Hypnosis, a medium or modality through which you may become more alert to your own thoughts and feelings, can be appropriate for a number of health conditions, especially ones with emotional or psychological components. While the success rate varies, many health care professionals recommend considering hypnosis for the following:
Asthma: Studies suggest that hypnosis may be one useful tool in managing asthma, especially when there are emotional and psychological factors involved.
Burns: Hypnosis can reduce the pain associated with burns and is particularly useful when narcotic pain relievers are either inappropriate or ineffective. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) takes hypnosis a step further, maintaining that hypnosis can not only ease the pain but, when used early enough, may reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Childbirth: Hypnosis can ease the stress and pain of childbirth. The ASCH says that for some women, hypnosis can work as the sole analgesic for childbirth. It not only eliminates the risk posed by drugs, but it may reduce labor time by two to four hours. (It can be used in conjunction with natural childbirth approaches.)
Chronic pain: A National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel concluded that there was evidence that hypnosis is effective in alleviating some kinds of pain associated with various cancers. The panel also stated that hypnosis can be a part of the treatment program for other conditions, including inflammatory conditions of the mouth, temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders and headaches. It's also used to relieve the chronic pain associated with multiple sclerosis, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and back problems.
Dermatological problems: Hypnosis has been used for a variety of skin conditions, including warts, itching, acne, dermatitis, eczema, herpes simplex, psoriasis and rosacea. Its use can speed healing. A study in the Archives of Dermatology concluded that in certain patients, it can decrease or eliminate symptoms and, in some cases, cure the condition—or at least send it into remission.
Gastrointestinal disorders: The use of hypnosis has been successfully used to treat various gastrointestinal problems, including ulcers, colitis, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A study presented to the American Gastroenterological Association indicated that hypnosis seems to relax the autonomic nervous system, which controls movement in the digestive tract.
Hemophilia: Individuals suffering from hemophilia, a rare blood disorder, often can be taught to use self-hypnosis to control vascular flow and to eliminate the need for a blood transfusion.
Insomnia: Hypnosis, like meditation, biofeedback and other techniques to promote relaxation and reduce stress, is often used to help treat sleep disorders.
Medical/dental visits: Some physicians and dentists use hypnotic changes to relax patients and reduce pain during medical and dental procedures. In the hospital setting, it can help reduce anxiety and enhance healing. According to the ASCH, hypnosis, in rare circumstances, has been used as the sole anesthetic for surgery. But this is not a typical application. Perhaps of more significance to most of us is a study in the British medical journal Lancet indicating that hypnosis reduces anxiety associated with surgery, postoperative surgical pain and complications.
Nausea/morning sickness: For some pregnant women, hypnosis can relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness. It can also help reduce the nausea associated with various cancer treatments.
Smoking: Hypnosis is sometimes used to help people quit smoking. A study in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found that smokers who underwent hypnosis fared better than did smokers who attempted to quit on their own; however, hypnosis didn't seem to be more effective than other smoking cessation treatments.
Other behavioral modifications: Hypnosis may be used for concentration difficulties, test anxiety and learning disorders. It also may be used in treating sexual dysfunction and athletic performance.
Other habit disorders: Hypnosis is used for other addictive behaviors and habit disorders too, including bruxism (teeth grinding) and nail biting. It has generally not been found useful in working with drug and alcohol addictions.
Stress and anxiety: As a relaxation technique, hypnosis reduces stress and anxiety and helps cure phobias. It also can sometimes help you and the therapist come to a better understanding of what's causing the anxiety or phobia.
Trauma: Hypnosis may help with psychotherapy in treating trauma from incest, rape and abuse.
Weight loss: Hypnosis seems to help with low-to-moderate weight loss, but generally only when combined with some sort of behavioral weight-management program.
Not everyone can be hypnotized. Susceptibility varies, and about 10 percent of us can't be hypnotized at all. For most uses, however, it's not essential that you be highly hypnotizable to achieve results.
Hypnosis may not be for you if you have certain psychological conditions—particularly those caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. If you suffer from psychosis, severe depression (or another organic psychiatric condition) or antisocial personality disorder, you should probably not attempt hypnosis. These conditions require different forms of treatment; hypnosis is not considered an appropriate treatment option.