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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Anxiety Disorders and Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy -- or hypnosis -- is a type of nonstandard or "complementary and alternative medicine" treatment that uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness that is sometimes called a trance. The person's attention is so focused while in this state that anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out or ignored. In this naturally occurring state, a person may focus his or her attention -- with the help of a trained therapist -- on specific thoughts or tasks.

How Does Hypnotherapy Work?

Hypnotherapy is usually considered an aid to certain forms of psychotherapy (counseling), rather than a treatment in itself. It can sometimes help with psychotherapy because the hypnotic state allows people to explore painful thoughts, feelings, and memories they might have hidden from their conscious minds. In addition, hypnosis enables people to perceive some things differently, such as blocking an awareness of pain.

Hypnotherapy can be used in two ways, as suggestion therapy or for patient psychoanalysis.

  • Suggestion therapy: The hypnotic state makes the person better able to respond to suggestions. Therefore, hypnotherapy can help some people change certain behaviors, such as to stopping smoking or nail-biting. It can also help people change perceptions and sensations, and is particularly useful in treating certain kinds of pain.
  • Analysis: This approach uses the relaxed state to explore possible unconscious factors that may be related to a psychological conflict such as a traumatic past event that a person has hidden in his or her unconscious memory. Once the trauma is revealed, it can be addressed in psychotherapy. However, hypnosis is nowadays not considered a "mainstream" part of psychoanalytic psychotherapies.

What Are the Benefits of Hypnotherapy?

The hypnotic state allows a person to be more open to discussion and suggestion. It can improve the success of other treatments for many conditions, including:

It also might be used to help with pain control and to overcome habits, such as smoking or overeating. It also might be helpful for people whose symptoms are severe or who need crisis management.

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