What is Hypnosis?

May 13, 2009

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of attentive and focused concentration in which people can be relatively unaware of their surroundings. Relaxation, mental images and suggestions are part of hypnosis therapy, which is tailored to each client’s problems and may use one or all of the senses.

Does hypnosis require a therapist?

A hypnotherapist may be used to guide a patient or train them in self-hypnosis. Guided audiotapes may also be used so clients can practice the therapy at home. Ultimately, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, as the client must be willing to participate in the therapy.

The science of hypnosis

Physiologically, hypnosis resembles other forms of deep relaxation: a generalized decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity, a decrease in oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide eliminations, a lowering of blood pressure and heart rate and an increase in certain kinds of brain wave activity.

Common misunderstandings about hypnosis

•    People who are hypnotized are not completely blind to their surroundings and can easily rouse themselves to react to a situation that needs attention.
•    People cannot be hypnotized against their wishes. They must be willing to concentrate on their thoughts and follow the suggestions offered.

Uses of hypnosis

Hypnosis is most frequently used in areas such as behavior modification including smoking cessation, phobia relief, pain management, dentistry, pregnancy and delivery, anxiety and immune system function.

A dramatic case

Hypnosis is used in the treatment of congenital ichthyosis (fish skin disease), a genetic skin disorder that covers the surface of the skin with a hard, wart-like layered crust. Dermatologists thought ichthyosis was incurable until an anesthesiologist, Arthur Mason, used hypnosis by chance in the mid-1950s to effectively treat a patient he thought had warts. After Mason used hypnosis on the patient, a 16-year-old boy, the boy’s scales fell off and within 10 days, normal pink skin replaced it. Since then, hypnosis has been used to treat ichthyosis, not always resulting in complete cures, but often giving dramatic improvement.

How does hypnosis work?

No-one knows exactly how such bodily changes are brought about by hypnosis, but they clearly occur because of the connections between mind and body. Suggestions have the capacity to affect all systems and organs of the body in a variety of ways.

Hypnosis: more common than you may think

Flowing naturally in and out of hypnotic states is common; for example, it happens to people watching television, driving a car or on a computer.

We are also likely to move into a trance state in situations of extreme stress. When a person in a position of power yells, the yelling may have effects that become as strong as posthypnotic suggestions.

When physicians or other health care providers make predictions about an illness, they may have a similar effect. It is particularly important that physicians understand this state and the potential power of the positive and negative suggestions they use with their patients.

Copyright - National Institute of Health Office of Alternative Medicine