like experiences aren’t all that uncommon. If you’ve ever zoned out while watching a movie or daydreaming, you’ve been in a similar trance-like state.
True hypnosis or hypnotherapy doesn’t involve swaying pocket watches, and it isn’t practiced on stage as part of an entertainment act.
Is hypnosis the same thing as hypnotherapy?
Yes and no. Hypnosis is a tool that can be used for therapeutic treatment. Hypnotherapy is the use of that tool. To put it another way, hypnosis is to hypnotherapy what dogs are to animal therapy.
How does hypnosis work?
During hypnosis, a trained hypnotist or hypnotherapist induces a state of intense concentration or focused attention. This is a guided process with verbal cues and repetition.
The trance-like state you enter may appear similar to sleep in many ways, but you’re fully aware of what’s going on.
While you’re in this trance-like state, your therapist will make guided suggestions designed to help you achieve your therapeutic goals.
Because you’re in a heightened state of focus, you may be more open to proposals or advice that, in your normal mental state, you might ignore or brush off.
When the session is complete, your therapist will wake you from the trance-like state, or you will exit it on your own.
It’s unclear how this intense level of inner concentration and focused attention has the impact it does.
Hypnotherapy may place the seeds of different thoughts in your mind during the trance-like state, and soon, those changes take root and prosper.
Hypnotherapy may also clear the way for deeper processing and acceptance. In your regular mental state, if it’s “cluttered,” your mind may be unable to absorb suggestions and guidance.
What happens to the brain during hypnosis?
Researchers at Harvard studied the brains of 57 people during guided hypnosis. They found that:
Two areas of the brain that are responsible for processing and controlling what’s going on in your body show greater activity during hypnosis.
Likewise, the area of your brain that’s responsible for your actions and the area that is aware of those actions appear to be disconnected during hypnosis.
Distinct sections of the brain are visibly altered during hypnosis. The areas that are most affected are those that play a role in action control and awareness.
Is it all just a placebo effect?
It’s possible, but hypnosis shows marked differences in brain activity. This suggests the brain reacts to hypnosis in a unique way, one that’s stronger than a placebo effect.
Like hypnosis, the placebo effect is driven by suggestion. Guided conversations or behavioral therapy of any type can have a powerful impact on behavior and feelings. Hypnosis is just one of those therapy tools.
Are there any side effects or risks?
Hypnosis rarely causes any side effects or has risks. As long as the therapy is conducted by a trained hypnotist or hypnotherapist, it can be a safe alternative therapy option.
Some people may experience mild-to-moderate side effects including:
- Situational anxiety
However, hypnosis used for memory retrieval is a controversial practice. People who use hypnosis in this way are more likely to experience anxiety, distress, and other side effects. You may also be more likely to create false memories.
Is the practice recommended by doctors?
Some doctors aren’t convinced that hypnosis can be used in mental health or for physical pain treatment. Research to support the use of hypnosis is getting stronger, but not all doctors embrace it.
Many medical schools don’t train doctors on the use of hypnosis, and not all mental health practitioners receive training during their years of school.
That leaves a great deal of misunderstanding about this possible therapy among healthcare professionals.
What can hypnosis be used for?
Hypnosis is promoted as a treatment for many conditions or issues. Research does provide some support for using hypnosis for some, but not all, of the conditions for which it’s used.
Research Trusted Source shows strong evidence Trusted Source for the use of hypnosis to treat:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Limited evidence Trusted Source suggests hypnosis may be used to treat Trusted Source:
- Smoking cessation
- Post-surgical wound healing
- Weight loss
More research is needed to verify the impact of hypnosis on the treatment of these and other conditions.
What happens during a session?
You may not undergo hypnosis during your first visit with a hypnotist or hypnotherapist. Instead, the two of you may talk about the goals you have and the process they can use to help you.
In a hypnosis session, your therapist will help you relax in a comfortable setting. They’ll explain the process and review your goals for the session. Then, they’ll use repetitive verbal cues to guide you into the trance-like state.
Once you’re in a receptive trance-like state, your therapist will suggest you work to achieve certain goals, help you visualize your future, and guide you toward making healthier decisions.
Afterward, your therapist will end your trance-like state by bringing you back to full consciousness.
Is one session enough?
Although one session can be helpful for some people, most therapists will tell you to begin hypnosis therapy with four to five sessions. After that phase, you can discuss how many more sessions are needed. You can also talk about whether any maintenance sessions are needed as well.
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