SCIENCE OF HYPNOSIS

Hypnosis Benefits

Hypnotherapy is scientifically proven to help with a variety of physical and emotional issues. According to the National Institutes of Health, "hypnosis is helpful with depression, anxiety, PTSD, pain control, headaches, hot flashes, quitting smoking" and more.
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Anxiety Reduction
Hypnosis has proven to be a "highly effective" intervention for reducing anxiety. Researchers at the University of Hartford in Connecticut analyzed 15 studies (incorporating 17 trials) where hypnosis was used for anxiety reduction. The findings showed a 79% reduction in symptoms. The study also showed an 84% reduction in anxiety symptoms in 7 of the trials. This analysis suggests that hypnosis may be more effective than standard interventions for anxiety.
Source: (1) Keara E. Valentine, Leonard S. Milling, Lauren J. Clark & Caitlin L. Moriarty, "The Efficacy of Hypnosis as a Treatment for Anxiety: A Meta-Ananysis."
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Smoking Cessation
Hypnosis has long been appreciated as an effective way to overcome habits. Generally, 45-60% of smokers who use hypnosis will successfully quit (compared to just 10% who try nicotine replacement therapy). A 2014 randomized controlled trial concluded: "hypnotherapy is more effective than nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation." Studies confirm that an individualized, three-session program increases your chances of long-term success. "At the end of treatment, 81% reported they had stopped smoking, 48% reported abstinence after 12 months, and 95% reported they were satisfied with the treatment."
Source: (1) Viswesvaran and Schmidt, "A Meta-analytic Comparison of the Effectiveness of Smoking Cessation Methods." (2) Hasan FM, Zagarins SE, Pischke KM, Saiyed S, Bettencourt AM, Beal L, Macys D, Aurora S, McCleary N., "Hypnotherapy is more effective than nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation: results of a randomized controlled trial." (3) Elkins and Rajab, "Clinical Hypnosis for Smoking Cessation."
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Weight Loss
One of the advantages of using hypnosis for weight loss is that it's a brief and pleasant process, with often long-lasting results. Hypnosis helps by enhancing confidence, commitment, and motivation. Studies have shown that incorporating hypnosis into a lifestyle program can double your weight loss and help maintain weight loss longer. In a 2020 study, researchers tracked the effects of hypnosis in a clinically-supervised weight loss program. After 10 weeks, the results showed that BMI and leptin levels (a hormone associated with obesity) decreased significantly, whereas irisin and adiponectin levels (a hormone your body needs to protect you against obesity and type II diabetes) increased significantly.
Source: (1) Evelyn Greaves, G. Tidy, R.A.S. Christie, "Hypnotherapy as an Adjunct to the Dietetic Management of Obese Patients." (2) Irving Kirsch, "Hypnotic Enhancement of Cognitive-Behavioral Weight Loss Treatments: Another Meta-Reanalysis." (3) Erşan S, Erşan EE, "Effects of Hypnotherapy on Weight Loss and thus on Serum Leptin, Adiponectin, and Irisin Levels in Obese Patients."
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Chronic Pain
Studies confirm that hypnosis is highly effective at reducing pain intensity in individuals with chronic pain. According to research, hypnosis "drastically reduces severe pain in hospital patients." After receiving a single 15-minute session, patients reported an immediate reduction in pain, similar to what one might expect from an opioid painkiller. Patients also reported a significant decrease in the perceived need for pain medication.
Source: (1) Eric L. Garland, Anne K. Baker, Paula Larsen, Michael R. Riquino, Sarah E. Priddy, Elizabeth Thomas, Adam W. Hanley, Patricia Galbraith, Nathan Wanner, Yoshio Nakamura, "Randomized Controlled Trial of Brief Mindfulness Training and Hypnotic Suggestion for Acute Pain Relief in the Hospital Setting."
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Gastrointestinal Problems
People with gastrointestinal problems (irritable bowel, inflammatory bowel, ulcerative colitis, dyspepsia, Crohn's) often find relief through hypnosis. Studies have shown that "gut-directed hypnotherapy" helps to reduce abdominal pain, bloating, bowel dysfunction, and improves quality of life. On average, 75% experience "significant" relief, and 80% continue to feel better for up to 6 years. Hypnosis is now considered a primary intervention recommended by the American Gastroenterological Association. Given how closely the gut and brain interact, functional gastrointestinal disorders are now called "disorders of gut-brain interaction (DGBI)." New studies recommend six sessions of hypnotherapy for lasting results.
Source: (1) Whorwell PJ; Prior A; Faragher EB., "Controlled trial of hypnotherapy in the treatment of severe refractory irritable bowel syndrome." (2) Palsson OS, Turner MJ, Johnson DA, Burnett CK, Whitehead WE., "Hypnosis treatment for severe irritable bowel syndrome: investigation of mechanism and effects on symptoms." (3) Megan E. Riehl, "The Emerging Role of Brain-Gut Therapies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome." (4) Syed S. Hasan, Peter J. Whorwell, Vivien Miller, Julie Morris, Dipesh H. Vasant., "Six vs 12 Sessions of Gut-focused Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome."
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Stress-Related Skin Problems
Hypnosis has been proven to decrease stress and anxiety, reduce pain and inflammation, and decrease behaviors such as scratching, itching, and hair-pulling. The hypnotic state can affect autonomic and physiological functions, including pain sensation and immune response. It has shown promising results for those who are dealing with stress-related skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, and hives. The most extensively studied skin conditions that respond to hypnotherapy are psoriasis and warts. A 2005 review published by the Mayo Clinic concluded, "the use of hypnosis in dermatology supports its value for many skin conditions not believed to be under conscious control."
Source: (1) Shenefelt PD., "Hypnosis in dermatology." (2) Perczel, K. and Gál, J., "Hypnotherapy of atopic dermatitis in an adult." (3) Stewart, A. C. & Thomas, S. E., "Hypnotherapy as a treatment for atopic dermatitis in adults and children." (4) Spanos, N. P., Stenstrom, R. J. & Johnston, J. C., "Hypnosis, placebo, and suggestion in the treatment of warts." (5) Stewart, J. H., "Hypnosis in contemporary medicine." Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
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Sleep Improvement
Hypnosis has shown to be a safe, side-effect-free way to improve troubled sleep. In a study measuring brain wave activity, researchers found that hypnosis boosts not only deep sleep quantity but also improves deep sleep quality. Study participants slept 67% more and saw their "deep sleep" time rise by roughly 80% after hypnosis. The research team observed that slow-wave activity during deep sleep was "significantly enhanced" following hypnosis.
Source: (1) Cordi, M. J., Schlarb, A. A., & Rasch, B., "Deepening sleep by hypnotic suggestion."
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Headaches + Migraines
There is sufficient evidence to show that hypnosis can help those who suffer from headaches and migraines manage their symptoms and may also prevent triggers that cause headaches. One study examined whether hypnosis could reduce medication usage and migraine duration in a program of six sessions. They found that the number of patients in the hypnosis group who experienced complete remission from migraines was 43.5%, compared to 12.5% from the medication group.
Source: (1) J.A.D. Anderson, M.A. Basker, R. Dalton, "Migraine and Hypnotherapy." (2) DC Hammond, "Review of the efficacy of clinical hypnosis with headaches and migraines."
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Hot Flashes
Of all complementary approaches, hypnosis is uniquely effective in alleviating symptoms of menopause. A report commissioned by the North American Menopause Society showed hypnosis significantly decreases hot flashes in both frequency and severity and reduces hot flashes by as much as 74%.
Source: (1) Elkins GR, Fisher WI, Johnson AK, et al. "Clinical hypnosis in the treatment of postmenopausal hot flashes: a randomized controlled trial."
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Relax Before a Medical Procedure
Feeling stressed or worried can negatively impact the outcome of a medical procedure. Hypnosis offers a non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical way to tap into the mind's natural ability to reduce stress and pain. In clinical trials, those who received hypnosis reported far less pain and anxiety, suffered fewer complications, and recovered faster than those who received standard care. In fact, according to a report in The American Journal of Medicine: "hypnosis improves procedural pain and emotional distress and reduces medication consumption up to 40% — in short, if hypnosis were a drug, it would be standard of care."
Source: (1) Flory N, Salazar GM, Lang EV., "Hypnosis for acute distress management during medical procedures." (2) Lang EV, Rosen M., "Cost analysis of adjunct hypnosis for sedation during outpatient interventional procedures." (3) Lang EV, Berbaum K, Faintuch S, Hatsiopoulou O, Halsey N, Li X, Berbaum M, Laser E, Baum J., "Adjunctive self-hypnotic relaxation for outpatient medical procedures: A prospective randomized trial with women undergoing large core needle biopsy of the breast." (4) Kittle Jesse, Spiegel David., "Hypnosis: The Most Effective Treatment You Have Yet to Prescribe."

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Author: The content on this page was researched, written, and fact-checked by Harley Sears. Last updated October 20, 2021.