Would You Try Hypnosis for Anxiety?

Anxiety is a stressful, debilitating condition. Fortunately, there are many non-pharmaceutical ways to manage and reduce anxiety. For example, according to Gerard V. Sunnen, MD, hypnosis is a potent anti-anxiety tool. Dr. Sunnen is a physician and psychiatrist who regularly incorporates medical hypnotherapy into patient care.

Hypnosis and Anxiety                  

When you are anxious, your brain sends you unbidden and stressful messages, such as "everyone is looking at me." Hypnotherapy helps you change these anxiety-producing messages. It may also help you understand the root of your anxiety.

Hypnosis.org defines hypnosis as a heightened state of suggestibility, such that you accept suggestions from your hypnotist as true, and the suggestions effect your beliefs, habits, perceptions, and behaviors in varying degrees, according to how deeply you are hypnotized.

Hypnotic induced relaxation uses wording and imagery to reduce anxiety. During relaxation, your breathing slows, your blood pressure drops, and you have a sense of calm and well being. You focus and concentrate intensely so you minimize your awareness of peripheral activity around you. At the same time, you still feel your presence and are aware of your interactions with your hypnotist. While therapeutic hypnotists typically perform hypnosis, you can also hypnotize yourself with similar counting methods, progressive relaxation activities, or purposeful imagery.

Despite what you see in performance hypnotisms, which aim to entertain, you do not lose control while under hypnosis and you won't do anything you wouldn't be comfortable doing in your normal state.

A hypnotic session begins with a hypnotic induction, or ritual, that helps you formalize the transition to a more focused state of consciousness. The induction organizes and structures the hypnotic process so you can use the trance state most efficiently.

Brain imaging studies that compare the brains of people under hypnosis to their normal state show altered activity in the brain area associated with emotion and cognition in those individuals who respond to suggestions. Imaging also shows lowered activity in the brain associated with resting, daydream, or letting the mind wander.

Hypnosis can help reduced both generalized anxiety and situation-specific anxiety. For example, the results of a study of self-hypnotic relaxation in an outpatient clinical setting (subjects were women undergoing breast biopsy) were consistent with other studies. Eighty nine percent of the surgical patients benefited from adding hypnosis. Furthermore, they found that most patients can be hypnotized enough to benefit clinically. In anxiety-producing medical situations, hypnosis offers a safe, drug-free, and low- (or no) cost way to reduce pain and anxiety.


Sunnen, Gerard V., M.D. "Hypnosis and Anxiety." Web. http://www.triroc.com/sunnen/topics/hypn&anxiety.htm

Watkins, Carol, M.D. "Medical Hypnosis--Uses, Techniques, and Contraindications of Hypnotherapy." Web. http://www.ncpamd.com/medical_hypnosis.htm

Lang, Elvira V., M.D., Berbaum, Kevin S., Ph.D., Faintuch, Salomao, M.D.,  Hatsiopoulou, Olga, M.D., Halsey, Noami, B.A., Li, Xinyu, M.S., Berbaum, Michael L., Ph.D., Laser, Eleanor, Ph.D., and Baum, Janet, M.D. "Adjunctive Self-hypnotic Relaxation for Outpatient Medical Procedures: A Prospective Randomized Trial with Women Undergoing Large Core Breast Biopsy." Pain 126 (1-3) (2006): 155-164. Web. 7 September 2006. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656356/?tool=pubmed

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Relaxation Techniques for Health: An Introduction." Web. http://nccam.nih.gov/sites/nccam.nih.gov/files/D461.pdf

Hypnosis.org. "Definition of Hypnosis." http://www.hypnosis.org/free-hypnosis/hypnosis-information/definition-of-hypnosis.php

Global News. "Hypnosis is real: study." Web. 20 June 2012. http://www.globalnews.ca/science/6442665316/story.html