Hypnosis is a trance-like mental state in which people experience increased attention, concentration, and suggestibility. While hypnosis is often described as a sleep-like state, it is better expressed as a state of focused attention, heightened suggestibility, and vivid fantasies. People in a hypnotic state often seem sleepy and zoned out, but in reality, they are in a state of hyper-awareness.
While there are many myths and misconceptions, hypnosis is a very real process that can be used as a therapeutic tool. Hypnosis has been shown to have medical and therapeutic benefits, most notably in the reduction of pain and anxiety. It has even been suggested that hypnosis can reduce the symptoms of dementia.
Uses Why might a person decide to try hypnosis? In some cases, people might seek out hypnosis to help deal with chronic pain or to alleviate pain and anxiety caused by medical procedures such as surgery or childbirth. The following are just a few of the applications for hypnosis that have been demonstrated through research:
Alleviation of symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Control of pain during dental procedures.
Elimination or reduction of skin conditions including warts and psoriasis.
Management of certain symptoms of ADHD.
Treatment of chronic pain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment and reduction of pain during childbirth.
Reduction of dementia symptoms.
Reduction of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Tips While many people think that they cannot be hypnotized, research has shown that a large number of people are more hypnotizable than they believe. Research suggests that:
Between 10% to 15% of people are very responsive to hypnosis.
Approximately 10% of adults are considered difficult or impossible to hypnotize.
Children tend to be more susceptible to hypnosis.
People who can become easily absorbed in fantasies are much more responsive to hypnosis.
Potential Pitfalls Misunderstandings about the subject of hypnosis are common.
While amnesia may occur in very rare cases, people generally remember everything that transpired while they were hypnotized. However, hypnosis can have a significant effect on memory. Posthypnotic amnesia can lead an individual to forget certain things that occurred before or during hypnosis. However, this effect is generally limited and temporary.
While hypnosis can be used to enhance memory, the effects have been dramatically exaggerated in popular media. Research has found that hypnosis does not lead to significant memory enhancement or accuracy, and hypnosis can actually result in false or distorted memories.
Despite stories about people being hypnotized without their consent, hypnosis does require voluntary participation on the part of the patient. People do vary in terms of how hypnotizable and suggestible they are while under hypnosis, however. Research suggests that people who are highly suggestible are more likely to experience a reduced sense of agency while under hypnosis.
While people often feel that their actions under hypnosis seem to occur without the influence of their will, a hypnotist cannot make you perform actions that are against your wishes.
While hypnosis can be used to enhance performance, it cannot make people stronger or more athletic than their existing physical capabilities.