Anxiety and depression are very common among people nowadays. The traditional treatments for these conditions include therapy and medications.
However, wouldn’t it be great if we could find a shortcut to relief? The question is whether hypnotherapy can be a viable treatment for these conditions.
Even if hypnotherapy cannot be used as the sole treatment for anxiety and depression, can it complement other treatments?
What Is Clinical Depression?
Everyone goes through periods of sadness in their lives. However, when sadness reaches a certain intensity and it is accompanied by some other symptoms for a certain period of time, it may be time to seek professional help.
According to WebMD, if you have five or more of the following symptoms for at least two weeks, then you may have clinical depression:
– You have a low mood for most of the day, particularly in the morning.
– You are tired or lack energy all of the time.
– You have feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day.
– You have difficulty focusing or remembering details. You have problems with decision making.
– You have problems sleeping or you sleep too long.
– You don’t get pleasure from the things that you usually do.
– You have suicidal ideation.
– You feel restless.
– You have gained or lost weight.
You may also have the following symptoms:
– You feel irritable and restless.
– You have aches and pains that don’t resolve with treatment.
– You feel sad or empty.
What Is Anxiety?
According to Healthline, it is normal to have minor feelings of anxiety. It is normal to feel some anxiety when you are confronted with life’s stresses.
However, if you have intense feelings of anxiety that interfere with your functioning, then you may have an anxiety disorder.
Everyone feels anxiety differently. However, there are some symptoms that are common. These include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble falling asleep
Both depression and anxiety can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy uses guided relaxation to reach a heightened state of awareness that is known as a trance.
When a person goes into a trance, their attention becomes so focused that they become unaware of things that are going on around them.
Hypnosis is typically used as an aid to psychotherapy. The hypnotic state lets people investigate thoughts and feelings that they may not have conscious access to.
Also, hypnosis lets people alter their perception. They may be able to block awareness of pain.
Hypnosis can be used in a few ways:
Suggestion Therapy – The state of trance allows the person to better respond to certain suggestions.
So, hypnosis can aid people in altering their behavior. This can be useful in smoking cessation.
It can also aid people in altering their sensations. It is therefore useful in treating pain.
Analysis – The state of trance is used to investigate the root cause of a particular problem.
This may be a traumatic past event. After the trauma is exposed, it can be handled by psychotherapy.
According to WebMD, there are some drawbacks to hypnosis. First, the quality and reliability of the information that is mined through hypnosis are not always high.
Also, hypnosis can actually create false memories by leading questions of the therapist.
However, hypnosis is not considered to be dangerous. Fears of mind control are unfounded.
The therapist cannot make a person in a trance do or say something that they don’t want to do.
Of course, hypnosis should only be performed by a licensed or certified mental health professional who is trained in the technique.
Does Hypnotherapy for Depression Work?
There are many online resources that insist that hypnosis is actually the preferable treatment for depression.
Certain hypnotherapists say that this therapy is preferable to medication because the medication can mask the real underlying issues that the patient has.
The theory of hypnotherapists is that depression is not a biological disorder. Their idea is that depression results from underlying emotional issues.
A person can mask their symptoms by taking medication, but when they stop taking the medication, the symptoms will return.
Another drawback of pharmacotherapy is that medication has a lot of side effects associated with it, as well as the potential for dependence and tolerance.
Proponents of hypnotherapy maintain that it can help by putting the patient into a mental condition where they can more easily reveal what the underlying causes of their depression are.
How Does Hypnotherapy work?
In a hypnotherapy session, the patient goes through a process of relaxation stages. The therapist combines these states with imagery.
When the patient enters a very deep trance, the therapist becomes able to access repressed or forgotten memories.
After the memories are revealed, the therapist exposes coping strategies and productive thought processes to the subconscious mind of the patient.
Since the patient is in a trance, they are more prone to assimilate the suggestions of the therapist.
Online resources make the claim that hypnotherapy can lead to results in four to ten sessions. Children seem to be easier to hypnotize and may only require one to two sessions.
Are There Risks Involved with This Therapy?
While hypnotherapists think that their treatment is more effective than other forms of treatment, they do acknowledge that there are certain risks involved.
First, the patient may become reliant on the therapist, leading to an unhealthy relationship.
Also, in severely depressed patients, the revisiting of painful memories and experiences may lead to an increased risk of suicide.
What Does Science Say about Hypnotherapy for Depression?
Vanderbilt University operates a website that reviews the research concerning this issue.
The first study mentioned on the site is that of Alladin and Alibhai (2007). In this study, subjects were randomly assigned to either a CBT group or a group that received CBT and hypnotherapy.
In the combined group, the effect was significant. There was an 8% reduction in hopelessness, a 6% reduction in depression, and a 5% reduction in anxiety.
A second study mentioned on the site is that of Suzuki (2003). This study researched the effectiveness of hypnosis in reducing aggression and depression in depressed college students.
The results of the study indicated that depressed subjects reported being less depressed while under hypnosis. However, this study was a very small one, with only 26 subjects.
A third study, Dobbin Maxwell, and Elton (2009) investigated self-hypnosis. Subjects were given a choice of being assigned to a treatment group of their preference or being randomly assigned to a group.
The two groups were either a self-hypnosis group or a drug therapy group. There were 58 subjects in the study.
50 of the subjects chose self-hypnosis. The outcome of the study was positive with respect to the effects of self-hypnosis in the treatment of depression.
The final study mentioned on this site was Gonsalkorale, Miller, Afzal, and Whorwell (2003). This study investigated the role of hypnotherapy in the relief of irritable bowel syndrome.
Apparently, IBS is common in depressed patients. The researchers recruited 204 subjects who had to fill out questionnaires at various times.
The results of this study seemed to indicate that hypnotherapy is not an effective treatment for long-term depression.
All in all, the initial research seems a little bit sparse and mixed. More research is needed to determine the real effects of hypnotherapy on depression.
What Kinds of Anxiety Issues Can Hypnosis Help?
The following anxiety-related problems can be treated with hypnosis, according to CalmClinic.
– Physical Tension/Strain
Physical pain and tension are many times rooted in emotional issues. This can be addressed by hypnotherapy. You can work to alter the beliefs that you have that trigger your anxiety.
– Emotional Strain/Moodiness
Anxiety can also cause a strained emotional state. The energy that goes into the symptoms of anxiety and the worry can tend to make you feel drained.
Hypnosis can alter negative beliefs and implant more positive ones. Your therapist will focus on implanting the belief that you are happy, content, and confident with respect to the ability to remove the causes of your anxiety.
– Sleeping Troubles
A lot of people with anxiety have trouble getting restful sleep. Your therapist can aid you by implanting the suggestion that you have gotten a lot of restful sleep in recent times. The therapist may also aid you in removing anxious thought patterns that might be keeping you awake.
– Phobic Reactions
A hypnotherapist can also help you to conquer irrational phobias. The therapist will attempt to replace your irrational beliefs with more logical and useful beliefs concerning the object of your phobia.
While there is not a lot of scientific evidence that supports the use of hypnotherapy for depression and anxiety, many think that it is a useful enhancement of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
There are some minor risks associated with hypnotherapy, but the bottom line seems to be that it is not as invasive as drug therapy.
For this reason, there seems to be no downside to using it in conjunction with CBT. It is just that it will obviously add to the cost of treatment.
For a useful video on the treatment of depression and anxiety with self-hypnosis, see the following YouTube video.