What is hypnosis?
People who are in hypnosis experience increased awareness, concentration, and suggestibility as they trance-like. Although it can sometimes be described as a sleep-like state, it is actually a heightened state of attentiveness, suggestibility and vivid fantasy. Hypnotized people appear sleepy and disoriented, but in truth they are hyperaware.
Hypnotism can be used as a therapeutic tool despite the myths and misconceptions surrounding it. The benefits of hypnosis include pain reduction and anxiety reduction, among other things. Even dementia symptoms may be relieved with hypnotism.
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Types of hypnosis
Hypnosis can be delivered in several different ways:
- Guided hypnosis: The purpose of this form is to induce a hypnotic state using tools such as recordings and music. These tools are often found in online and mobile apps.
- Hypnotherapy: Physicians and psychologists use hypnosis in the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Self-hypnosis: If you induce yourself into a hypnotic state, you are self-hypnotizing. Many people use it to control pain or cope with stress on a self-help basis.
Why would someone try hypnosis? People may seek hypnosis if they are suffering from chronic pain or experiencing anxiety and pain after undergoing medical procedures such as surgery or childbirth.
Hypnotism has been demonstrated in research to be useful in the following areas:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms reduced
- Pain relief during dental procedures
- Reduction or elimination of warts and psoriasis
- Treatment of certain symptoms of ADHD
- Rheumatoid arthritis treatment used to treat chronic pain conditions
- Pregnancy pain treatment
- Reduced symptoms of dementia
- Chemotherapy nausea and vomiting reduction
People have also used hypnosis to change their behavior, such as quitting smoking, losing weight and preventing bedwetting.
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Impact of hypnosis
What are the effects of hypnosis? People’s experiences of hypnosis can vary greatly from one another.
When hypnotized, some people report feeling detached or extremely relaxed, while others claim that they feel as if their actions are outside their control. However, some people are able to remain conscious and have conversations under hypnotism.
The experiments conducted by Ernest Hilgard showed how hypnotism could change perceptions dramatically. The hypnotized individual’s arm was placed in ice water after being instructed not to feel pain in their arm. The hypnotized individuals were able to leave their arms in the icy water for several minutes without experiencing pain, as opposed to non-hypnotized individuals who had to remove their arms from the water after a few seconds due to the pain.
Researchers have found that many people are more hypnotizable than they realize and don’t believe they can be hypnotized. According to research:
- It is very effective for between 10% and 15% of people.
- Approximately 10% of adults do not appear to be amenable to hypnosis.
- It tends to be more effective on children.
- People who are prone to becoming easily absorbed in fantasies are more likely to benefit from hypnotism.
Whenever you decide to undergo hypnosis, it is important to keep an open mind when doing so. Hypnotism is more effective when people view it positively.
A professional with experience using hypnotism as a therapeutic tool should be sought if you are interested in trying hypnotherapy.
It may be helpful to find a mental health professional who is certified by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis rather than an institution that offers hypnotherapy training and certification. They require health professionals with a master’s degree to complete the course, which includes 40 hours of workshop training, 20 hours of individual training, and two years of clinical experience.
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Hypnosis is misunderstood by a lot of people.
- Generally, people who are hypnotized remember every detail of their experiences. Amnesia can happen in very rare cases. Nonetheless, hypnosis can impact memory in significant ways. Amnesia caused by posthypnotic trance can cause an individual to forget things that occurred either before or during trance. The effect is usually temporary and limited.
- The effects of hypnosis on memory have been greatly exaggerated in popular culture. Studies show that it doesn’t enhance memory accuracy or enhance accuracy, but can actually lead to false or distorted memories.
- It does require that the patient participates voluntarily on their part, despite reports of people being hypnotized without their consent. It’s true that people vary in how easily they can be hypnotized and how suggestible they can be. According to research, people who are highly suggestible have a diminished sense of agency when hypnotized.
- Although it may seem that people are not in control of their actions while under hypnosis, they cannot be forced to do something against their wishes by a hypnotist.
- The use of hypnosis may enhance performance, but it cannot motivate people in a way that outpaces their inherent capabilities.
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History of hypnosis
Although hypnosis has been used for thousands of years, its popularity increased during the late 19th- and early 20th-century due to the work of a physician named Franz Mesmer. Mesmer’s mystical viewpoints led to a rocky start, but interest in the practice eventually shifted towards a more scientific one.
Jean-Martin Charcot used hypnotherapy during the late 19th century to treat women suffering from hysteria, a mental illness then known as hysteria. The development of psychoanalysis was influenced by this work.
A number of theories have been put forth to explain the process of hypnosis recently. The neo-dissociation theory of hypnosis is the most famous theory of hypnosis.
Hilgard explains that hypnotized individuals experience a split consciousness which is characterized by two parallel streams of mental activity. A dissociated stream of consciousness processes information outside of the conscious awareness of the hypnotized individual, while one stream of consciousness responds to the hypnotist’s suggestions.
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What happens to the brain during hypnosis?
The Harvard University researchers examined the brains of 57 people under guided hypnosis. Here are some findings:
- During hypnosis, two parts of the brain which process and control what is happening in your body are more active.
- Under hypnosis, you appear to lose the connection between your brain areas that are responsible for your actions and those that are aware of those actions.
Hypnosis alters different sections of the brain. Those who manage and control actions are most affected.
Do doctors recommend the practice?
The use of hypnosis in mental health or pain management isn’t widely accepted by all doctors. However, it is not widely accepted by all doctors despite increasing research support.
Doctors are not always trained in the use of hypnotism in medical schools, and mental health practitioners are not always trained during their educational years.
Healthcare professionals are left with a great deal of confusion about this possible therapy.
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Fact vs. fiction: Busting 6 popular myths
Traditional medical practices are slowly coming to accept hypnosis, but many myths about it persist. Here are the truths and myths.
Myth: Everyone can be hypnotized
There are some people who cannot be hypnotized. An estimate of 10% of the population has high hypnotizability. However, few people are likely to be receptive to hypnosis, even though it may be possible.
Myth: When people are hypnotized, they don’t have control over their bodies
During hypnosis, your body is completely under your control. Although stage hypnosis makes you appear unaware of what’s going on around you, you’ll still be able to pay attention to what’s happening. Under this, you will not do anything if you don’t want to.
Myth: Hypnosis is the same thing as sleep
When you’re hypnotized, you may appear to be sleeping, but you’re awake. It’s just that you’re deeply relaxed. If you sleep with your muscles tense, your breathing rate will slow, and you may feel sleepy.
Myth: People can’t lie when they’re hypnotized
The truth serum isn’t hypnotism. When you’re hypnotized, your ears are open to suggestions, but your moral judgment and free will remain intact. It is impossible for anyone to force you to say anything that you do not want to say.
Myth: You can be hypnotized over the internet
Self-hypnosis apps and videos are popular on the Internet, but they’re ineffective.
In a review conducted in 2013, researchers found that these tools typically aren’t created by certified hypnotists. Consequently, doctors and hypnotists recommend avoiding their use.
Probably a myth: Hypnosis can help you “uncover” lost memories
When you are in a trance-like state, it’s more likely that you will create false memories than to retrieve memories. Because of this, many hypnotists remain skeptical about using hypnotism for memory retrieval.
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The bottom line
Stage performances bring to mind images of clucking chickens and daring dancers.
However, hypnosis is a viable therapeutic technique, which can be applied to treat several medical conditions. They include insomnia, depression, and chronic pain.
A certified hypnotherapist or hypnotist can guide you through the guided-hypnosis process so you have complete confidence. They will craft a tailored plan to meet your individual needs.