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Hypnosis: Helps Treat Pain, Other Conditions

Some health care providers, clinical psychologists, and dentists use hypnosis in their work. Done properly, hypnosis can be part of a comprehensive plan to manage pain, behavioral problems, stress, and phobias, in addition to helping people control weight or quit smoking.

Although hypnosis has been endorsed by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Medical Association, myths still surround the practice.

Chief among the myths is that the patient loses control when hypnotized. In fact, hypnosis won't work unless the patient wants it to. The idea that a patient can't resist a hypnotic suggestion is false. Simply put, hypnosis is a normal state of relaxed, focused attention.

Another common myth is that only gullible people respond to hypnosis. The response has nothing to do with gullibility. The APA states that each person differs in his or her response to hypnosis. Response seems to be influenced by the person's fears about being hypnotized. The APA also states that unless amnesia has been suggested, hypnotized people do not lose control over their behavior. People are aware of who they are, where they are, and what happens when hypnotized.

People do, however, differ in the degree to which they respond to hypnosis. Hypnosis makes it easier for people to experience suggestions, but it does not force them to have these experiences.

A person guides his or her own hypnosis, and the professional provides the suggestion and helps the person along.

Giving a suggestion is like making a request. Even people who don't respond to hypnosis can respond to suggestions for relaxation and peace.

It takes just a minute or two to give suggestions, and hypnosis can be induced in as little as five minutes. 

According to the APA, hypnosis has reduced symptoms in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  It has also been helpful in reducing some of the physical distress found in women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It has been successfully used in the treatment of depression, stress, phobias, anxiety, childbirth, pain, and many other conditions.  

The APA stresses that hypnosis is not a "stand-alone" treatment, but rather a technique that is used to support other types of treatments and therapies.  The Association also stresses that hypnosis should be done only by health professionals trained in the use of this technique.