You're growing tired. Your eyelids are getting heavy. You're feeling very sleepy...
If you’re not feeling sleepy yet, you may be feeling suspicious, as all too often the stereotype of a hypnosis session is that of a huckster or a villain taking advantage of the person being hypnotized. Hypnosis, defined as a trancelike state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject, has something of an image problem.
What is hypnosis and how does it work?
It aims to create a situation conducive to concentration and focus, as well as relaxation, so under hypnosis you are more open to suggestions. Because of the amplified suggestibility and the softened defenses, the theory is that hypnotherapy can help people change certain behaviors, typically intractable ones, such as smoking. Another way experts use hypnosis is to alter people’s perceptions and sensations, which is particularly effective to treat pain, both chronic and acute.
What are the benefits of hypnosis?
Basically, hypnosis can help erode our resistance to the threat of change. It opens us to conceive of a different way to be and behave. It can complement other treatments for certain conditions, by helping us get our heads in the game with a new mindset to bring to an entrenched perception or habit. And while many people suspect that hypnosis is a form of nefarious mind control, studies suggest that good hypnotic subjects are active problem solvers. The heightened suggestibility doesn't mean that the subject's free will or moral judgment gets turned off.
Another caveat for hypnosis’ effectiveness is that people respond very differently. According to WebMD, “hypnosis, in general, does not work for everyone. About one in four people are not able to be hypnotized. When successful, the intensity of hypnosis can vary from person to person.”
3 benefits of hypnosis
1. Addictive behaviors
Studies on hypnosis for behaviors such as smoking, overeating have proved mixed. A 2012 systematic review of studies showed evidence of possible positive benefit from hypnosis, while a review two years earlier did not support the use of hypnosis. As a corrective to overeating, an analysis of several studies found that adding hypnosis to a cognitive behavioral treatment for weight reduction lead to nearly double the amount of weight loss.
Hypnosis has proved successful for helping people manage their anxiety, which can often mushroom into insomnia or phobia. Sometimes, a hypnosis session will use analysis to get to the origins of the fear. A hypnotist works to identify the root of stress or anxiety, whether it is situational, physical, or based on an issue from the past. According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders, affecting more than 25 million Americans. While anxiety is usually treated through medication or therapy or a combination of both, many people also turn to hypnosis.
3. Manage pain
One of hypnosis’s most established roles is in the treatment of cancer to reduce stress and anxiety as well as minimize the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting. It helps patients handle symptoms better and feel more empowered to process the pain with a more resourced attitude. Many studies also suggest that hypnosis helps people post-surgery to shorten their recovery time. In many cases, hypnosis allows patients to more quickly wean themselves off pain killers prescribed by their doctor.