Hypnosis Risks and Side Effects

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on August 25, 2022
2 min read

Doctors use hypnosis as a part of treatment to help people with anxiety, depression, pain, or unwanted behaviors, like smoking or overeating. It’s usually helpful. But in some situations, it can cause serious side effects or raise your chances for other health problems.

Also called hypnotherapy, hypnosis is a treatment that allows you to focus heavily while in a dream-like state of mind. Your doctor or a professional licensed in hypnosis will use words and pictures to calm you down until you’re in a relaxed state.

Once you're in that state, they’ll begin to recommend ways for you to reach your goals through suggestion and mental images of success. After therapy, they'll wake you up. Unlike some portrayals of hypnosis in the movies or on television, you don't lose control of what you're doing, and you'll probably remember what happens during the session.

Hypnosis isn’t for everyone. Some people can’t reach that full dream-like state. This makes the treatment less helpful. In rare cases, it can cause side effects, which can include:

Hypnosis is usually safe as long as a trained professional does it. Not all states require people to have certification in hypnotherapy in order to practice it. As you do your research, make sure that anyone you consider has a license in hypnotherapy or that they're a member of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.

Hypnosis can be dangerous for people with serious mental disorders, including:

Experts aren't sure if people with schizophrenia can reach total hypnosis. Some suggest hypnosis may cause other mental health problems for people who have it.

Doctors may use hypnosis to bring back memories or stressful events linked to your mental condition. There is some controversy around this practice. If the person giving the treatment isn't a trained professional, it could cause the creation of fake memories, which could further confuse a person's mental health issues and bring more problems.

If you're considering hypnosis for help with chronic pain, make sure a doctor has first checked you for other conditions that medication or surgery can help.

Hypnosis is safest for people with less serious mental or physical conditions.

If you and your doctor decide that hypnosis could work for you, there isn't much preparation needed before you have your treatment.

You shouldn't be overly tired when you go. Otherwise, you might fall asleep during your treatment. Cozy, comfortable clothing is also a good idea since it can help you relax.