Will hypnotherapy work for anxiety? Will it work for stress and anxiety? What about PTSD? Will it stop panic attacks? We share the answers to those questions and more in the content below, in a hopes it will help you make an informed decision about using hypnosis for anxiety and related conditions.
Table of Contents
Does Hypnotherapy Work for Anxiety?
The effectiveness of hypnotherapy for anxiety is unsupported by clinical research. According to the NCBI, “to date, evidence is negative or insufficient to support the efficacy of hypnosis in chronic anxiety disorders, in any categories whatsoever - including phobia or PTSD.”
However, just because research doesn’t indicate effectiveness, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. In one study, children with PTSD improved with the use of a specific hypnosis technique adapted to their local culture.
This indicates that the effectiveness may lie more in the approach and the practitioners ability to adapt the hypnotherapy sessions to the client’s particular needs.
In addition, the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine is a highly prestigious medical center and will treat the following conditions with hypnosis:
Procedural anxiety management
Stress-related neurological problems
“I now believe undoubtedly that hypnotherapy works,” says S.B. Castañeda. “While I am not ‘cured’ of my anxiety disorder, I am far better equipped to deal with it.”
“For people living with OCD, PTSD, phobias, anxiety, or depression, sometimes therapy and medication don't feel like enough,” says Ilana Kaplan. Seven years of medication for various anxiety conditions led her to try hypnotherapy. She states that she didn’t believe hypnosis could work until it changed her life.
How Does Hypnotherapy Work for Anxiety?
Various studies have shown hypnotherapy to be effective in helping to to relieve stress, lessen fear, and reduce anxiety. Some people have found it to be a helpful method for dealing with the symptoms of panic disorder.
In a hypnotherapy treatment, you will experience a progressive state of relaxation. Your therapist may guide you to close your eyes and relax while listening to the sound of his or her voice. In this relaxed state, you are receptive to suggestions, which in this case, will revolve around alleviating your symptoms,
While under hypnosis, a person with panic disorder may be guided to bring attention to coping with specific symptoms and overcoming limiting behaviors.
Anxiety and Co-occurring Issues
Hypnotherapy for PTSD
Several studies have shown hypnotherapy to be effective for anxiety related to trauma.
A meta-analysis of various studies show that live hypnosis significantly reduced postoperative anxiety and pain.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Because hypnotherapy can help alleviate feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety, it may be helpful in controlling the symptoms of panic attacks. Although more research needs to be done in this area, some studies have found the imagery and relaxation techniques used in hypnosis to be effective for anxiety disorders
Anxiety and Depression
The study by Alladin and Alibhai compared cognitive behavioral-therapy (CBT) with hypnotherapy for the treatment of depression and found hypnotherapy to be greater in effectiveness. In fact, hypnotherapy was 6%, 5%, and 8% greater in reducing depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, respectively, over and above the CBT group.
Stress and Anxiety
Hypnotherapy may be used for stress and anxiety. Because hypnotherapy creates a state of deep relaxation, it induces a relaxation response, a stress-free state where you are free from stress and anxiety. With training and practice, a good hypnotherapist can teach you how to induce this state for yourself, giving you control over the things that normally cause you stress and anxiety.
Sleep and Anxiety
Research has shown hypnotherapy to be effective in the treatment of acute and chronic insomnia. It has also helped with nightmares and sleep terrors. Multiple reports demonstrate hypnosis as an effective approach for parasomnias, especially head and body rocking, bedwetting and sleepwalking. Many experts suggest that hypnosis should be used as an adjunctive intervention for sleep and anxiety.
IBS and Anxiety
The research done by Gonsalkorale and his team found that hypnosis was quite effective in helping to improve the quality of life, anxiety, and depression of people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. 71% of subjects reported positive results from hypnotherapy, the positive results lasted over five years for 81% of those people.
Hypnotherapy for social anxiety has not been evaluated by specific research to date. However, much of the current research on hypnotherapy indicates that it does reduce anxiety in general and may be used to overcome symptoms associated with anxiety and panic attacks, which means it could be helpful for overcoming social anxiety, although more research is needed to confirm.
Anxiety and Phobias
Research shows mixed results when using hypnosis for phobic anxiety. In one study, hypnosis was not more effective than systematic desensitisation treatment, while in another, hypnosis combined with cognitive behavioral therapy showed greater effectiveness for the treatment of anxiety induced by phobias.
Driving anxiety can be akin to a phobia. Because hypnotherapy has shown mixed results in terms of treating phobias, it is unclear how effective it will be in helping driving anxiety. However, one woman reported that hypnotherapy gave her tools to effectively deal with the stress of driving--that the anxiety didn’t actually ever go away, she just learned how to better deal with it so she could drive from point A to point B.
Anxiety and Parkinson's Disease
Research shows promise for the use of hypnosis for Parkinson’s Disease. This case study demonstrated results of improvement for depression, anxiety, sleep quality, pain, stiffness, and libido at 3-week follow-up in excess of 60% improvement. In this case study, the patient received three sessions of hypnotherapy weekly.
YouTube Videos: Hypnotherapy for Anxiety
Here are some YouTube videos offering free hypnosis for anxiety.
Stop Panic & Anxiety - Hypnosis CD - By Thomas Hall
Sleep Hypnosis for Anxiety Reduction & Reversal By Michael Sealey
According to research Dr. Hammond, “Self-hypnosis training represents a rapid, cost-effective, non-addictive and safe alternative to medication for the treatment of anxiety-related conditions.” His research review on multiple experiments showed self-hypnosis to be effective for anxiety associated with cancer, surgery, burns and medical/dental procedures. Self-hypnosis was also helpful for anxiety-related disorders, including:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Hypnosis Script for Anxiety
Here is a sample of a hypnosis script for anxiety:
Drifting into a relaxed and calm hypnotic state…deeper and more calm with every breath of air…so deeply relaxed now…that you will be able to respond to each hypnotic suggestion. There is a relationship between the mind and the body…and as you drift into a deeper trance state…the levels of dopamine will begin to increase…and anxiety becomes less and less…the levels of dopamine…increasing… and anxiety decreasing…now…
Alternative Approaches to Treating Anxiety
Other complementary medicine approaches recommended for the treatment of clinical anxiety include:
Although these treatments may be effective for certain individuals, controlled studies that fulfill basic methodological standards are lacking according to Borwin Bandelow, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at University Medical Center in Gottingen, Germany.
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Alladin A, Alibhai A. Cognitive hypnotherapy for depression: An empirical investigation. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2007;55:147–166.
Castañeda, S. (2016, May 23). I Tried Hypnotherapy For My Anxiety & Here's What Happened. Retrieved from https://www.romper.com/p/i-tried-hypnotherapy-for-my-anxiety-heres-what-happened-11102 .
Coelho HF, Canter PH, Ernst E. The effectiveness of hypnosis for the treatment of anxiety: a systematic review. 2007. In: Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK74851/ .
Elkins G, Sliwinski J, Bowers J, Encarnacion E. Feasibility of clinical hypnosis for the treatment of Parkinson's disease: a case study. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2013;61(2):172-82.
Gonsalkorale WM, Miller V, Afzal A, Whorwell PJ. Long term benefits of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. Gut. 2003;52(11):1623-9.
Häuser W, Hagl M, Schmierer A, Hansen E. The Efficacy, Safety and Applications of Medical Hypnosis. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2016;113(17):289-96. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4873672/ .
Kaplan, I. (2017, August 28). I Didn’t Believe Hypnosis Could Work — Until It Changed My Life. Retrieved from https://www.allure.com/story/hypnosis-anxiety-depression-treatment .
Ng, B., & Lee, T. (2008). Hypnotherapy for sleep disorders. Ann Acad Med Singapore, 37(8), 683-688. Retrieved from http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/37VolNo8Aug2008/V37N8p683.pdf
Pelissolo, A. (2016). Hypnosis for anxiety and phobic disorders: A review of clinical studies. La Presse Médicale, 45(3), 284-290. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lpm.2015.12.002.