Hypnosis: Underused Technique

By London, Robert T. | Clinical Psychiatry News, October 2003 | Go to article overview

Hypnosis: Underused Technique


London, Robert T., Clinical Psychiatry News


Lots of patients are seeking out medical hypnosis regularly to help them stop smoking, lose weight, sleep better, or function better sexually. They're also interested in hypnosis for other reasons, including pain, phobias, and obsessive thinking. Hypnosis can be an effective aid in treating these problems. But not enough psychiatrists understand hypnosis and what it can and cannot do.

For many patients and mental health professionals, hypnosis brings to mind mental weakness, mind control, sleep, or loss of consciousness. Women are often considered more hypnotizable than men. Those are myths. Hypnosis is neither mind control nor a strategy for the weak-willed. Clearly, women are not more hypnotizable than men, and finally, the old wives' tale that people go to sleep or lose consciousness when they are hypnotized is just that--an old wives' tale. On the contrary, a hypnotized person enters a highly alert state in which the person's focus of concentration is heightened.

The word hypnotism was first introduced in 1843 by James Braid, a Scottish surgeon, who was attempting to use hypnoanesthesia. Soon after, in India, James Esdaile performed several surgical procedures using hypnosis alone as the method of anesthesia. As the use of hypnosis has developed over the last 150 years, many of the great names of medicine and science--Freud, Pavlov, Janet, and Charcot, to name a few--have tried to define hypnosis. No clear definition yet exists.

In the mid 1950s, the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association recognized hypnosis in a policy statement as a legitimate treatment in medicine and dentistry.

Smoking cessation is an area in which hypnosis has been particularly effective. A study by Dr. Joseph Barber of the University of Washington, Seattle, for example, found that hypnotic intervention can be integrated into a treatment protocol for smoking cessation. Of 43 patients who were undergoing the protocol, 39 reported staying abstinent at follow-up, which was 6 months to 3 years after the treatment ended (Int. …

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