Hypnosis is a mind-body technique sometimes promoted as an alternative therapy for anxiety. Also referred to as "hypnotherapy," hypnosis involves achieving a trance-like state of mind during which the hypnotized person experiences deep relaxation, focused attention, and greater openness to suggestion. Although there is a lack of research on hypnosis and anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder), several studies suggest that practicing hypnosis may ease anxiety to some degree.
The Science Behind Hypnosis and Anxiety
To date, few studies have explored the use of hypnosis in treatment of anxiety disorders (a class of conditions marked by frequent, excessive or irrational worrying often accompanies by physical symptoms). In a 2010 report from Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, researchers sized up the available research and found that hypnosis shows promise as a safe and effective treatment for anxiety. They also found "compelling evidence" that hypnosis may help manage anxiety-related health problems, such as headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.
Some studies also suggest that hypnosis may help people deal with anxiety triggered by certain stressful situations. For instance, a 2006 study from Anesthesia and Analgesia shows that hypnosis may alleviate anxiety prior to undergoing surgery. In tests on 76 surgery patients, the study's authors found that participants who underwent hypnosis were significantly less anxious upon entering the operating room (compared to members of the control groups). Other research suggests that hypnosis may help relieve anxiety among people undergoing dental procedures or colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening.
How to Use Hypnosis for Anxiety
Hypnosis is typically induced by a hypnotherapist, but self-hypnosis techniques can also be used in treatment of anxiety. Your mental health care provider may also be able to refer you to a hypnotherapist, or help you to incorporate hypnosis into your treatment program for anxiety.
Using Hypnosis for Anxiety
Using hypnosis may help reduce anxiety related to specific situations (such as public speaking). However, if you frequently experience anxiety or any symptoms of an anxiety disorder (such as constant worrying, irritability, muscle tension, and restlessness), it's important to work with a mental health professional to treat your anxiety. Using hypnosis as a substitute for more established anxiety treatment may have serious health consequences.
Hammond DC. "Hypnosis in the treatment of anxiety- and stress-related disorders." Expert Rev Neurother. 2010 Feb;10(2):263-73.
Elkins G, White J, Patel P, Marcus J, Perfect MM, Montgomery GH. "Hypnosis to manage anxiety and pain associated with colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening: Case studies and possible benefits." Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2006 Oct;54(4):416-31.
Moore R, Brødsgaard I, Abrahamsen R. "A 3-year comparison of dental anxiety treatment outcomes: hypnosis, group therapy and individual desensitization vs. no specialist treatment." Eur J Oral Sci. 2002 Aug;110(4):287-95.
Saadat H, Drummond-Lewis J, Maranets I, Kaplan D, Saadat A, Wang SM, Kain ZN. "Hypnosis reduces preoperative anxiety in adult patients." Anesth Analg. 2006 May;102(5):1394-6.