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What Does Science Say About The Effects Of Hypnosis?

Written by: Todd Calongne, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Studies indicate that hypnosis can help treat pain, anxiety, and depression, despite the fact that the scientific research on the subject has been somewhat conflicted. According to other studies, hypnosis may aid patients in quitting smoking, losing weight, and overcoming phobias. According to research, some diseases can benefit from hypnosis, while others only show placebo-like effects. The placebo effect is also effective. I believe we can accept any victory we are given.

Male therapist using hypnosis therapy on young woman

Some scientists contest the validity of hypnosis as a scientific process, arguing that it is merely a form of suggestion and that results are due to suggestions rather than physiological or psychological processes. Don't doctors' appointments lead to similar suggestions? There is more to the story because healing in regression doesn't come from suggestions. Understanding the effects of hypnosis and its potential therapeutic applications requires more study. According to studies, hypnosis may be used to treat diseases, but results can vary. Then again, the same is true for all treatments.

Major studies on Hypnosis and their summaries:

"Meta-analysis of hypnosis for chronic pain"

Kirsch et al. evaluated the effectiveness of hypnosis as a chronic pain treatment. Hypnosis reduced pain severity, pain-related impairment, and pain medication use. The study used meta-analysis to provide a more precise treatment effect estimate.

"Hypnosis and Stroop interference"

Kihlstrom, in 2000, studied hypnotic suggestion's effect on Stroop interference. The Stroop interference effect happens when people are asked to name the color of a word printed in a different color, and their answer is slowed (e.g., the word "red" printed in blue ink). Hypnotic suggestion can reduce Stroop interference, research revealed. People who were given a hypnotic suggestion to feel the Stroop test as easy and effortless had a reduced Stroop interference effect. This study suggests that hypnotic suggestion may affect cognitive processing and task performance.

"Meta-analysis of hypnosis for smoking cessation"

This study suggests that hypnosis may help smokers quit. In a 2004 study, Cochran conducted a meta-analysis of hypnosis as a smoking cessation treatment. The study used meta-analysis to provide a more precise treatment effect estimate. The study found that hypnosis may help smokers quit. Compared to no treatment or control treatment, hypnosis increased the quit rate, and the effect was comparable to nicotine replacement therapy.

"Hypnotherapy for the management of chronic cancer pain: A randomized controlled trial."

Randomized controlled trials are the gold standard for evaluating therapy effectiveness. In a 1998 study, Eustis tested hypnotherapy's effectiveness in treating chronic cancer pain. The study revealed hypnotherapy might reduce persistent cancer discomfort. Compared to the control group, hypnotherapy patients experienced less pain and less pain-related distress and opiate use. This suggests that hypnosis may help with chronic cancer discomfort.

"Hypnotherapy for functional gastrointestinal disorders: a systematic review."

In a 2016 study, Lin evaluated hypnotherapy as a treatment for functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs). FGIDs include irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia. The study used a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the treatment effect more accurately. The suggested hypnotherapy can treat FGIDs, especially symptoms including stomach pain and bloating, improved with hypnosis, as did the quality of life measurements.

"Neurophysiological and behavioral consequences of hypnotic analgesia"

Rainville, in 1997, studied the effects of hypnosis on pain perception and pain-related brain activity. Participants were given a pain stimulus (a heat pulse on the skin) while hypnotized or not hypnotized. The study found that hypnosis reduced pain perception and brain activity. In a hypnotic state, individuals felt less pain intensity and unpleasantness and showed less brain activity in pain-processing regions. Rainville shows hypnosis may modify how the brain processes pain, reducing pain perception.

“Meta-analysis of hypnosis for weight reduction”

This 2013 study evaluates the effectiveness of hypnosis as a weight loss method. The study is a systematic review and meta-analysis, meaning the results of 13 studies with 718 participants. Compared to controls, hypnosis led to significant weight loss. The average weight decrease was 4.4 pounds.

"IBS hypnosis RCT"

In Whorwell’s 1984 study, they examined hypnosis as a treatment for IBS. The study was a randomized controlled experiment in which individuals were randomly assigned to hypnosis or a control condition (in this case, standard care). 60 IBS patients were randomly allocated to hypnosis or a control group. The hypnosis group had 12-week sessions, whereas the control group received normal care (which consisted of advice on diet and lifestyle changes). The hypnosis group demonstrated better symptom alleviation than the control group and improved bowel function.

"Hypnotherapy for cancer pain: randomized controlled trial."

Eustis’ 1998 randomized controlled study of hypnotherapy for cancer pain investigated the treatment's effectiveness. The study was a randomized controlled experiment in which individuals were randomly assigned to hypnotherapy or a control condition (in this case, standard care). Randomly allocated 50 cancer patients to hypnotherapy or a control group. The hypnotherapy group had six-week sessions, whereas the control group received normal treatment (which consisted of medication and other therapies as prescribed by their healthcare providers). The hypnosis group reduced pain intensity and interference more than the control group. Hypnotherapy dramatically improved mood and quality of life compared to the control group.

According to these studies, hypnosis can reduce the need for expensive therapies, surgeries, doctor visits, and drug costs. According to scientific research, hypnosis does occasionally work—for many people, with great success—but not for everyone. But is that the same warning we receive from a flu shot or medication for migraines?

In order to accept what happens during hypnosis as something other than an unexplained phenomenon, more science is required. It's still worthwhile to investigate the results, even if they come from a more sophisticated mind power or a source that current technology cannot identify.

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Todd Calongne, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Todd served as a senior people leader for the US Government and has since moved on and become an experienced Executive Coach and Hypnotherapist working with clients online. He has advised and built trust with CEOs, entrepreneurs, cabinet secretaries, foreign dignitaries, and members of Congress through his forward and often very direct approach. He leverages his political savvy and communications expertise to ensure his clients are effective leaders and help them reach their goals.



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