Hypnosis Revelations

April 6, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Clinical hypnosis is quickly making inroads into the mainstream of medicine. Thankfully, it’s no longer being viewed as the exclusive domain of esoteric healers or second rate magicians. This is due, in large part, to a growing body of scientific trials that have been conducted at prestigious centers of learning throughout the world. The findings of these recent inquiries are beginning to reveal the true potential of this mind-body modality.

Like many other alternative practices, hypnosis is best applied as a complementary therapy. When used in conjunction with allopathic and holistic treatments, it has been shown to benefit a wide variety of conditions and diseases. A case in point is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder that manifests as symptoms ranging from abdominal bloating and pain to constipation and diarrhea. Researchers based in Sweden are now convinced that adding hypnotherapy, 1 hour/week for a total of 12 weeks, to conventional care optimizes IBS treatment outcomes. Proof positive of this assertion can be found in no less than three studies published over the past year. The conclusions of the trials inform that hypnosis is capable of alleviating symptoms in over 40% of IBS patients. Perhaps even more impressive is that up 85% of those who benefit from hypnotherapy report continued symptom abatement up to 7 years after the initial treatment. This is partially due to the patients’ willingness to continue employing hypnosis as part of their overall wellness routine. In real world terms, this results in an approximately 70% reduction in health care resources used to address bowel and stomach issues.

Pain management is perhaps the most common application for clinical hypnotherapy. A current investigation conducted at the University of Florida confirms what has long been claimed and suspected: hypnosis reliably decreases short term “pain intensity and pain unpleasantness”. However, it exacts these benefits without modulating key factors that are believed to be involved in pain perception, such as cortisol, a stress hormone, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a proinflammatory protein. This mystery begs for additional clarification and study into the underlying mechanisms involved. Nevertheless, what is not in question is hypnotherapy’s ability to manage pain of all sorts in a safe manner, even in chronic conditions including fibromyalgia, multiple bone fractures and tension-type headaches. In fact, when recently comparing hypnotic relaxation vs. amitriptyline, a prescription headache medication, researchers concluded that hypnosis was preferable in terms of both efficacy and tolerability.

What is most encouraging about the future prospects of hypnotherapy is that scientists are now willing to apply it in a broader way than ever before. For instance, this past month, a paper in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis describes how self-hypnosis training can be used to reduce fatigue, pain intensity and sleep problems in breast cancer survivors and women currently undergoing breast cancer treatment. Another avenue of hope was recently introduced by an experiment that determined that being in a hypnotic state significantly increases blood flow to the brain as assessed by transcranial doppler sonography. Improvements in cerebral blood flow may be of value to countless seniors and even younger patients with compromised cardiovascular and circulatory function.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Hypnosis Provides Effective Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (link)

Study 2 – Effects of Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy on IBS in Different Clinical (link)

Study 3 – Long-Term Effects of Hypnotherapy in Patients with Refractory Irritable (link)

Study 4 – Behavioral Interventions May Prolong Remission in Patients with (link)

Study 5 – Experimental Pain Ratings and Reactivity of Cortisol and Soluble Tumor (link)

Study 6 – Multicomponent Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy With Hypnosis for (link)

Study 7 – Virtual Reality Hypnosis Pain Control in the Treatment of Multiple (link)

Study 8 – Hypnotic Relaxation Vs Amitriptyline for Tension-Type Headache (link)

Study 9 – Hypnosis for Symptom Management in Women With Breast Cancer (link)

Study 10 – Cerebral Blood Flow Evaluation During the Hypnotic State With (link)

Hypnotherapy Reduces Pain Intensity and Perception

Source: Pain Med. 2012 Jan;13(1):29-44. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, General Health, Mental Health

8 Comments & Updates to “Hypnosis Revelations”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: Hypnosis improves cognition and sleep in seniors …


    Neuropsychologia Volume 69, March 2015

    Improving sleep and cognition by hypnotic suggestion in the elderly


    • Hypnotic suggestions increase the amount of deep sleep by 57% in the elderly.
    • Deeper sleep by hypnosis improves prefrontal cognitive functioning.
    • Well-controlled study using high density EEG recordings in the sleep laboratory.
    • Hypnosis might have the potential to benefit sleep and cognition in healthy aging.


    Sleep quality markedly declines across the human lifespan. Particularly the amount of slow-wave sleep (SWS) decreases with age and this decrease is paralleled by a loss of cognitive functioning in the elderly. Here we show in healthy elderly females that the amount of SWS can be extended by a hypnotic suggestion “to sleep deeper” before sleep. In a placebo-controlled cross-over design, participants listened to hypnotic suggestions or a control tape before a midday nap while high density electroencephalography was recorded. After the hypnotic suggestion, we observed a 57% increase in SWS in females suggestible to hypnosis as compared to the control condition. Furthermore, left frontal slow-wave activity (SWA), characteristic for SWS, was significantly increased, followed by a significant improvement in prefrontal cognitive functioning after sleep. Our results suggest that hypnotic suggestions might be a successful alternative for widely-used sleep-enhancing medication to extend SWS and improve cognition in the elderly.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Update 06/30/15:


    Am J Clin Hypn. 2015;58(1):5-21.

    Hypnosis and Guided Imagery Treatment for Gastrointestinal Disorders: Experience With Scripted Protocols Developed at the University of North Carolina.

    Completely scripted treatment courses for verbatim interventions are uncommon in the field of clinical hypnosis. This approach was adopted for by a North Carolina research team for treating gastrointestinal disorders 20 years ago and has been used in hypnosis treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, as well as in guided imagery treatment for functional abdominal pain. Treatment with these scripted protocols is delivered in a fixed series of sessions over a 2- or 3-month period. They have been found efficacious for improving bowel symptoms in several clinical trials, even in patients who have been entirely unresponsive to medical treatment. Response rates in clinical trials have ranged from 53% to 94%, and the therapeutic benefits have been shown to be well maintained at 6-, 10-, or 12-month follow-ups in different studies. This article describes the development and research on these protocols and summarizes the advantages and limitations of this fully scripted treatment approach.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update 06/30/15:


    PLoS One. 2015 May 11;10(5):e0126497.

    The impact of hypnotic suggestions on reaction times in continuous performance test in adults with ADHD and healthy controls.

    Attention is one of the key factors in both hypnotic processes and patients with ADHD. In addition, the brain areas associated with hypnosis and ADHD overlap in many respects. However, the use of hypnosis in ADHD patients has still received only minor attention in research. The main purpose of the present work was to investigate whether hypnosis and hypnotic suggestions influence the performance of adult ADHD (n = 27) and control participants (n = 31) in the continuous performance test (CPT). The hypnotic susceptibility of the participants was measured by the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility (HGSHS:A) and the attentional task was a three minute long auditory version of the CPT. The CPT task was administered four times: before hypnosis (CPT1), after a hypnotic induction (CPT2), after suggestions about speed and accuracy (CPT3), and after the termination of hypnosis (CPT4). The susceptibility of the groups measured by HGSHS:A did not differ. There was a statistically significant decrease in reaction times in both ADHD and control groups between CPT2 and CPT3. The differences between CPT1 and CPT2, even though non-significant, were different in the two groups: in the ADHD group reaction times decreased whereas in the control group they increased. Both groups made very few errors in the short CPT. This study indicates that hypnotic suggestions have an effect on reaction times in the sustained attention task both in adult ADHD patients and control subjects. The theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 1/16/16:


    BMC Geriatr. 2016 Jan 15;16(1):14.

    Hypnosis can reduce pain in hospitalized older patients: a randomized controlled study.

    BACKGROUND: Chronic pain is a common and serious health problem in older patients. Treatment often includes non pharmacological approaches despite a relatively modest evidence base in this population. Hypnosis has been used in younger adults with positive results. The main objective of this study was to measure the feasibility and efficacy of hypnosis (including self hypnosis) in the management of chronic pain in older hospitalized patients.

    METHODS: A single center randomized controlled trial using a two arm parallel group design (hypnosis versus massage). Inclusion criteria were chronic pain for more than 3 months with impact on daily life activities, intensity of > 4; adapted analgesic treatment; no cognitive impairment. Brief pain inventory was completed.

    RESULTS: Fifty-three patients were included (mean age: 80.6 ± 8.2- 14 men; 26 hypnosis; 27 massage. Pain intensity decreased significantly in both groups after each session. Average pain measured by the brief pain index sustained a greater decrease in the hypnosis group compared to the massage group during the hospitalisation. This was confirmed by the measure of intensity of the pain before each session that decreased only in the hypnosis group over time (P = 0.008). Depression scores improved significantly over the time only in the hypnosis group (P = 0.049). There was no effect in either group 3 months post hospitals discharge.

    DISCUSSIONS AND CONCLUSION: Hypnosis represents a safe and valuable tool in chronic pain management of hospitalized older patients. In hospital interventions did not provide long term post discharge relief.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 05/31/17:


    Am J Clin Hypn. 2017 Jul;60(1):68-84.

    Psychological Effects of Group Hypnotherapy on Breast Cancer Patients During Chemotherapy.

    The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of group hypnotherapy on anxiety, depression, stress, self-esteem, optimism, and social support during chemotherapy, in patients with breast cancer, compared with a control group with standard medical care. Hypnotherapy consisted of 24 sessions that included suggestions to encourage relaxation, self-esteem, the resolution of past traumatic events, physical healing, and optimism. Results show that the hypnotherapy group significantly decreased anxiety, distress, increased self-esteem, and optimism in the first 12 sessions. However, at the end of the 24 sessions, only self-esteem and optimism remained significant compared with the control group. The convenience of using hypnotherapy to encourage optimism and self-esteem in patients with breast cancer during chemotherapy treatment is discussed given its protective effect on health.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 1/16/18:


    Ind Health. 2018 Jan 13.

    Using relaxation techniques to improve sleep during naps.

    Insufficient sleep is a common occurrence in occupational settings (e.g. doctors, drivers, soldiers). The resulting sleep debt can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, mood disorder, and cognitive deficits as well as altered vascular, immune and inflammatory responses. Short daytime naps have been shown to be effective at counteracting negative outcomes related to sleep debt with positive effects on daytime sleepiness and performance after a normal or restricted night of sleep in laboratory settings. However, the environmental settings in the workplace and the emotional state of workers are generally not conducive to beneficial effects. Here, we tested whether relaxation techniques (RT) involving hypnosis might increase total sleep time (TST) and/or deepen sleep. In this study, eleven volunteers (aged 37-52) took six early-afternoon naps (30 minutes) in their occupational workplace, under two different conditions: control ‘Naps’ or ‘Naps + RT’ with a within-subjects design. Our results demonstrate that adding RT to naps changes sleep architecture, with a significant increase in the TST, mostly due to N2 sleep stage (and N3, to a lesser extent). Therefore, the deepening of short naps with RT involving hypnosis might be a successful non-pharmacological way to extend sleep duration and to deepen sleep in occupational settings.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 01/14/19:


    Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Nov 16;19(11). pii: E3619.

    Intestinal Microbiome in Irritable Bowel Syndrome before and after Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy.

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder with brain-gut-microbiome alterations. Gut-directed hypnotherapy (GHT) has been shown to improve quality of life and symptoms in IBS. This therapy targets psychological coping, central nervous processing and brain-gut interaction. Studies have also demonstrated effects of hypnosis on intestinal transit and the mucosal immune system. So far, no study has examined the effect of GHT on the intestinal microbiome. This study aimed at examining microbial composition, IBS symptoms, and psychological distress before and after GHT.

    METHODS: Fecal samples were collected from 38 IBS patients (Rome-III criteria, mean age 44 years, 27 female, 11 male, 22 diarrhea-dominant, 12 alternating-type and 4 constipation-dominant IBS) before and after 10 weekly group sessions of GHT. Assessments in psychological (perceived stress, PSQ; psychological distress, HADS-D; quality of life, visual analogue scales) and IBS symptom-related variables (IBS severity, IBS-SSS; single symptoms, visual analogue scales) were performed with validated questionnaires. Fecal samples underwent microbial 16S rRNA analyses (regions V1⁻2).

    RESULTS: Microbial alpha diversity was stable before and after GHT (chao1 2591 ± 548 vs. 2581 ± 539, p = 0.92). No significant differences were found in relative bacterial abundances but trends of reduced abundance of Lachnospiraceae 32.18 (4.14⁻39.89) Median (Q1⁻Q3) vs. 28.11 (22.85; 35.55) and Firmicutes: Bacteroidetes ratio after GHT were observable. Significant reductions in symptom severity (323 (266⁻371) vs. 264 (191⁻331), p = 0.001) and psychological distress 17.0 (12.6⁻21.8) vs. 12.0 (8.3⁻18.0), p = 0.001, and increased well-being were found after GHT. Adequate relief after therapy was reported by 32 (84%) patients.

    CONCLUSION: Reductions in IBS symptoms and psychological burden were observed after gut-directed hypnotherapy, but only small changes were found in intestinal microbiota composition. The findings suggest that hypnosis may act by central nervous impact and other factors largely independent from microbiota composition modulating the brain-gut axis, possibly alterations in vagus nerve functioning and microbiota metabolism.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 02/03/19:


    Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2019 Jan-Mar;67(1):69-80.

    SKYPE HYPNOTHERAPY FOR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: Effectiveness and Comparison with Face-to-Face Treatment.

    Gut-focused hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome but is not widely available. This study assessed whether providing hypnotherapy by Skype might partially overcome this problem. Using a 50-point or more reduction in the IBS Symptom Severity Score as the primary outcome measure, 65% of subjects responded to Skype hypnotherapy with all other outcomes significantly improving. The primary outcome figure for face-to-face hypnotherapy was 76%. When other outcome scores for Skype and face-to-face treatment were compared, the mean changes were these: symptom severity (-94.1 vs. -129.2), noncolonic score (-52.3 vs. -64.8), quality of life (+56.4 vs. +66.2), anxiety (-3.3 vs. -3.0), depression (-1.7 vs. -2.5), and a 30% or more pain reduction (44% vs. 62%). Skype hypnotherapy is effective but slightly less so than face-to-face treatment. However, many patients would have been unable to access treatment without the Skype option.

    Be well!


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