Quitting smoking can be a real challenge. But it's one of the best things you can do for your health. Smoking is a dangerous, even deadly habit. It's a leading cause of cancer. It also increases your risk for heart attacks, strokes, lung disease, and other health problems, including bone fractures and cataracts.
If nicotine lozenges, patches, chewing gum, counseling, and other smoking cessation methods haven't helped you kick the habit, don't give up. Ask your doctor if hypnosis is an option for you. Some studies have shown that hypnosis may help certain people quit smoking.
What Is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is defined as an altered state of awareness in which you appear to be asleep or in a trance. Clinical hypnosis may be used to treat certain physical or psychological problems. For instance, it is frequently used to help patients control pain. It is also used in a wide range of other conditions such as weight issues, speech disorders, and addiction problems.
There is debate about how hypnosis works. Some people believe that when you are hypnotized, you relax and concentrate more, and are more willing to listen to suggestions -- such as giving up smoking, for example.
Even though you appear to be in a trance during hypnosis, you are not unconscious. You are still aware of your surroundings, and -- despite what many stage performers may claim during an entertaining show -- you cannot be made to do anything against your will. In fact, brain tests performed on patients during hypnotism sessions have shown a high level of neurological activity.
Hypnosis for Smokers
During hypnosis for smoking cessation, a patient is often asked to imagine unpleasant outcomes from smoking. For example, the hypnotherapist might suggest that cigarette smoke smells like truck exhaust, or that smoking will leave the patient's mouth feeling extremely parched.
Spiegel's method is one popular smoking cessation hypnosis technique that focuses on three main ideas:
- Smoking poisons the body
- You need your body to live
- You should respect your body and protect it (to the extent you'd like to live)
The hypnotherapist teaches the smoker self-hypnosis, and then asks them to repeat these affirmations anytime the desire to smoke occurs.
Does Hypnosis Work?
Hypnosis, in general, does not work for everyone. About one in four people are not able to be hypnotized. When successful, the intensity of hypnosis can vary from person to person.
How well hypnosis works to help people stop smoking depends on who you ask. Study results have been mixed. In 2010, a systematic review of published studies found that there wasn't enough evidence to support the use of hypnosis. Another review published in 2012 said that studies do support a possible benefit from the use of hypnosis. In discussing alternative methods for quitting smoking on its web site, the American Cancer Society says that while controlled studies have not supported the effectiveness of hypnosis, there is anecdotal evidence that some people have been helped.
Despite some web sites and promotional materials that say otherwise, hypnosis is not an approved therapy by the American Medical Association (AMA). The organization does not have an official position on the use of hypnosis. A position statement regarding the use of the technique for medical and psychological purposes was rescinded by the AMA in 1987.
Researchers who have studied hypnosis say more, well-conducted studies are needed to determine if hypnosis really helps smokers kick the habit for good, but add that hypnosis remains a hopeful approach and has many other benefits. However, the best way to quit may be to combine several techniques. Patients often require several different strategies along the way.
How to Find a Hypnotherapist
If you want to try hypnosis to help you quit smoking, ask your health care provider to recommend a good hypnotherapist.
Here are some tips when looking for a qualified hypnotherapist:
- Make sure they are licensed, trained, and credentialed. Hypnosis for smoking cessation and other medical or behavioral reasons should only be done by someone who has a current license in a health care field, such as medicine, psychiatry, psychology, or nursing.
- Ask some tough questions. Ask about their professional training. The American Society for Clinical Hypnosis also suggests asking: “Is this practitioner able to help me without using hypnosis?" If the answer is no, you should look elsewhere.
- Beware of too-good-to-be true claims or guarantees. Hypnosis does not work for everyone.
Remember, it's never too late to quit smoking. Doing so has immediate health benefits. And, if you quit smoking before you turn 50, you'll cut the risk of dying in the next 15 years in half, compared to those who keep lighting up.