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What to Expect During Hypnosis for Atopic Dermatitis

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 01, 2022

Many people with atopic dermatitis use creams, pills, and injections to tame inflamed skin. But research suggests mind-body therapies, such as hypnosis, can be used alongside traditional treatments.

What Is Hypnosis and How Does It Work?

Hypnosis is a semi-conscious state in which you’re more focused, relaxed, and open to suggestion. It’s also called hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion. Typically, a therapist or other trained expert will guide you during this process.

Hypnosis can help you manage issues like quitting smoking or overeating. It’s also a way to ease pain, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress. Hypnosis may work as part of a broader treatment plan for your specific behavior or condition.

During a hypnosis session, your therapist will speak in a soft, calming voice. They’ll use imagery and verbal prompts to help you relax and feel safe. Once you’re in a safe space, the therapist will suggest ways to achieve your goals, whatever they may be.

You may have heard that hypnosis makes you lose control or that you’re lost in a trance. These are myths. You’re in control of what you do under hypnosis. If your therapist asks you to do something you disagree with, you won’t do it. Hypnosis is also temporary and ends when the session finishes.

The Connection Between Stress and Your Skin

Living with eczema, especially if it’s severe, can be stressful and lead to anxiety. Dealing with stressful situations at work or home can worsen symptoms. That’s because stress affects your endocrine, nervous, and immune systems. This triggers the release of different hormones, which may affect your skin.

What Does Research Show About Hypnosis for Atopic Dermatitis?

There are only a small number of studies on hypnosis for atopic dermatitis, but they show a positive impact. One review of several studies found mind-body therapies may ease itching and scratching and improve mental well-being.

Another study looked specifically at people with atopic dermatitis who had trouble managing their condition with standard treatments. They tried hypnotherapy and had less scratching and discomfort and fewer sleep disruptions. After 16 weeks, this group lowered their use of corticosteroids by 60%.

Mind-body therapies shouldn’t replace standard treatments for skin conditions. But using them may cut back the need for medication and other traditional treatments.

What Are the Different Types of Hypnosis?

There are many forms of hypnosis, but therapists and other professionals commonly use five types:

Four-step induction

This technique quickly puts you into a trance-like state, usually in 2 minutes or less. You can also use it for self-hypnosis. Your therapist will follow these four steps:

  • They’ll ask you to close your eyes.
  • You’ll imagine that you can’t open your eyes.
  • You’ll try to open your eyes, but it will be hard.
  • You’ll relax your eyes and the rest of your body.

Eye-fixation technique

During this type of hypnosis, you’ll focus on an object like a point on the ceiling or wall. As you stare at the object, your therapist will ask you to relax and then close your eyes. You’ll then fade away into a relaxed state.

Arm-drop technique

First, you’ll hold one arm level with the ground, pointing your hand up so you can see the back of it. Then you’ll stare at one of your fingers until the rest of your hand becomes unfocused. Your arm will get heavy and slowly fall to your lap. Finally, you’ll relax enough to close your eyes.

Imagery

With your eyes open or closed, you’ll think about a place where you feel safe and comfortable. Then you’ll take deep breaths in and out. As you breathe, you’ll start to feel more relaxed in your favorite imagined place.

Progressive relaxation technique

If other techniques don’t work, your therapist may try this type of hypnosis. You put yourself into a trance-like state through breathing. As you breathe in and out, you’ll become more relaxed. While breathing, you’ll focus on relaxing your feet, then move up through the rest of your body.

Who Should Avoid Hypnosis?

Hypnosis isn’t for everyone. You should avoid hypnosis if you have:

What Are the Side Effects of Hypnosis?

Side effects of hypnosis are rare, but watch out for:

  • Headaches
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety or mental pain

Hypnosis can also trigger painful memories. While that may be the goal of some hypnosis sessions, that’s not likely for atopic dermatitis. There’s also concern that hypnosis can lead to false memories.

Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in trying hypnosis for your atopic dermatitis. They can refer you to a licensed therapist or another professional.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Hypnosis.”

Medscape: “Therapeutic Hypnosis.”

Dermatology Practical & Conceptual: “Stress and Skin: An Overview of Mind Body Therapies as a Treatment Strategy in Dermatology.”

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