Google Search

Monday, July 16, 2012

Health Applications of Hypnosis

Can Hypnosis Improve the Quality of Life for Individuals with Chronic Illnesses?

Hypnosis has been used as a psychological treatment for a variety of illnesses with apparent success. While it is unlikely that hypnotic suggestions are capable of curing physical disease, they can be used to enhance relaxation and alleviate pain and other physical discomforts, and therefore they may make a positive contribution to the overall quality of care and of life. For example, several controlled studies have shown that hypnotic suggestions administered to patients who suffer from asthma can reduce both bronchodilator use and attacks of "wheezing", as well as increase peak expiratory flow rates. Hypnosis has also been used effectively in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, hyperemesis gravidarum (persistent nausea and vomiting) in pregnant women, and anticipatory nausea experienced by cancer patients who receive chemotherapy. Hypnotic suggestions have been observed to stimulate and inhibit allergic responses, and may also speed the healing of burns and wounds, but these issues require further carefully controlled study.

Even though the use of hypnosis may be associated with positive therapeutic outcomes, it is not clear that hypnosis itself is responsible for the effects observed. The active ingredient in some treatments labeled "hypnosis" might be mere relaxation, or a kind of placebo effect attributable to the use of a hypnotic ritual. It is well known, for example, that the "relaxation response" meditation technique introduced by Benson can alter blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen consumption, and the levels of certain neurotransmitters. The relaxation response is not the same as hypnosis, but hypnotic techniques may achieve some of their effects by virtue of the high levels of relaxation commonly associated with them. In the case of asthma, however, hypnosis seems to have a specific effect over and above relaxation.

The professional and popular literature contains occasional reports of clinical improvements and even cures of cancer in patients who have been treated with hypnosis or related techniques, such a relaxation and imagery. However, these apparent successes are typically poorly documented, and in the final analysis it is difficult to distinguish such "miracle cures" from spontaneous remissions which sometimes occur in these conditions. The most appropriate use of hypnosis in cancer treatment is as a complement to traditional medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, with the goal of enhancing the patient's quality of life while treatment is in progress.

Can Hypnosis be used in Pain Reduction?

Hypnosis has been employed in the clinic for both medical and psychotherapeutic purposes. By far the most successful and best documented of these has been hypnotic analgesia for the relief of pain. Clinical studies indicate that hypnosis can effectively relieve pain in patients suffering pain from burns, cancer and leukemia (e.g., bone marrow aspirations), childbirth, and dental procedures. In such circumstances, as many as half of an unselected patient population can obtain significant, if not total, pain relief from hypnosis. Hypnosis may be especially useful in cases of chronic pain, where chemical analgesics such as morphine pose risks of tolerance and addiction. Hypnosis has also been used, somewhat heroically perhaps, as the sole analgesic agent in abdominal, breast, cardiac, and genitourinary surgery, and in orthopedic situations, although it seems unlikely that more than about 10% of patients can tolerate major medical procedures with hypnosis alone.

A comparative study of experimental pain found that, among hypnotizable people, hypnotic analgesia was superior to morphine, diazepam, aspirin, acupuncture, and biofeedback. Hypnotic analgesia relieves both sensory pain and suffering. It is not a matter of simple relaxation or self-distraction. It does not appear to be mediated by endorphins or other endogenous opiates. There is a placebo component to all active analgesic agents, and hypnosis is no exception; however, hypnotizable people receive benefits from hypnotic suggestion that outweigh those of plausible placebos.

Does Hypnosis Increase Physical Performance?

From the beginning of the modern era, a great deal of research effort has been devoted to claims that hypnotic suggestions enable individuals to transcend their normal voluntary capacities -- to be stronger, see better, learn faster, and remember more. However, research has largely failed to find evidence that hypnosis can enhance human performance. Many early studies, which seemed to yield positive results for hypnosis, possessed serious methodological flaws such as the failure to collect adequate baseline information. In general, it appears that hypnotic suggestions for increased muscular strength, endurance, sensory acuity, or learning do not exceed what can be accomplished by motivated individuals outside hypnosis.

Can Hypnosis Improve Recall

A special case of performance enhancement has to do with hypnotic suggestions for improvements in memory -- what is known as hypnotic hypermnesia. Hypermnesia suggestions are sometimes employed in forensic situations, with forgetful witnesses and victims, or in therapeutic situations, to help patients remember traumatic personal experiences or the events of early childhood. While field studies have sometimes claimed that hypnosis can powerfully enhance memory, these anecdotal reports have not been duplicated under laboratory conditions.

A 1994 report by the Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance, a unit of the U.S. National Research Council, concluded that gains in recall produced by hypnotic suggestion were rarely dramatic, and were matched by gains observed even when individuals are not hypnotized. In fact, there is some evidence that hypnotic suggestion can interfere with normal hypermnesic processes. To make things worse, any increases obtained in valid recollection are met or exceeded by increases in false recollections. Hypnotized individuals (especially those who are highly hypnotizable) may be especially vulnerable to distortions in memory produced by leadingquestions and other subtle, suggestive influences.

Hypnosis is sometimes used therapeutically to recover forgotten incidents, as for example in cases of child sexual abuse. Although the literature contains a number of dramatic reports of the successful use of this technique, most of these reports are anecdotal in nature and fail to obtain independent corroboration of the memories that emerge. Given what we know about the unreliability of hypnotic hypermnesia, and the risk of increased responsiveness to leading questions and other sources of bias and distortion, such clinical practices are not recommended. Similar considerations obtain in forensic situations. In fact, many legal jurisdictions severely limit the introduction of memories recovered through hypnosis, out of a concern that such evidence might be tainted. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has published a set of guidelines for those who wish to use hypnosis forensically, and similar precautions should be employed in the clinic.

Similar conclusions apply to hypnotic age regression, in which individuals receive suggestions that they are returning to a previous period in their lives (this is also a technique that is used clinically to foster the retrieval of forgotten memories of child abuse). Although age-regressed individuals may experience themselves as children, and may behave in a childlike manner, there is no evidence that they actually lose adult modes of mental functioning, or return to childlike modes of mental functioning. Nor do age-regressed individuals retrieve forgotten memories of childhood.

Does Hypnosis have an Effect on Psychosomatic Disorders?

Hypnotic suggestion can have psychosomatic effects, a matter that should be of some interest to psychophysiologists and psychoneuroimmunologists. A famous case study convincingly documented the positive effects of hypnotic suggestion on an intractable case of congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma, a particularly aggressive skin disorder. Carefully controlled studies have shown that hypnotic suggestions can have a specific effect on the remission of warts. However, the same effects can be achieved by suggestions administered nonhypnotically. The mechanisms by which these "psychosomatic" effects are produced are theoretically interesting, and possibly clinically significant, but it is not yet clear that they have anything to do with hypnosis.

Can Hypnosis be used in Psychotherapy?

Hypnosis has been used in psychotherapy—both in psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioral oriented therapy. In the former case, hypnosis is used to promote relaxation, enhance imagery, and generally loosen the flow of free associations (some psychodynamic theorists consider hypnosis to be a form of adaptive regression or regression in the service of the ego). However, there is little evidence from controlled outcome studies that hypnoanalysis or hypnotherapy are more effective than nonhypnotic forms of the same treatment. By contrast, a 1995 meta-analysis by Kirsch and colleagues showed a significant advantage when hypnosis is used to complement cognitive-behavioral therapy for a number of problems, including anxiety and hypertension. In an era of evidence-based mental health care, it will be increasingly important for practitioners who use hypnosis to document, quantitatively, the clinical benefits of doing so.

Can Hypnosis help with Weight Control?

In the Kirsch study (mentioned above in the Psychotherapy section), the prospects for hypnosis appeared to be especially favorable in the treatment of obesity, where individuals in the hypnosis group continued to lose weight even after formal treatment had ended. In one study, for example, women who received personally tailored hypnotic suggestions for specific food aversions, in the context of a traditional self-monitoring and goal-setting treatment, lost approximately twice as much weight as a comparison group. This comparison group received the behavioral treatment alone (no hypnotic suggestion). However, the actual weight lost by the hypnosis group was only about 14 lb. on average. Given that the patients were approximately 50% overweight at the outset, it is not clear that the treatment actually improved their clinical status. Studies that document the clinical efficacy of hypnosis should pay careful attention to the terms in which outcome is assessed. While hypnosis may seem to offer an advantage over some other treatments, it is not clear that the statistical significance or experimental results translates into meaningful clinical significance or real results for individuals.

Can Hypnosis Help People Stop Smoking?

There have been many attempts to use hypnosis for habit control, however, hypnosis has no coercive power. That is, one cannot be hypnotized against his or her will, and even deeply hypnotized individuals cannot be made, by virtue of hypnotic suggestions, to do things that run against their own or others' interests. You cannot cajole a smoker to the local hypnotist and expect him or her to stop smoking. However, where the patient is appropriately motivated, as in the obesity study described earlier, hypnosis may offer a boost to treatment.

One popular hypnotic treatment for smoking involves a single session in which patients are taught to repeat a simple persuasive message during self-hypnosis. In one large-scale study of this technique, about 50% of patients stopped smoking immediately after treatment; at follow-up one and two years later, however, this figure had dropped to about 25%. Although this study did not include a nonhypnotic control group, this is about the same success rate as achieved with other cognitive-behavioral interventions. However, these other treatments are typically more intensive, so that the single-session hypnotic treatment may have some advantage in terms of efficiency. Interestingly, long-term abstinence was not related to traditional measures of hypnotizability, suggesting that the success of the treatment may have had more to do with the persuasive message than with hypnosis per se.

Caveats for Health Practitioners in the Use Hypnosis with Patients

An important but unresolved issue is the role played by individual differences in the clinical effectiveness of hypnosis. As in the laboratory, so in the clinic: a genuine effect of hypnosis should be correlated with hypnotizability.

It is possible that many clinical benefits of hypnosis are mediated by placebo-like motivational and expectational processes -- that is, with the "ceremony" surrounding hypnosis, rather than hypnosis per se. An analogy is to hypnotic analgesia, which appears to have a placebo component available to insusceptible and hypnotizable individuals alike, and a dissociative component available only to those who are highly hypnotizable. Unfortunately, clinical practitioners are often reluctant to assess hypnotizability in their patients and clients, out of a concern that low scores might reduce motivation for treatment. This danger is probably exaggerated. On the contrary, assessment of hypnotizability by clinicians contemplating the therapeutic use of hypnosis would seem to be no different, in principle, than assessing allergic responses before prescribing an antibiotic. In both cases, the legitimate goal is to determine what treatment is appropriate for what patient.

It should be noted that clinicians sometimes use hypnosis in non-hypnotic ways -- practices which tend to support the hypothesis that whatever effects they achieve through hypnosis are related to its placebo component. There is nothing particularly "hypnotic", for example, about having a patient in a smoking-cessation treatment rehearse therapeutic injunctions not to smoke and other coping strategies while hypnotized. It is likely that more successful use of hypnosis as an adjunct to the cognitive-behavioral treatment of smoking, overweight, and similar habit disorders would be to use hypnotic suggestions in order to control the patient's awareness of cravings for nicotine, sweets, and the like. Given the ability of hypnotic suggestions to control conscious perception and memory, such strategies might well have therapeutic advantage -- but only, of course, for those patients who are hypnotizable enough to respond positively to such suggestions.

A Brief History of Hypnosis

Ancient History

The origins of hypnosis extend back to the ancient temples of Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, where advice and reassurance uttered by priests to sleeping patients was interpreted by the patients as the gods speaking to them in their dreams.

Roots in Mesmerism

The more recent history of hypnosis begins with Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), who theorized that disease was caused by imbalances of a physical force, called animal magnetism, which affects various parts of the body. Mesmer also believed that cures could be achieved by redistributing this magnetic fluid -- a procedure that typically resulted in pseudoepileptic seizures known as "crises". In 1784, a French royal commission chaired by Benjamin Franklin and including Lavoisier and Guillotin among its members concluded that the effects of mesmerism, while genuine in many cases, were achieved by means of imagination and not by any physical force. In the course of their proceedings, the commissioners conducted what may well be the first controlled psychological experiments.
Mesmer's theory was discredited, but his practices lived on. A major transition occurred when one of Mesmer's followers, the Marquis de Puysegur, magnetised Victor Race, a young shepherd on his estate. Instead of undergoing a magnetic crisis, Victor fell into a somnambulistic (sleeplike) state in which he was responsive to instructions, and from which he awoke with an amnesia for what he had done. Later in the 19th century, John Elliotson and James Esdaile, among others, reported the successful use of mesmeric somnambulism as an anesthetic for surgery (although ether and chloroform soon proved to be more reliably effective).
James Braid, another British physician, speculated that somnambulism was caused by the paralysis of nerve centers induced by fixation of the eyes on an object. In order to eliminate the taint of mesmerism, Braid renamed the state "neurhypnotism" (nervous sleep); a term later shortened to hypnosis. Later, he concluded that hypnosis was due to the subject's concentration on a single thought (monoideism) rather than physiological fatigue.

Revival in Europe

Interest in hypnosis was revived in France in the late 1880s by Jean Martin Charcot, a neurologist, who thought that hypnosis and hysteria both reflected a disorder of the central nervous system. In opposition to Charcot's neurological theories, A.A. Liebeault and Hippolyte Bernheim, two other French physicians, emphasized the role of suggestibility in producing hypnotic effects. Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud also studied with Charcot, and Freud began to develop his psycho-social theories of mental illness after observing the suggestibility of hysterical patients when they were hypnotized.

In the United States

William James and other early psychologists became interested in hypnosis because it seemed to involve changes in conscious awareness. The first systematic experimental work on hypnosis was reported by P.C. Young, in a doctoral dissertation completed at Harvard in 1923, and by Clark Hull in an extensive series of experiments initiated at the University of Wisconsin in the 1920s and continued at Yale into the 1930s. Also at Wisconsin during Hull's time was Milton Erickson, a physician whose provocative clinical and experimental studies stimulated interest in hypnosis among psychotherapists (Hull knew Erickson at Wisconsin, but the immediate source of Hull's interest in hypnosis was Joseph Jastrow, a prominent psychologist, who was Hull's mentor). After World War II, interest in hypnosis rose rapidly. Ernest Hilgard, together with Josephine Hilgard and Andre Weitzenhoffer, founded a laboratory for hypnosis research at Stanford University. Hilgard's status as one of the world's most distinguished psychologists helped establish hypnosis as a legitimate subject of scientific inquiry. Also important in this revival were Martin Orne, Theodore X. Barber, Theodore Sarbin, and Erika Fromm.

Hypnosis FAQ

What is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a natural state of consciousness that we drift in and out of quite regularly. For example, while driving along a highway and then suddenly discovering that you ‘lost’ several miles without being aware of it. This can also happen during reading when you may notice that you have ‘read’ a chapter or two without being mindful of the content.

Hypnosis is basically a technique for focussing consciousness by entering a deep state of absorption. It allows you to shift from your outer to inner awareness and tap deeper levels of consciousness, so that we can re-educate and reprogram the subconscious with empowering suggestions or beliefs.

Will I remain aware during Hypnosis?

Yes! This is the most common misconception about hypnosis. As one goes deeper into hypnosis, a part of you will enter a deeper level of consciousness and part of you will remain aware. This process is called dissociation and is becoming more accepted as a definition of hypnosis. Another quality of hypnosis is the ability to become absorbed which takes you to a deeper level of awareness.

On occasion, particularly if you are quite tired, there may be a brief masking of consciousness as you drift in and out of a light sleep but your inner mind continues to hear the message.

Can Anyone Be Hypnotized?

Hypnosis is a skill that everyone can learn with increased practice. Like other skills such as playing the piano, learning tennis or mastering a foreign language, some persons are ‘naturals’ and can become accomplished with little training while others can increase their abilities with regular practice. Fortunately, most goals in hypnosis can be accomplished in a light or medium state.

How Does Hypnosis Work?

All Hypnosis is essentially self-hypnosis. You can either agree to accept suggestions or you can choose to mentally override them or change them to better suit your needs. As one becomes more relaxed and less critical or analytical, suggestions are more easily received by the subconscious mind.

Why Should I bother to Learn Hypnosis?

Since approximately 80% of most physical and psychological problems are stress related, one of the greatest benefits of the programs will be to teach you how to reduce tension and stress levels in your mind and body. In addition, as suggestions are made directly to the subconscious, you can learn to control most autonomic functions such as a heart beat, blood pressure, healing, the relaxation response and many other processes.

Will I Lose Control During Hypnosis?

On the contrary! As you go deeper into hypnosis, you will have easier access to the subconscious. Since the subconscious controls such functions as pain management, bleeding, blood pressure, healing and the immune system, and much more – you will actually have more control rather than less.

What Is The Difference Between Hypnosis And Trance?

The terms hypnosis, trance and deeper levels of consciousness or awareness are frequently used interchangeably.

How Does Hypnosis Compare to Meditation?

Both hypnosis and meditation involve physical relaxation and a narrowing of consciousness. With hypnosis, it is task or goal-oriented as you are mentally ‘working’ on something such as weight loss. In meditation, consciousness is ‘free-floating’ and it may lead to a greater sense of expanded awareness. Many meditators use hypnosis and one can slip from one state to the other quite easily.

Self –Talk

Change the inner aspects of your mind and you influence the outer aspects of your life.

Become one of life’s winners with the power of positive Self-Talk.
“Think Positive”, is accepted as good advise, but it’s often easier said than done. Our daily life is filled with silent chatter or Self-Talk within ourselves when we are not engaged in a conversation with others or, when we are not concentrating on some activity. What we imagine, desire, expect, either positive or negative is reinforced by our continual Self-Talk. By re-directing our Self-Talk in a positive way, we can overcome our self-doubt that prevents us from reaching our goals. Just as you can have renewed confidence with inspiring words from a friend or motivational speaker, with Self-Talk you can be your own best friend.

Another way to think of daily Self-Talk is that it is a form of waking hypnosis that is constantly programming your subconscious.

Why is Self-Talk so important?

Self-Talk can be a positive force and helpful in achieving goals, or it can be a negative and powerful from of Self-Sabotage. For instance, if recurring themes in one’s Self-Talk are…”I can’t lose weight” …”I always forget names”… “Things never work out for me”, your subconscious mind will find ways to fulfilling the negative suggestions. These Self-talk programs are intended to train you to substitute positive Self-Talk to help you improve yourself and achieve your goals more quickly and easily.

How Does Self-Talk Work?

Self-Talk acts to reinforce what you imagine desire or expect both positive and negative and prepares the different levels of your mind to act accordingly. As you use words, mental picture and feelings to program information into your mind, you develop new attitudes. These attitudes are strengthened through repetition, which leads to new behavior.

Why is imagery so important?

By combining positive Self-Talk with positive mental pictures you utilize much more of the brains total capacity in achieving your goals. For example, imagine watching T.V. with just the sound with no picture. Conversely, what if you had just the picture on and no sound? In both instances, you would be utilizing only a portion of the potential for communication and understanding. The same principle applies in combining Self-Talk with mental movies or imagery.

What kind of images should I create?

There are three techniques you can use.

1. Picture your end goal in detail. Use all of your senses, sight, sound, touch, smell and taste, plus the feeling of joy and satisfaction in achievement of that goal. See yourself in this picture as you would visualize it through your own eyes or as if you where watching a movie of yourself. 

2. Choose an image or symbol that represents the end goal. Such as a new home or financial success and focus on that symbol for the full 30 seconds.

3. Combine both of the techniques above and alternate between the “mental movie” and the fixed symbol. Create new images for each Self-Talk for greater effectiveness.