An Overview of Hypnosis

Hypnosis is an alternative medicine treatment that is often used as an adjunct or complement to other more conventional treatments. According to supporters of hypnosis as an alternative medical treatment, hypnosis can help a patient enlist the power of the subconscious to treat physical problems and assist in therapy for various ailments. It's also used frequently in helping patients to control anxiety, pain and addictions.

Hypnosis is often seen as a parlor trick, but medical practitioners take its power seriously. The use of relaxation and post-hypnotic suggestion may help people to overcome cravings that sabotage diets and attempts to live a healthier lifestyle, control pain and nausea that accompany chemotherapy and surgery, and control asthma and other involuntary bodily responses.


The Evidence In Favor
The use of hypnosis has been widely studied since the 1970s, and while the results of various studies have been varied, there is some evidence to support that hypnosis has:

  • Reduced induced pain in an experimental group
  • Reduced anxiety in people undergoing chemotherapy
  • Increased receptivity to positive stimulus
  • Relieved stress and tension related headaches
  • Reduced cravings for drugs, nicotine, caffeine and food
  • Aided weight loss attempts
  • Relieved anxiety and depression
  • Helped people in adopting new, healthy behaviors
  • Increased positive self image
  • Improved performance in sports and career activities

Dr. David Spiegel, associate chair of psychiatry at Stanford University explained in a recent Newsweek article that hypnosis is "... a way of enhancing people’s control, of teaching them how to control of their body’s function and sensation that they thought they couldn’t." This is perhaps one of the best explanations of hypnosis anywhere, and it’s borne out by such things as MRI brain scans that show people actually controlling their brain waves.

The Method
Despite popular cartoons and movies featuring the line ‘Look into my eyes ...’ scientists have discovered that the true power to hypnotize lies more in the voice. Hypnotists use a combination of guided imagery and positive affirmations to help patients achieve lasting change.

The Criticism
Critics point out that much of the research on hypnosis as a medical tool is inconclusive, and that many of the results are not replicable in further studies. Hypnotists respond that every patient reacts differently, and it is difficult to measure any standardized approach and make it conform in every situation.

The bottom line is that there are avid supporters of hypnotism as therapy and as a medical tool to complement other conventional treatments. There may be those who are ‘resistant’ to suggestion with whom hypnosis will not work, but according to hypnotherapists, it’s rare for a person to be completely resistant to hypnosis. Results do vary according to a patient’s motivation, though.

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