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Hypnotherapy -ˈther-ə-pē

By Steven Novella, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine

Hypnotherapy is derived from Western practice. In hypnotherapy (hypnosis), people are guided into an advanced state of relaxation and heightened attention. Hypnotized people become absorbed in the images suggested by the hypnotherapist and are able to suspend disbelief. Because their attention is more focused and they are more open to suggestion, hypnotherapy can be used to help people change their behavior and thus improve their health. Hypnotherapy can be used to treat or help treat purely psychologic symptoms.

Some people are able to learn to hypnotize themselves.

The mechanism of hypnotherapy is poorly understood from a scientific standpoint.

Medicinal claims

Hypnotherapy may also be helpful in treating many conditions and symptoms in which psychologic factors can influence physical symptoms:

  • Certain pain syndromes

  • Conversion disorders (development of physical symptoms that resemble those of a neurologic disorder and thought to be triggered by psychologic stress and conflict)

  • Headaches

  • Some skin disorders (such as warts and psoriasis)

  • High blood pressure

  • Nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, particularly the nausea some people get before chemotherapy (anticipatory nausea)

  • Anxiety and diminished quality of life in people who have cancer

Hypnotherapy has been used with some success to help people stop smoking and lose weight. It can reduce pain and anxiety during medical procedures in adults and children.