Hypnosis is a state of focused
concentration during which a person becomes less aware of his or her
surroundings. Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis to treat physical or
During a hypnotic state (trance), a
person may be more likely to accept suggestions that can help change his or her
behavior. A therapist (hypnotherapist) can lead the hypnosis, or he or she can
teach people to hypnotize themselves (self-hypnosis). You can also learn
self-hypnosis from books.
The hypnotherapist's goal is not to
control a person or give the person answers but rather to help the person solve
his or her own problems.
Self-hypnosis usually consists of writing
or adapting a script to induce hypnosis (including suggestions to help with
specific problems), recording the script, and playing the tape to become
hypnotized. Some people are more comfortable with self-hypnosis because they
are alone throughout the exercise and are in control of all suggestions made
during the hypnotic trance.
Hypnosis does not work for everyone.
You must be willing to focus your attention and follow the suggestions of the
therapist. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot be hypnotized unwillingly.
Also, when you are hypnotized, you will not follow directions against your
Experts do not know how hypnosis works, but it seems to
put the body in a state of deep relaxation.
Some people believe
hypnosis causes the brain to release natural substances that affect the way you
perceive pain and other symptoms. Others believe hypnosis acts on the
unconscious mind and allows you to control body reactions that you cannot
normally control, such as blood pressure, heartbeat, and hunger.
What is hypnosis used for?
Hypnosis is not intended
to cure disease but rather to relieve symptoms of illness. Hypnosis has been
effective in relieving pain associated with surgery, paralysis, and childbirth.
Also, it is widely used to control addictions to drugs, alcohol, food, and
smoking. Hypnosis can reduce stress by increasing relaxation, offering positive
suggestions, and eliminating negative thoughts.
Hypnosis can help
irritable bowel syndrome. Research has also found that
it can reduce cancer-related pain, labor pain, nausea, and vomiting. In some
cases hypnosis is combined with cognitive therapy or other relaxation and
Is hypnosis safe?
No formal licensing exists in the
United States to govern hypnotherapists. It is important to find a health
professional with extensive training and experience in hypnotherapy. Many
psychologists, counselors, doctors, and dentists are experienced in
Self-hypnosis is also considered safe, even when
done by inexperienced people. There are no reported cases of harm resulting
from self-hypnosis. But do not perform self-hypnosis while you are driving a
vehicle or are in any situation where you need to be fully alert or able to
respond quickly (for example, while operating machinery or while supervising
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative
therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your
conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional
medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.