For some people, hypnosis or hypnotherapy seems like a magician's stage act - getting people to do things they otherwise would not. However, hypnosis has some very useful real-life applications and is used by some as an alternative or even complimentary form of medical treatment. Commonly, hypnosis is used in conjunction with psychotherapy.
Hypnosis refers to a guided technique to bring about relaxation, deep concentration, and an intense attentive state to achieve a heightened state of awareness or a trance. Contrary to popular belief that this trance is a form of unconsciousness or sleep, subjects under a hypnotic trance are fully awake - the difference is that they have mentally blocked out all other distractions. Another interesting fact is that no one can be hypnotised against their will.
This hypnotic state is when the trained therapist can start to help the subject focus on the treatment goals. This trance state is useful to help subjects explore thoughts and ideas that would otherwise be upsetting to them.
Hypnosis can be used in various ways, such as for:
Changing bad behaviours
When a subject is in the trance state, his or her mind is more open to respond and accept suggestions. In suggestion therapy, positive messages are relayed to help people change behaviours such as smoking or nail-biting.
Hypnotherapy can be helpful in aiding people with changing their perception of pain and helping them cope. Some meta-analyses of studies have found that hypnosis could provide moderate to major relief for many types of pain. A study in 2007 found that women who were hypnotised before they had a breast biopsy or lumpectomy needed less sedation and experienced less nausea, pain and emotional distress after the procedure.
Some studies have found that hypnosis could reduce anxiety levels and lower blood pressure in patients before surgery and help patients feel more at ease.
Hypnotherapy is commonly used to find the root cause of mental disorders or symptoms by uncovering traumatic events. Through the guided hypnotic process, subjects can be guided to confront the memories without excessive emotional distress.
Other uses of hypnotherapy include dealing with:
Hypnosis is not considered a dangerous procedure and cannot be used for brainwashing or any form of mind control. When practised by a reputable practitioner, it is harmless and often beneficial. However, keep in mind that there are some controversial aspects of the therapy.
Subjects in a highly suggestive mental state may be susceptible to false memories unintentionally planted by a therapist. Hypnosis is also not to be regarded as a treatment unto itself, but as a component of a holistic programme. In addition, hypnotherapy is not recommended for with psychotic symptoms (hallucinations or delusions) or for someone who under the influence of drugs or alcohol.