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Title: “Hypnosis: Focusing subconscious on change”
Source: WebMD

Learn how hypnosis can help you cut back on medications, quit bad habits, and ease stress.

Forget the stage-show stereotypes. Hypnosis has helped people cut back on pain, anxiety, and depression medications, resolve intestinal problems, quit smoking, even have less stressful childbirth.

There's no pocket watch involved. Hypnosis is simply a state of concentration and focused attention -- focused on a mental image. It's a skill that must be learned from a trained therapist. With practice, hypnotizing yourself comes easily. Self-hypnosis is the path to training both mind and body to make a desired change.

"People who are able to do self-hypnosis can use that focus for a variety of purposes," Stan Chapman, PhD, a psychologist in the Center for Pain Medicine at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, tells WebMD. "For example, someone who is very depressed may realize on one level that life is not hopeless and pointless. But if he focuses on a thought contrary to that, the idea becomes deeply embedded in his subconscious."

Here's what happens: Guided by a therapist's words, you slip deeper and deeper into a very relaxed, very focused state -- into your subconscious. That's when a suggestion, a thought that will help you solve a problem, is introduced by the therapist. When the mind is intensely focused, these so-called post-hypnotic suggestions have a powerful impact, Chapman says.

Don't worry, you won't lose consciousness. You won't do anything against your will. Afterward, you are very much aware of what happened while you were "under." You will recognize and remember the post-hypnotic suggestion. And, with practice, you can learn to hypnotize yourself to reinforce the suggestion.

Pain Control Through Hypnosis
Marc Oster, PsyD, a Chicago psychologist, relies on self-hypnosis when he gets dental work done. "I get Novocain just like other patients, but I don't need as much of it because I'm under hypnosis. Afterward, I can go back to work for a full day. When the Novocain wears off, I don't have the pain, the jaw ache, or the headache that other people have," he told WebMD, in a previous interview.

No one knows exactly how hypnosis works, but scientists have theories. Hypnosis helps change our expectations. When a suggestion is made during hypnosis, the mind gains control over the body. Focus your attention on an image that blocks the perception of pain, for instance, and you feel less pain. Your subconscious has grabbed hold of that message, replaying it time and again.

Research from Harvard Medical School and other institutions is showing evidence that hypnosis is indeed a process of mind over body. Studies are documenting the physiological changes that occur under hypnosis -- activating certain parts of the brain, including the portion that focuses attention.

In fact, studies have shown pain related to cancer, surgery, back injuries, and migraines may respond well to hypnosis.

Hypnosis has been blessed by many mainstream medical institutions, says Oster, who heads the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. In 1958, the American Medical Association officially recognized hypnosis as a form of treatment. The American Psychological Association has endorsed hypnosis for a number of years. In 1995, the NIH announced its support of hypnosis for cancer pain and other pain conditions.

Growing numbers of insurance companies, including Medicare, have begun covering hypnosis therapy for pain or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Pain control is just one use for self-hypnosis. Among the others:

Digestive Problems: Chronic indigestion and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have been treated with hypnotherapy. Recently, a large, long-term study showed that hypnosis provides sustained improvements in significant numbers of IBS patients. Hypnosis eased abdominal pain, distention, diarrhoea, constipation, and other stomach upsets for many years -- even after the patients quit doing self-hypnosis.

Most of the patients took no medication or other treatments for their IBS symptoms. And, since only a couple of medications are approved for IBS, the drug treatment can be expensive long-term. But for those who tried hypnosis, the payoff was having a better quality of life. The procedure also dramatically cut medication expenses.

Hypnosis can also help kids who have chronic stomach pain -- the type of pain that is real, but unexplained. The problem results in lost time at school, frequent doctor visits, as well as anxiety and depression, and can last into adult years. But through a combination approach -- relaxation, guided imagery, and hypnosis -- it's possible for kids to gain control over their pain.

Panic Attacks: The onset of a panic attack has a cluster of symptoms: the feeling of intense fear, sense of doom, feelings of unreality, racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, sweating, shaking, dizziness, nausea, fear of losing control, tingling or numbness in the hands. Hypnosis has been shown to help some people find relief from panic attacks.

Hypnosis can strengthen the effect of mind over body, researchers say. It can change the way you perceive sensations. By narrowly focusing your attention, you're not overwhelmed by panic attack symptoms when they begin. You are able to relax physically. The attack fades away.

Childbirth: It's known as "hypnobirthing" -- women learning how to hypnotize themselves to manage their labour. It helps them to relax and let their bodies take over. The theory is that, in the absence of fear and tension, severe pain does not have to accompany labour. In this calm state, endorphins -- naturally occurring pain-relieving chemicals -- replace the stress hormones that contribute to pain. Even women choosing more traditional methods, such as painkilling drugs, can still benefit from the stress-relieving power of hypnosis.

Lose Weight, Quit Smoking via Hypnosis?
A "cure" to help us lose weight and quit smoking is the Holy Grail for those who have tried everything. Hypnosis can help -- but it can't do the whole job, NIH researchers say. Only a quack will advertise that he can hypnotize you to lose weight.

Weight Loss: Lifestyle changes matter most here. That means better eating habits and more exercise. But hypnosis can be extremely effective in reinforcing a commitment to lifestyle changes. The patient might be asked to visualize himself or herself exercising and feeling good about it. An anti-doughnut suggestion -- visualizing the harm that doughnuts do to the body -- can make them seem unappetizing.

Smoking Cessation: The American Cancer Society advocates hypnosis as one of many stop-smoking techniques -- helping some smokers stay off tobacco for six months or longer. They suggest it might be helpful for some people.

For many people, hypnosis is a way to change beliefs and attitudes that stand in the way of quitting. Hypnosis might enhance confidence, promote a general sense of well-being, decrease withdrawal urges, and help people focus on the importance of quitting. Best results come when hypnosis is simply used as an aid -- combined with other stop-smoking methods, such as the nicotine patch, researchers say.

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Title: “Hypnosis fools the brain into seeing what it believes”
Date: 18/02/2002
Source: The Telegraph

Hypnosis can make people see what they believe, producing changes in the brain that suggest the effects are real, according to a study presented to the world's largest general science meeting yesterday.

About two thirds of the population can be hypnotised and 10 per cent, mostly children, are easily hypnotised. Common medical applications of hypnosis include the treatment of pain, anxiety and phobias.

In a study of eight subjects who were hypnotised, the changes to the part of the brain that processes colour were studied as the individuals were shown black and white or colour pictures.

When subjects who were looking at a black and white image said they were seeing colour there were increases in blood flow to the area of the brain that processes colour vision. When they saw black and white, though they were looking at a colour image, there was a decrease.

"Believing was seeing," said Prof David Spiegel of Stanford University School of Medicine. "When they believe that they were looking at colour, the part of the brain that processes colour showed increases in blood flow.

"This is scientific evidence that something unusual is happening in the brain, that does not happen ordinarily, when people are hypnotised.

"There has been a whole school of argument that hypnosis is nothing more than an exaggerated form of social compliance. This is evidence that they are not just telling you what they think you want to hear. They are actually perceiving things differently. That is a very important lesson."
Prof Spiegel studied the effects of hypnosis on colour vision with Prof Stephen Kosslyn of Harvard University. Now they plan a new study to follow up work by Prof Spiegel, published in The Lancet, which showed that subjects who were hypnotised during painful procedures could reduce the dose of pain relief required.

Another trial on the use of hypnotism to prevent pain involves children aged six to 12 with a suspected kidney disorder which can only be investigated by inserting a catheter into the bladder without anaesthetic.

Under hypnosis, the children imagine they are inside Disney Land. "There is less crying, less pain as they are inserting the catheter, and the procedure takes 20 minutes less, which for a kid is a big difference," said Prof Spiegel.

Original link:


Title: “Hypnosis Really Changes Your Mind”
Source: New Scientist

Hypnosis is more than just a party trick, it measurably changes how the brain works, says a UK researcher.

Hypnosis significantly affects the activity in a part of the brain responsible for detecting and responding to errors, says John Gruzelier, a psychologist at Imperial College in London. Using functional brain imaging, he also found that hypnosis affects an area that controls higher level executive functions.

“This explains why, under hypnosis, people can do outrageous things that ordinarily they wouldn’t dream of doing,” says Gruzelier, who presented his study at the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival in Exeter, UK.

The finding is one of the first to indicate a biological mechanism underpinning the experience of hypnosis. Gruzelier hopes it will also benefit emerging research showing, for example, that hypnosis can help cancer patients deal with painful treatments.

Highly susceptible

Gruzelier and his colleagues studied brain activity using an fMRI while subjects completed a standard cognitive exercise, called the Stroop task. The team screened subjects before the study and chose 12 that were highly susceptible to hypnosis and 12 with low susceptibility. They all completed the task in the fMRI under normal conditions and then again under hypnosis.

Throughout the study, both groups were consistent in their task results, achieving similar scores regardless of their mental state. During their first task session, before hypnosis, there were no significant differences in brain activity between the groups.

But under hypnosis, Gruzelier found that the highly susceptible subjects showed significantly more brain activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus than the weakly susceptible subjects. This area of the brain has been shown to respond to errors and evaluate emotional outcomes.

The highly susceptible group also showed much greater brain activity on the left side of the prefrontal cortex than the weakly susceptible group. This is an area involved with higher level cognitive processing and behaviour.

Gruzelier concludes that, under hypnosis, these brain areas are having to work much harder to achieve the same cognitive task results. “This is confirming our model of hypnosis with very direct evidence of brain function,” he says.

Peter Naish, at the UK's Open University, says this moves the understanding of hypnosis away from the popular misconceptions created by showy stage hypnotists.

“We have a technique that has now moved towards evidence-based treatments,” he says. “Gruzelier’s work is showing for sure that the brain is doing quite different things under hypnosis than in normal everyday existence.”

Clinical trials of therapeutic hypnosis are starting to confirm its potential benefits. Christina Liossi, a psychologist at the University of Wales in Swansea, recently conducted a study of 80 cancer patients aged 6 to 16.

She found that those under hypnosis experienced far less pain during treatments than control children, who simply talked to the researchers normally.

Original Link:

Title: “Hypnotism: It's all in the mind”
Date: 30 January 2007
Source: The Independent

Once regarded as a cheap stage trick, hypnotism is proven to be a powerful medical treatment - and now it's available on the NHS. Roger Dobson reports

There's no magic, no swinging pendulums or swaying watches, and no one is counting backwards as they slump into unconsciousness. This is medical rather than stage or movie hypnotism, and it is increasingly being used to treat the symptoms of diseases and conditions as diverse as asthma, cystic fibrosis, snoring, migraines and warts.

It's been used to allow surgery and dental work without anaesthesia, and for pain-free childbirth without medication. And new evidence from the UK's first and only NHS centre offering hypnotherapy shows that it's highly effective in treating some types of chest pain as well as irritable bowel syndrome.

New research from America has also found that more than half the people who used hypnotherapy to give up smoking were able to kick the habit, while researchers in France have successfully used the therapy to lower blood pressure.

Hypnosis has been used for centuries to treat diverse ills, but it went into relative decline with the rise of modern medicine, and in the last 200 years it's been more associated with stage magicians and movie villains than medicine.

Film-makers take a lot of blame for damaging the image of hypnotism: "When a hypnotist appears on screen, expect evil. If his induction features magnetic hand passes, he's probably about to compel someone to commit a crime. If he hypnotises with an intense stare, his intent is likelier seduction,'' says Dr Deirdre Barrett of Harvard Medical School, who has studied more than 200 films about hypnotism.

At the University Hospital of South Manchester, Professor Peter Whorwell, a gastroenterologist who heads the only NHS-funded hypnotherapy centre in Britain, which has been pioneering the therapy as a treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, agrees. "One of the problems is the name,'' he says. "If we started off again with a name like neuromodulation, for example, it would be more readily accepted. The name hypnotism has so much baggage attached. Cognitive behavioural therapy is now reasonably well accepted, and so, too, is psychotherapy, but of the three, I would say hypnotism is potentially the most powerful. It is becoming a treatment of choice for IBS.

"When I am dead and gone, people are going to suddenly realise that hypnotism is an incredibly powerful tool and question why it has been ignored for so long.''

Just how it works is not clear, and some critics suggest it's simply a way of relaxing. But practitioners say there's more to it, and that under hypnosis the patient can concentrate intensely on a specific thought, memory, feeling or sensation while blocking out distractions.
"The first thing you have to do is get past the myths and misconceptions about clinical hypnosis," says Dr Carol Ginandes who led a study into its use for anxiety at Harvard Medical School. "It's not used for entertainment. There are no Svengali-like figures in power-dominant relationships. It's not a sleep state or something that someone can make you do. It's a state of heightened, focused attention that we can all shift into very naturally.''

In a report in the Harvard Magazine, she explains how it has an effect: "We don't yet understand the mechanisms by which these suggestions are transplanted by the mind into the language of the body, but let's say someone is a smoker. When he's in a hypnotic state, I could suggest that he's going to find himself craving cigarettes less and less over a period of time. If he's ready to quit, that suggestion will be planted at a deep level in his mind, like seeds planted beneath the soil rather than scattered over the top, helping him tap into some useful physical and psychological resources."


In a study at the Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Texas, smokers were given eight sessions of therapy over two months, and told to quit smoking one week after beginning the course of treatment.

Carbon-monoxide concentration tests were carried out on the patients to see whether they had smoked after treatment, and results showed that by the end of treatment 40 per cent had given up. At a follow-up 12 weeks later, 60 per cent had quit.


Hypnotherapy is increasingly being used in a number of areas of dentistry, including dental phobia, teeth-grinding and extractions and fillings. It has also been used for dental surgery that is usually done under local or general anaesthetic.
In one reported case, a patient in Scotland has also had a tooth implant, which involved putting a titanium rod into her jaw. In her case, hypnosis was used to alter the sensation in the areas where surgery was taking place. She was asked to imagine a dial where zero meant no pain.

Chest pains

Up to one-third of patients who have angina-like chest pain are found to have normal coronary arteries, but many continue to suffer painful symptoms despite no evidence of heart disease. Non-cardiac chest pain is a problem because there is little or no treatment.
In a new NHS-funded trial at Manchester, 28 patients were given 12 sessions of hypnotherapy or a placebo treatment. After being hypnotised, patients were told to focus on the chest, and given repetitive suggestions about reducing pain. Patients were also given a tape of a session and encouraged to practise at home. Results show that of those who had the therapy, eight out of 10 had an all-round improvement in symptoms.

Wound healing

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have shown that broken bones and surgical wounds heal faster in patients who have hypnotherapy. Six weeks after breaking their ankles, patients being treated with hypnotherapy were three weeks ahead in their healing schedule than those who were just put in plaster.

In a second study, the researchers had similar results with surgical wounds. Before surgery, suggestions were made under therapy on pain and anxiety, and on decreased inflammation, reduced scar tissue, and accelerated wound-healing. Results show the women who had the therapy healed significantly faster.

Irritable bowel syndrome

One of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, with research showing that between five and 20 per cent of us suffer at some time. Its main symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation. The exact cause is not known, but in some people changes in the balance of bacteria that line the gut are thought to be involved, as well as inflammation. Existing treatment for the condition can be only moderately effective.
Research at the University Hospital of South Manchester, where the first trial of hypnotherapy for the condition was carried out, shows that the majority of sufferers can benefit. "We have found that IBS patients treated with hypnotherapy remain well in the long term, with dramatically reduced medication needs,'' say the researchers.

Cystic fibrosis

According to a University of Michigan report, hypnotherapy can reduce symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, anxiety and other symptoms of cystic fibrosis.

A study at the Robert C Schwartz Cystic Fibrosis Center at the State University of New York also shows that self-hypnosis can be highly effective. "Many of the patients used hypnosis for more than one purpose, including relaxation (61 per cent of patients), relief of pain associated with medical procedures (31 per cent), headache relief (16 per cent), changing the taste of medications to make the flavour more palatable (10 per cent), and control of other symptoms associated with CF (18 per cent). The patients successfully utilised self-hypnosis 86 per cent of the time.''


Research at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide, where hypnosis is used for women in labour, shows it is highly effective. Women who had the therapy, which was given after 37 weeks gestation, used fewer epidurals - 36 per cent compared with 53 per cent in other women. A second study showed that women taught self-hypnosis reduced their need for analgesia by half, epidurals by 70 per cent, and were more than twice as likely to be satisfied with their pain management in labour compared with other women.


According to Harley Street psychiatrist Dr Tom Kraft, snoring can be treated with hypnotherapy by suggesting under hypnosis that the sufferer turns on his side every time he begins to snore.

"I have reported on the case of a 53-year-old man who came to see me after his snoring led to his wife throwing him out of the bedroom,'' he says. "After I treated him, his snoring went, and he was allowed back in the bedroom, for which he was eternally grateful. After 10 sessions, the patient no longer snored, and when he was followed up later the improvements had been maintained.''

What is hypnotism?

What hypnotism doesn't do is put people to sleep, or make them lose control, or do things against their will. "Many see it as the mind being taken over by the hypnotist and loss of control, which is completely erroneous," says Professor Peter Whorwell at the University Hospital of South Manchester. "As a consequence of this, the whole subject is surrounded by a cloud of mystery."

In hypnotherapy, patients are helped by the therapist to reach what's described as a relaxed state of consciousness, like being absorbed in a good book. Therapists may start by describing images that create a sense of security and well-being. They may then suggest ways of achieving specific goals, such as getting rid of phobias.

Just how it works is not clear. Practitioners say the patient can concentrate intensely on a specific thought, memory, feeling or sensation while blocking out distractions.

Original Link:

Title: “Soon you will enter a deep trance...”
Date: 08/09/2004

Some doctors use it to treat insomnia, asthma and eczema. Others to calm migraines and irritable bowels, and to reduce anxiety. Yet, even though the use of hypnosis is on the increase across the medical profession, no one understands how it works. Some experts even believe the "trance" induced by hypnosis can happen to us all when we are daydreaming, engrossed in a bestseller or commuting to work.

The ways that doctors are willing to use hypnosis are expanding in number and range. Some use it to relieve the chronic pain of arthritis, the acute pain of dental surgery, reduce the side effects of cancer treatments and help people stop smoking or lose weight.

It is even used to make food taste better for cancer patients whose taste buds have been damaged by radiotherapy.

Hypnosis is now one of the most commonly used complementary therapies, with an estimated 353,000 consumers every year in England. To meet this demand, more and more health professionals are being trained in its use. General practices in 12 per cent of primary care groups in England offer hypnosis to patients. This results in nearly one-and-a-half million private and NHS appointments with hypnotherapists every year, at a cost to private users of £34 million and to the NHS of more than £5 million.

Despite this increase in medical use and a boom in hypnosis research, experts still don't agree how it works and such understanding could make it even more effective. Scientists at the British Association's Festival of Science in Exeter will continue the long-running debate on the subject tomorrow.

Hypnosis attempts to direct a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviour by "suggestions" that instruct him or her to concentrate on particular images or ideas. This can be achieved with the help of a hypnotist or through self-hypnosis. For example, a "suggestion" to reduce the pain of having a tooth extracted might invoke an image of pain being controlled like the volume on a television set. So if the dial is turned down, the pain can be reduced. Likewise, the image of lying on a beach in the sun can help some people to experience less pain.

People usually need a series of hypnosis sessions, starting with a "hypnotic induction", which increases relaxation and allows people to become absorbed in their inner thoughts. During hypnosis, subjects are usually aware of their environment, can remember most of what happens and cannot be made to do things against their will.

Scientists agree that there is a pattern or "orchestra" of brain activity during hypnosis that some refer to as a trance. A trance can be described as a state of mind in which a person's attention is focused, he or she is absorbed in a specific activity and is switched off from what is going on around them. This brain activity depends on the type of "suggestion" that the patient is given and can occur in a number of parts of the brain, including the cortex that controls the "higher" brain functions such as perception, sensation, thought and memory and the lower parts that control unconscious processes such as breathing, heart rate and muscle movement.

One view suggests that the brain achieves an altered state of consciousness, a unique trance, during hypnosis. Prof Helen Crawford, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, an expert in the neurophysiology of pain relief through hypnosis, says she has concrete physiological evidence to show that the brain achieves a state of focused attention during hypnosis. She says there is something "dramatically different" about the brain activity in people during hypnosis, for pain relief, compared with when they are not hypnotised.

She describes a change in the pattern of brain activity during hypnosis, characterised by a significant increase in theta waves of about 5-7Hz recorded by electroencephalograph (EEG) monitors. However, support among experts for an alternative explanation appears to be growing. Although proponents of this rival theory do not dispute that research has reliably shown physiological changes in the brain during hypnosis, they do not believe these changes are confined to hypnosis.

They propose that the pattern of brain activity seen during hypnosis can be found during everyday experiences when attention is focused: for example, being absorbed in a piece of music or driving a long distance. This explanation makes the brain activity seen during hypnosis seem less special, since it suggests this can happen to us all.

One of the authors of a British Psychological Society report on hypnosis, Dr Graham Wagstaff of the University of Liverpool, believes the physiological evidence cited by some scientists to support the idea that the brain is in a unique "trance" during hypnosis has been over-interpreted. "If you give anybody an instruction, you will get physiological changes in the brain," he says. "To establish that hypnosis invokes a special physiological state of the brain, you have to show that the person is not capable of doing that when not hypnotised."

He says current research methods are typically not able to answer that question, despite the conclusions of the scientists involved, because they do not enable us to separate the effect on the brain of the "suggestion" itself from being in a hypnotic state of mind. "I have yet to come across an experiment where they look for physiological differences between a group of people who are given a suggestion under hypnosis, and a different group of people, who share similar psychological characteristics, but who receive exactly the same suggestion without hypnosis." One reason for this lack of good controlled research, he says, is that scientists searching for the physiological basis of hypnosis are usually trying to show that it is something special. They might not be as successful at securing funding for this expensive and time-consuming work if the aim was to show that there was nothing unique about brain activity during hypnosis.

"There are question marks," acknowledges another author of the report, Dr Michael Heap of Wathwood Hospital, Rotherham, who has frequently used hypnosis to treat psychological conditions. Dr Heap says the traditional idea that you are in some special state of consciousness, a unique trance, during all forms of hypnosis is very unlikely.

He disagrees that there is a "biological marker" to show that brain activity during hypnosis is "uniquely hypnotic". We may not know how it works, but it certainly seems to. Phyllis Alden, of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, is a clinical psychologist who has used hypnosis to treat patients for the past 20 years. She says hypnosis can be so effective in reducing pain that patients can even stop using conventional painkillers. She believes the hypnotic state is simply capitalising on our natural capacity to focus our attention.

"Hypnosis involves the focusing of attention to the point where you can make what you imagine feel real at the same time as being able to switch off from what is real," she says. "That is what makes hypnosis work. I don't think it is a lot more complicated than that. You don't have to formally induce this state called hypnosis to get some of these things to happen."

Despite the mystery, experts seem to agree that hypnosis is not dangerous, if it is carried out with a trained hypnotherapist who has a good understanding of the patient's condition. People who do not have vivid imaginations and those who are sceptical about its value may not benefit from hypnosis, as imagination and expectation are important in determining its effectiveness.

Hypnosis is not regarded as the treatment of choice for people with severe mental health problems, such as schizophrenia.

As the debate continues, it highlights how little is known about the closely related and fundamental scientific question of human consciousness. These complex questions are likely to continue to baffle scientists for many more years.

In the meantime, millions of people will continue to benefit from hypnosis, even though this lack of understanding seems to be at odds with the health service drive for evidence-based medicine.

Hypnosis: the history

Hypnosis was first recognised by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks as a way of inducing dreams to solve people’s problems.

Franz Mesmer (1734-1815), an Austrian doctor, is regarded as the modern “father of hypnosis”. However, the medical profession rejected what was later termed mesmerism”.

James Braid (1796-1860), a Scottish doctor, coined the terms “hypnosis” and “hypnotism” from the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos. Scientists now know that hypnosis and sleep are two very different physiological states.

A swinging watch was commonly used in the early days of hypnotism to allow people to fixate on an object and go into a “trance”.

Scottish surgeon James Esdaile (1808-1859) used hypnotism as an anaesthetic during countless major operations he performed in India. However, the British medical profession rejected the use of hypnosis in this way in favour of new anaesthetic drugs.

In 1892, the British Medical Association (BMA) formally recognised that hypnosis had therapeutic benefits.

Hypnosis was used to treat the physical and psychological effects experienced by soldiers in the two world wars.

Although public demonstrations of hypnosis have been popular throughout history, stage hypnotism as a form of television entertainment, was pioneered by an American, Ormond McGill, who also wrote the “bible” of stage hypnosis, The Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnotism, in 1947.

In 1955, the BMA first supported the teaching of hypnosis in medicine.

Original Link:

Title: “Mind Over Medicine”
Date: 19/03/2006
Source: Time Magazine

Shelley Thomas, 53, was wheeled into an anteroom at London's Middlesex Hospital in preparation for pelvic surgery. A patient going into that operation is usually given a mix of painkilling narcotics and nerve-quelling tranquilizers. But not Thomas. Instead she rested on a gurney, alert and calm, taking deep breaths at her hypnotherapist's instruction. Thomas counted aloud, "One hundred, deep sleep; 99, deeper sleep; 98 ..."

"By the time I got to 95, the words and numbers had all gone," says Thomas. "It's quite peculiar. They all go."

Minutes later, thoroughly hypnotized, Thomas was rolled into the operating room. There she underwent a 30-min. procedure with no anaesthetics and no discernible pain. Her hypnotherapist stayed by her side throughout, monitoring her trance state and refocusing her mind when it drifted.

Thomas' story is not as extraordinary as you might think. Since the early 1990s, thousands of patients have opted for hypnosis--either as a substitute for or (more typically) as a complement to anaesthesia--in a wide variety of surgical procedures, from repairing hernias to removing tumours. At the University Hospital of Liège in Belgium, a team of doctors led by Dr. Marie-Elisabeth Faymonville has logged more than 5,100 surgeries by hypnosedation, a technique Faymonville developed that replaces general anaesthesia with hypnosis, local anaesthesia and a mild sedative. "Patients tell us that it is a very special experience," says Faymonville. "We now have people coming from all over the world."

Hypnosis was first used as a surgical anaesthetic in India in 1845 but was quickly abandoned with the introduction of ether the following year. The practice languished for decades, becoming, at least in the public eye, little more than a parlour trick. In 1958 it was sanctioned by the American Medical Association for use in medicine and dentistry. Since then, doctors have hypnotized patients to help ease such ills as migraines, depression, anxiety and chronic cancer pain.

But it is in Europe that surgical applications of hypnosis have flourished. The new interest stems in part from studies showing that hypothecated patients suffer fewer side effects than fully sedated ones do. According to Faymonville, hypnotized patients can get by on less than 1% of the standard medications required for general anaesthesia, thus avoiding such aftereffects as nausea, fatigue, lack of coordination and cognitive impairment. In a 1999 study of thyroid patients, Faymonville found that the typical hypnosedated patient returned to work 15 days after surgery, compared with 28 days for a fully anaesthetized patient.

Meanwhile, studies using advanced scanning technology have shed new light on how hypnosis works to block pain. In a report published two years ago in the journal Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, Dr. Sebastian Schulz-Stübner of the University of Iowa reported using heat-producing thermodes to measure the pain thresholds of 12 healthy volunteers ("painful" stimuli earning a rating of 8 or higher on a 10-point scale). When the participants were hypnotized and re-exposed to the thermodes, all 12 reported feeling significantly reduced pain (with ratings of 3 or lower) or no pain at all.
The differences in the subjects' brain scans were equally striking. The typical pain signal follows a well-worn path from the brain stem through the midbrain and into the cortex, where conscious feelings of pain arise. In Schulz-Stübner's study, the hypnotized group showed subcortical brain activity similar to that of nonhypnotized volunteers, but the primary sensory cortex stayed quiet. The "ouch" message wasn't making it past the midbrain and into consciousness.

The new findings have fostered interest in the U.S., where doctors are using hypnosis for procedures in which sedation is inappropriate or for patients who are allergic to anaesthetics. Dr. David Spiegel, associate chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University, hypnotizes Parkinson's sufferers during the implantation of deep-brain electrodes--a process that requires tremulous patients to remain conscious and calm. He has also coaxed children into imagining that a balloon tied to their wrist will fly them to their favourite places, a hypnotic technique that has lessened anxiety in paediatric patients undergoing bladder catheriizations. In Iowa, Schulz-Stübner hypnotizes patients to reduce pain and anxiety while they receive presurgery nerve blocks, such as epidurals. He finds that the calming effects of hypnosis often last through the entire operation.

Yet even the most enthusiastic proponents of hypnosedation don't suggest that it replace anaesthesia entirely. For one thing, not everybody can be hypnotized. Some 60% of patients are hypnotizable to some degree, Spiegel says; an additional 15%, highly so. The rest seem to be unresponsive. Moreover, many patients are fully sedated before surgery not because the surgeon requires it but because they choose to be. "People don't want to feel or hear anything. They want to be out," says Schulz-Stübner. "That's what you hear most of the time."

Original Link:,9171,1174707-1,00.html

Title: “Pain-free surgery – by Hypnosis”
Date: 05/12/2000
Source: Daily Mail

A British woman has undergone major surgery on her foot without an anaesthetic after she hypnotised herself into feeling no pain.

Bernadine Coady insists that she could not feel anything as a surgeon cut skin and muscle, sawed through two bones and stretched tendons during the operation on her right foot. The 59-year-old nurse - pictured after the 15-minute operation - says she used self-hypnosis. 'I just tell myself I won't feel any pain and I don't - it's as simple as that,' she said.

It is the second time Mrs Coady has had surgery without anaesthetic. The first was 18 months ago when she needed a similar operation on her left foot. She was reluctant to be anaesthetised because of a blood condition which can leave her starved of oxygen. 'I will never have anaesthetic,' she said. 'Even if I had to have heart surgery I would still use hypnosis. 'It's something everybody can do with the right training.'

Mrs Coady took only three minutes to prepare herself mentally for the operation at the private Fitzwilliam Hospital in Peterborough. Surgeon Ahmed Shair chatted to her throughout.

Mrs Coady, who kept her eyes shut and imagined she was standing beneath a waterfall, did not reply but was fully aware of what was being said to her. An anaesthetist was on hand but was not needed. Minutes after the operation, Mrs Coady said: 'I feel really good. Last time I wasn't really aware of anything going on. I was aware of everything this time.'

Mrs Coady, who came over from Belize to train as a nurse more than 30 years ago, received a diploma from the British School of Hypnosis in 1994. Her initial request to have an operation without any anaesthetic took Mr Shair by surprise. Normally, such an operation requires an overnight stay because of the anaesthetic, but Mrs Coady, who is married to a civil engineer called John, was back home in Wimblington, Cambridgeshire, just hours later.

Anaesthetics can result in adverse reactions such as nausea, headaches and vomiting and, for those suffering chest or heart problems, the complications can be serious.

She regularly uses self hypnosis to boost her self confidence and says she cured herself of hayfever with positive thought.

Original Link:

Title: “Managing your Anger”
Date: undated
Source: BBC Online - Health

Everyone feels their anger is justified when they're actually angry. Equally, we've all looked back and realised we may have overreacted. But for some people, anger can become a problem that needs to be addressed.

Understanding anger

It's important to realise several things about anger before you start tackling it. First, anger is a normal process that has allowed humans to evolve and adapt. It isn't a bad thing in itself, but problems occur if it isn't managed in the right way.

Anger is also a mixture of both emotional and physical changes. A big surge of energy goes through your body as chemicals, such as adrenaline, are released.

Once the cause of the anger is resolved, you may still have to deal with the physical effects - all that energy has to go somewhere. This can be taken out on another person, such as a partner, or an object - by punching a wall, for example. This last option can lead down the road to self-harm.

The other alternative is to suppress the energy until the next time you're angry. This may mean you release so much pent-up emotion that you overreact to the situation. Realising this can lead to feelings of shame or frustration when you reflect on your actions, and to further repression of your feelings.

On the other hand, just letting your anger go in an uncontrolled fashion can lead to a move from verbal aggression to physical abuse - don't forget, the other person is probably feeling angry with you too.

But there is a flip side to anger. Because of the surge of energy it creates, it can be pleasurable. This feeling is reinforced if becoming angry allows the release of feelings of frustration, or if a person's response to your anger gives you a sense of power.

It's important to acknowledge and keep an eye on this side of the problem - it can have an almost addictive element.

Recognising why you get angry

It's important to be aware of the positive feelings you get from anger as well as the negative ones.

Once you've recognised the positive and negative feelings associated with your anger, it's important to find other means of getting the positives ones.

Each person's positives are different, so there will be different solutions for everyone, but some strategies might include:

Trying a non-contact competitive sport
Learning relaxation or meditation
Shouting and screaming in a private, quiet place
Banging your fists into a pillow
Going running

Any of these may help to vent your frustration and burn off any feelings you're bottling up.

Dealing with flashpoints
However, this still leaves the problem of dealing differently with those situations that make you angry. This takes practice.

The first thing to do is list the situations that make you angry. Note down exactly what it is about them that makes you angry - it may be the immediate situation, or it could be that it represents a build-up of issues you haven't resolved.

Now ask yourself four questions about your interpretation of these situations:

What evidence is there to show this is accurate?
Is there another equally believable interpretation of what's going on here?
What action can I take to have some control of the situation?
If my best friend were in this situation, what advice would I give to them?

This won't dispel the anger for every situation, but when you're angry it can be difficult to assess a situation accurately. If a situation arises unexpectedly and you feel your temper rising, walk away and complete this exercise if you can.

Resolving the issues
If your anger is not resolved by this, make sure you've given enough thought to 'What exactly am I angry about?' You need to be sure exactly what you're angry about before you can resolve it. It will usually involve a person, but not necessarily the one who's the target of your anger in the situation and this is the person you need to work the situation out with.

To do this, find a time to raise the problem when you feel more in control of your temper. It may be a good idea to agree a time in advance.

It may feel like a tall order to discuss the issue without getting angry, but following a plan may help. Professor Richard Nelson-Jones has developed a good structure to use, called CUDSAIR. This stands for:


First, it's important that you confront the problem and not the person. State the nature of the problem and how it makes you feel. Be clear that it's the problem - not the person - who makes you feel like this. This way you'll develop a joint definition and ownership of what's going on.

Next, it's important to understand each other's view of the situation. It may help to agree that each person should be able to say what they think about the problem without being interrupted by the other. After this, identify areas where you disagree. Don't discuss the disagreements yet, just agree that you disagree. This is how you define the problem.

The next step is to search for solutions. Here, be as outrageous as you like - but again, don't make personal attacks. Generate as many possible solutions as you can - at the moment, it doesn't matter how unrealistic they seem.

Finally, you have to agree on a solution. This is probably the most delicate part of the whole process. It's important that you both make concessions and acknowledge those that the other person has made. It's also important not to have unrealistic expectations - it's likely that the final solution won't be ideal for either of you, but the resulting compromise will probably be better than the problems the anger generated.

It's important that you both keep to the agreement. It's also important not to overreact to any breaches. Point them out, but there's no need to get angry. You have the agreement to back you up.

However well you both stick to the agreement, it's worth having a review some time in the future to go through the CUDSAIR model again and see if things can't be improved further.

Title: “Hypnosis could banish hay fever”
Date: 26/04/2005
Source: BBC

Hay fever sufferers could benefit from using self-hypnosis, researchers say.

A Swiss team at Basle University taught 66 people with hay-fever the art of hypnosis and found it helped them alleviate symptoms such as runny nose.

The volunteers also took their regular anti-hay-fever drugs, but the effect of hypnosis appeared to be additive and reduce the doses they needed to take. The findings appear in the medical journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.


The study took place over two years and included two hay fever seasons. During the first year, some of the volunteers with hay-fever were taught and asked to regularly practise hypnosis as well as take their usual allergy medicine.

The hypnosis training consisted of one two-hour session with an experienced trainer. The remaining volunteers had no other treatment apart from their normal allergy medication.

After a year, the researchers found the volunteers who had been using self-hypnosis had reported fewer symptoms related to hay-fever than their fellow volunteers.

Runny noses

During the second year, the researchers taught the remaining "untrained" volunteers how to use hypnosis. By the end of this year, these volunteers also reported improvement in their hay-fever symptoms.

Although the improvement in symptoms was not statistically significant and, therefore, could have been down to chance alone, the researchers also found that the volunteers had cut down on the amount of hay-fever medication they used after learning self-hypnosis.

Professor Wolf Langewitz and his team also tested the volunteers in the laboratory to see what effect the hypnosis was having on the body.

Using a machine that measured how forcefully a person could exhale through their nose, the researchers found that the hypnosis was helping to improve nasal airflow, even when the volunteers were exposed to things that triggered their hay-fever, such as pollen and grass.

Professor Langewitz said: "While our findings are not a definite answer, this simple intervention is worth investigating further. "It is cheap and only takes a couple of hours to teach."

How it might work

He suspects that hypnosis might work by altering blood flow and helping alleviate congestion in the nose that can occur with hay-fever.

Dr Peter Whorwell from Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, who uses hypnotherapy to treat people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, said some of his own patients who also had hay-fever had commented to him that their noses were less runny after hypnotherapy sessions.

He said: "It is known that you can alter blood flow with hypnosis. Hypnosis has been used for a variety of medical conditions, including asthma, eczema and migraines. It's definitely an area that is worth researching."

A spokeswoman from Allergy UK said they had heard anecdotal reports of hay-fever sufferers using hypnotherapy. However, they said they were unable to recommend any approaches that had not be extensively investigated and backed by strong scientific evidence.

Dr Adrian Morris, a GP in Surrey with a special interest in allergic disorders, said although hypnotherapy might be useful, what was far more helpful to lessen hay-fever symptoms was gradual, graded exposure to the trigger to increase tolerance.

Original Link:

Title: “Cancer Patients Can Live Longer by Staying Calm”
Source: The Independent

Relaxation Techniques can prolong the lives of cancer patients by between two and three years, research shows.

A 13-year study of patients with lymph cancers found that hypnotherapy and relaxation exercises could prolong the lives of sufferers who are also receiving chemotherapy. Those who received the therapies, designed to relieve stress and help with the side-effects of chemotherapy, survived, on average, 32 months longer than patients who had conventional treatments alone.

Survival rates depended on the severity and stage of the disease in each patient. But there was an overall improvement in life-span, Professor Leslie Walker told the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Glasgow.

His findings add weight to the theory that the ability of patients to fight some cancers is enhanced by unconventional therapeutic techniques.

Professor Walker, the director of the Institute of Rehabilitation at the University of Hull, described how patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or Hodgkin's disease were given hypnotherapy or other relaxation training to help them endure gruelling courses of chemotherapy.

Among the complementary techniques was an exercise where patients recalled a time and place where they felt at one with the world, imagined they were there again and became absorbed in memories of what they could see, smell or hear.

The therapies were intended to reduce the side-effects of radiation and not as a treatment in their own right. When the patients were followed up years later, those who received the therapies were shown to have lived "significantly longer", Professor Walker said. "We didn't set out to prolong survival, but people who received relaxation or hypnotherapy lived significantly longer. If these findings can be repeated, there are obvious implications for treating patients with lymphoma."

Professor Walker stressed that the same effect might not be replicated in other types of cancers, and said that opinion was still divided about the impact of therapeutic intervention.

But an American study of 86 women with advanced breast cancer showed that those who received therapeutic intervention and were encouraged to talk about their illnesses survived twice as long as those who received ordinary treatment. A second study in California showed improved survival in skin-cancer victims.

Professor Walker has also seen positive signs in work with 80 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in Hull. Some women are taking part in "guided imagery" where they visualise "killer cells" in the blood eradicating the disease. Thinking of the cells as "shark-like creatures which eat up cancer" or "dragons which burn cancers to death" has resulted in an increased number of killer cells in the blood of the women patients and an improved outlook, but there is no evidence of prolonged life.

Publication Link:

Title: “Helping hand for Healing: Your Health”
Date: 13/03/2007
Source: The Express

Complementary therapies can be free on the NHS for patients recovering from serious illnesses but it's up to you to find out what's on offer. Joanne O'Connell reports

When Julie Wray was told last June that she had breast cancer, she faced six months of chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells. "I was so anxious about the chemo sessions that I used to shake and cry all the way through, and then be violently sick when I got home, " says Julie, 49, who lectures in nursing.
Fortunately, Julie discovered that the Christie Hospital in Manchester, where she was being treated, had a complementary therapies unit.

After asking about the services, she was offered free sessions of hypnotherapy.

"I was a bit sceptical at first, " says Julie, who lives in Cheadle, Cheshire. "But I decided to give it a go because, at the very least, there wouldn't be side-effects." During her next chemotherapy session, Julie was given hypnotherapy and a massage. "At the end of the session, I couldn't believe the chemotherapy hadn't been stressful. I didn't even suffer the usual nausea," she says.

She then had further treatments to help her manage her anxiety. "By the end, I almost looked forward to having chemo. I'm convinced the complementary therapies helped me accept I had cancer and cope with the treatments."

Julie is one of a growing number of patients able to access free complementary therapies on the NHS.
It's an area that's increasingly recognised by people keen to access more natural treatments, says Kim Lavely, chief executive of The Prince's Foundation For Integrated Health (FIH), founded by the Prince of Wales.

"It's the public that's really driving forward the growth in complementary services on the NHS, " she says. "People want a more 'whole person' approach to healthcare." Over three quarters of people said they would like complementary therapies available on the NHS, according to a study by the Future Foundation.
So it's no surprise that the five NHS homeopathic hospitals in the UK - in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow and Tunbridge Wells in Kent - are in demand.

The hospitals, which operate on a GP referral system, offer services to patients suffering from anything from asthma, eczema and digestive problems to menstrual and menopausal problems.
"There are pockets all over the country where patients are offered osteopathy, chiropractors and acupuncture, " says Lavely.

Sessions with an acupuncturist or chiropractor are usually given to patients suffering chronic pain, such as backache, says Dr Jeremy Tankel, a GP based in Salford. Patients can sometimes access this from their GP or from a pain management unit. However, some hospitals and clinics offer access to an even wider range of therapies - including aromatherapy, massage, hypnotherapy, reiki, reflexology and sessions with a healer. Many of these sessions are free on the NHS. Others are run by charities.

The Government has also been supportive of providing access to alternative treatments. With a GBP 900,000 grant from the Department of Health, the FIH is establishing regulatory bodies for complementary healthcare practitioners to ensure safety and quality. For example, the Aromatherapy Council was established in December 2006. Many pregnant women and new mums benefit from the growing number of maternity services that offer complementary therapy during and after labour.

At West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, for example, all midwives are given basic training in aromatherapy massage, with five trained to diploma level. The service is offered to all women in labour, with the take up rate at around 60 per cent. Sheila Cornwall, a midwife who works for the Trust, says: "We find that aromatherapy helps women to relax, which means they're more likely to experience a natural birth." Aromatherapy and massage are seen as "complementary" to the usual pain relief methods offered to women in labour, says Sandy Juff, a midwife at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.

"Most people ask for the service these days. But if they don't know about it, we offer it to them and the majority want to give it a go, " she says. The problems come when patients want services unavailable in their area, says Pam Prentice, of the charity Developing Patient Partnerships. "It all depends on local provisions, " says Prentice. "You can't demand to be offered complementary therapies on the NHS. It's down to the discretion of your health professional, such as your GP, to offer them and even if he or she is supportive of your wishes there may simply not be any on offer in your area."

How to get complementary treatment on the NHS:

There are great services offering complementary treatments on the National Health Service, says Katherine Murphy, spokesperson for the Patients Association, but she warns that you may not be offered them.
"It's very much up to the individual patient to ask for the treatments, " she says. "Patients expect to be offered any treatment available to them, but in many cases, this simply doesn't happen even when the services are available."

There is no central database on the treatments available across the UK, although the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH) is in the process of collating data that will help build up a better picture of the services available. To find out what's available in your area, it's best to ask your GP, midwife, or hospital consultant. "You may also find treatments are available from a pain management clinic in your area, if your GP can't directly offer you the service, " says Dr Jeremy Tankel.

What if you are refused?

You don't have a right to complementary treatments on the NHS but if you know there are services in your area, don't be put off straightaway. "You could ask for a second opinion from another GP at your practice, " suggests Lavely. "You may find they are more responsive although it's not always the case." If you do experience difficulty obtaining treatment, you may be able to get help and advice from the Patients Association (0845 608 4455 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0845 608 4455 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, or the NHS Patient Advice and Liaison Service ( For more information about treatments available on the NHS, see the Complementary Healthcare guide for patients available on the FIH website (

Original Link:

Title: “Mind Over Body in Cancer Care”
Date: 30/04/1989
Source: Times

Hypnosis, often thought of as a party piece where suggestible people are made fools of, is being given a new lease of life. Dr Leslie Walker, a lecturer in mental health at the University of Aberdeen, has found it a useful tool for cancer patients suffering from the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Although not all chemotherapy treatments produce side-effects, some are so devastating that patients have been known to give up altogether even though their prognosis was otherwise good. Nausea, vomiting, anxiety and hair-loss can sometimes be so debilitating that the patient will often feel unable to continue with treatment.

Not only can the symptoms be experienced as a direct response to the drugs, the patient is also often affected by what Walker calls 'anticipatory side-effects', and can become nauseous just thinking about it.
The mind's role in this was underlined recently by Penny Brohn, a pioneer of alternative medicine in the field of cancer, and founder of the Bristol Cancer Help Centre. 'I had a letter about a cancer patient who knew she was ill, but asked not to be told what was wrong with her, or what treatment she was undergoing.

'Her husband was told that she had cancer and would be treated with chemotherapy. The oblivious patient underwent the treatment and experienced no side-effects. The husband became nauseous, depressed and his hair started to fall out.'

In a study involving 18 patients with different forms of cancer, and varying chemotherapy treatment, Walker found that his 'nausea management training', by means of hypnotherapy, had good results.

Patients are taught a simple technique using imagery or visualisation, and relaxation methods, which break down the fear associated in their minds with chemotherapy treatment. Patients also learn to practise by themselves.

'Following treatment, all patients including two who were refusing to have further chemotherapy were prepared to continue and complete the chemotherapy course. In addition to preventing the worsening of side-effects, some patients actually improved, ' said Walker.

Brohn has had similar successes at the Bristol centre, to such an extent that Dr Karol Sikora, a senior oncologist at Hammersmith Hospital in London, has invited her to send in a team of consultants.

'We are very interested in this new method, ' he said. 'I would describe Penny's approach as complementary medicine. They are successful because they are not extreme in their approach; they don't expect the patient to reject conventional Western medicine, but combine their techniques with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.'

One of Brohn's favourite, and most successful, visualisation techniques can best be described as the 'champagne method'.

'Two women came to see me recently who had experienced severe burning from radiotherapy. It was so severe, they were considering giving up the treatment. We devised a method whereby the patient, while undergoing radiotherapy, imagined that the radiation waves were actually bubbles of champagne permeating the body. This was very successful; the women found they were no longer being burned, and could continue with radiotherapy.'

According to Sikora: 'A combination of advances in high-technology medicine and cuts in the National Health Service is leading us towards looking for different, perhaps more unorthodox approaches. What has impressed us so much with the Bristol approach is that it works and is perfectly compatible with traditional methods.'

Walker would agree with all of that, but adds the warning: 'There are only 1,200 clinical psychologists in Britain, and the patient demand far outstrips supply in this area. I believe it is very important that hypnotherapy is carried out by a qualified clinical psychologist.

'With an unstable personality or someone with a pyschopathic disorder, undergoing hypnosis could be like opening a Pandora's box of mental problems, which an untrained person could not cope with.'

The BMA recommends that anyone wanting hypnotherapy should go through his or her GP. It believes the many different hypnotherapy organisations should be moving towards accepting one regulatory body.

Publication Link:

Title: “Self Hypnosis to build confidence and develop optimism”
Date: 29/01/2005
Source: The Times

Self-hypnosis can provide a low-risk environment in which to build confidence and develop our optimism by Dr Nick Baylis

Change will lead to insight far more often than insight will lead to change, said the American psychiatrist Milton Erikson, one of the 20th century's most inspiring exponents of hypnosis. This is why the deeply absorbing, virtual-reality experience called self-hypnosis can be so helpful. By imaginatively experiencing how things could be as if they were for real, our horizons and expectations improve to such an extent that afterwards we think, behave, and perceive things differently, and even our automatic bodily functions may respond accordingly.

Last week, I championed the remedial role of hypnosis, but today I'd like to emphasise its potential for personal development. I start from the premise that we are in a trance whenever we are engrossed in an activity such as reading a book or vividly remembering something. Hypnosis harnesses our natural ability to enter this mental state by guiding us with suggestions strategically designed to facilitate positive change. In our workplaces and on the sports field, in educational settings just as much as in healthcare services, self-hypnosis could make a big difference.

It can provide a low-cost, low-risk virtual training environment in which to practise our skills in preventing and relieving stress and anxiety; build the confidence for public speaking and presentations; develop our optimism and overcome our inertia. Better still, these core skills can help not only in our work, but in our social and personal lives too. For young children it can develop the focusing of attention, and be a means of dealing with bad dreams, bed-wetting, and fear of school. It can also help women prepare for all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth.

Yet, most dramatically in my experience, hypnosis can help neutralise the emotional traumas from an accident, incident, or period in our past that may have left us slow to engage with or develop key aspects of our present life. Hypnosis can help us move on.

Which is why it's so regrettable that despite being well-established in the US, hypnosis has yet to become accepted over here. For instance, it is rarely a sanctioned procedure for an NHS psychotherapy unit or for medical procedures. This reluctance reflects a long history of professional rivalries far more than any scientific reservations, but it doesn't help that the practice of hypnosis is still unregulated. After all, it's a profoundly powerful tool, and only as safe and effective as the practitioner using it. As the law stands, anyone can call themselves a hypnotherapist, but this doesn't necessarily mean they have adequate training in the technique, nor training in the vital medical or psychological diagnoses and treatment plans for which hypnosis can only be an aid, not a replacement.

The UK's centre of excellence in research, training, and clinical practice is the University College London Hypnosis Unit ( As well as seeing NHS and private patients, the unit trains psychologists, nurses, doctors, surgeons and dentists. In addition, the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis (, or our local GP's surgery, can point us towards trusted practitioners. Refining this natural personal resource in order to be able to enhance our daily lives seems to me an opportunity well worth finding out about.

Publication Link:

Title: “Passing exams? It's all in the mind”
Date: 20/02/2007
Source: Daily Mail

FOR most pupils, half-term break has just ended but already many parents are making plans for the Easter holidays. Perhaps unfortunately for their children, these increasingly involve enrolling them in revision classes in an attempt to improve their exam grades.

But a new study suggests pupils working hard over Easter to get the best marks could bolster their chances of exam success simply by taking it easy. It recommends that self-hypnosis may be a useful way for teenagers to overcome problems of anxiety and depression.

Although primarily intended for children suffering from problems such as depression, the technique could also help them to perform at their best during Standard Grade and Higher prelims. Details of the study emerged at a recent conference held by The British Psychological Society's Division of Educational and Child Psychology in Glasgow.

The research looked at secondary school pupils who had undergone treatment at the Hampshire Hypnotherapy Centre to combat anxiety-related problems. The centre, which has been open for six years, applies psychology with hypnotherapy and has been the focus of doctoral research at University College, London.

David Byron, a senior specialist educational psychologist for Hampshire County Council, studied the ten pupils at the centre along with ten others being taught more traditional relaxation techniques. He found that, while both approaches helped reduce anxiety, hypnotherapy seemed to produce greater gains as well as reducing feelings of hopelessness.

There was also an improvement in the students' self-esteem and a high level of parental satisfaction. Mr Byron said: ' It seems to empower the students to change their lives and it's not me doing it, it's them. I am just showing them how to do it.' Teachers said that, following treatment, students became more confident and found it easier to relax.

The hypnotherapy pupils were seen along with their parents in sessions and told to think of things they wanted to change in their lives. In the following sessions, they were taught how to self-hypnotise and work towards these targets. The students then received three follow-up visits over six months.

For other parents, the prospect of self-hypnosis to secure the best exam grades will seem a step too far so they may prefer to follow the more traditional route of hiring a private tutor. Some parents say they are keen for their youngsters to attend such courses because class sizes in state schools are too large. Across Scotland, the number of children being sent to private tutors throughout the school year has rocketed since Labour came to power.

Studies suggesting revision courses can make a real difference to pupils' grades seem to indicate they are well worth the money. Researchers at Strathclyde University's Quality in Education Centre have monitored the progress of more than 8,000 pupils throughout the UK. The academics surveyed results from 50 schools over three years and found the students who took revision courses did better than predicted. They found that one of the most effective ways of improving exam results was attendance at Easter revision courses.

Many companies offer Easter revision sessions likely to be their busiest time of the year which provide ' top- up' courses for children during the holiday. At Glasgow-based Topline Tutorials, established in 1993, children can attend four-day courses, with each class lasting two-and-a-half hours per day for each subject. All the main subjects are taught by experienced teachers who give extra guidance, revision tips and moral support.

Each class contains no more than 11 pupils, which means tutors can devote more time to individual needs than in a state school, where class sizes can be as high as 25 or 30 children. A Topline spokesman said: 'The education system is such that teachers have a massive workload to get through. 'The Higher year is a very demanding one and what we do is give the pupils help to focus on their studies.

'It is now more competitive to get into university. That means there is more pressure on youngsters to get five As at Higher, for example.' The courses cover practice in exam techniques, study and revision skills, one-on-one tutoring and revision materials. All the teachers have a proven track record and the company says that 90 per cent of the pupils who attend rate the courses as excellent.
But some parents may prefer to save money by opting for books on exam techniques and revision tips, such as Hodder Gibson's How to Pass series, launched in 2005.

John Mitchell, managing director of Hodder Gibson, said: 'March and April always sees another surge as the students realise they're not as ready for their exams as they thought they were. 'Our books are cheaper than a tutor though teachers and tutors often recommend them as well.'

Publication link:

Title: “Look into my eyes... You won't feel a thing”
Date: 30/08/2005

Hypnotherapy is increasingly recognised as a safe and effective way of blocking out pain during operations and helping women in childbirth. Lucie Hoe reports

Fearing pain in operations is understandable. So, would you believe it possible to undergo surgery without a general anaesthetic, and not feel a thing? A report in the New Scientist last week revealed how a patient at the Lister Hospital in London was hypnotised by a specially trained anaesthetist minutes before having breast surgery, and experienced no pain as the surgeon made incisions.

So powerful was her hypnotic trance that 46-year-old Pippa Plaisted claims: "The plastic surgeon was cutting and sewing inside me, but I couldn't feel any sensation at all."

After the procedure, which was carried out seven years ago, Plaisted said she suffered "no nausea or wooziness" and had "a clear head". Her case is unusual, but not unique. Hypnotherapy is gaining credence within the medical profession as a safe and helpful practice in a wide range of situations, from weight loss to pain relief and quitting smoking.

In Belgium, where much of the research has been done, doctors routinely use hypnotherapy combined with small amounts of analgaesics as an alternative to a general anaesthetic. About 5,000 procedures have been carried out on hypnotised patients at Liege Hospital, where researchers have found benefits included less bleeding and making operations easier to perform. When an incision is made into the body, blood vessels naturally constrict to prevent copious bleeding, a reaction that is inhibited by anaesthetic drugs.

In Britain, surgery under hypnosis is rare, but Tom Connelly, secretary of the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis, says that a growing number of women are turning to the practice to help cope with the pain of labour.

There is evidence that "hypnobirthing" works. At the University of Florida, Professor Paul Schaubel and his colleagues showed how women who learnt self-hypnosis before giving birth needed less medication, had fewer complications and were more likely to deliver healthier babies. They also suffered less stress and anxiety in the weeks before birth.

Typically, hypnotherapists use visual imagery to help someone enter a hypnotic state.

Clients are often asked to close their eyes and think of somewhere they feel safe and secure, such as a beach on holiday. Gradually slowing down his voice, the hypnotist asks them to report what they see, smell and hear as they slip into a hypnotic state, usually within several minutes.

Although there are four stages of hypnotic trance (hypnoid, light, medium and deep), only a light state is required for most health procedures, although a deep trance (which takes longer to induce) may be needed to block out extreme pain.

In January, researchers at Stanford University Medical School showed how hypnosis helped children cope with painful health examinations.

In a study of 45 children facing voiding cystourethography (VCUG), which checks to see if urine is backing into the kidneys, Professor David Speigel, a psychiatrist at Stanford, saw "less crying and less distress" in children who were hypnotised. "Technicians said the procedure was easier to perform on those with hypnosis," Spiegel says. "And the duration of the operation was cut from 50 minutes to 35 minutes."

Until recently, neuroscientists were puzzled about how hypnotherapy works. Now they are beginning to understand why. Last year, researchers at the University of Iowa used magnetic resonance imaging scans to find out if hypnosis alters brain activity in a way that might explain pain reduction.

Their results, reported in the journal Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, showed patients
under hypnosis experienced significantly less pain when exposed to strong heat and had a distinctly different pattern of brain activity when not hypnotised. Researchers concluded that hypnosis somehow blocks signals from reaching parts of the brain that perceive pain.

British Society of Clinical Hypnosis:

Original Link:

Title: “Does it work? Hypnotherapy for IBS”
Date: 21/06/2005

Barbara Lantin investigates an unconventional treatment for reducing gut sensitivity

Between five and eight million people in the UK suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and many can find no treatment that brings relief. Although the condition is often regarded as minor, the symptoms - including diarrhoea, pain and bloating - can seriously affect quality of life. This month, the journal Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin suggested that hypnotherapy may be worth a try for people with severe symptoms that do not respond to conventional treatment.

Does this mean IBS is all in the mind?

"We do not think IBS is a psychological disorder, nor do we think this is a psychological treatment," says Peter Whorwell, professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Manchester University, who runs one of the few NHS clinics offering gut-directed hypnotherapy. "IBS is made worse by stress but it is not caused by stress. We don't know exactly how gut-directed hypnotherapy works, but it may change the way the brain modulates gut activity." Laboratory tests have shown that under hypnosis, gut sensitivity is reduced.

So, does it work?

Prof Whorwell has treated patients using hypnotherapy for 20 years with a success rate of about 70 per cent. "It helps all the symptoms, whereas some of the drugs available reduce only a few of the symptoms. However, men don't do quite as well as women." Several randomised controlled trials have shown good results. In one, group hypnotherapy proved as effective as individual sessions.

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Title: “Hypnotherapy fixed my irritable bowel after six years of suffering”
Date: 25/10/ 2005
Source: Daily Mail

When Christine Walsh was told that a hypnotherapist could cure her irritable bowel syndrome, she was sceptical. But after being racked with violent cramping stomach pains for six years, she was ready to try anything.

The 52-year-old office administrator was referred to the clinic of Professor Peter Whorwell, a gastro-enterologist who sees some of the most difficult cases of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the country.
IBS is the most common gut condition and affects up to one in five people at some time, often between the ages of 25 and 45. Women are more often affected than men.

People with IBS suffer abdominal cramps, bloating, abdominal distension, diarrhoea and constipation.
For many patients there is a range of drugs that bring relief, but not a cure.
However, for a significant minority nothing seems to work. But by using hypnotherapy, Prof Whorwell and his team have cured hundreds of patients.

Despite his success, and numerous trials to show his method works, the use of hypnotherapy for treating irritable bowel syndrome has not yet been widely accepted in the NHS.

Dr John Bennett, chairman of CORE, the Digestive Diseases Foundation, says: 'Hypnotherapy does seem to work for some patients. There is no doubt that Professor Whorwell's team of therapists have successfully helped patients where drug treatments have failed.' Around eight to ten million people in the UK are, to varying degrees, affected by IBS. But about half fail to respond to drugs, and a million of them - including Christine - are defined as 'difficult' to treat.

These are the patients Prof Whorwell believes are most likely to benefit from hypnotherapy.
For some, the treatment - which consists of one-hour sessions for up to 12 weeks - can bring about an almost permanent cure.

Patients were asked to assess their symptoms, quality of life and levels of anxiety and depression before and after treatment - and for up to six years after completing the course.

The majority found hypnotherapy reduced the severity of their IBS symptoms, and continued to do so for years. Even those who said the effect began to wear off with time found the treatment was still working fairly well after five years.

Hypnotherapy also seemed to bring a significant reduction in levels of anxiety and depression.
During treatment sessions, patients are worked into a deeply relaxed state but are not asleep as in traditional hypnosis. They are encouraged to focus on their gut and view it as a river.

The aim is to make the river flow smoothly. If there is a blockage or a flood, they are asked to visualise a way the problem can be solved. Sessions with a therapist, interspersed with home practice using a CD, are aimed at 'retraining' a patient's gut.

The therapy has proved highly effective, with a recent study showing it had helped 71 per cent of patients for up to five years afterwards.
The centre at Manchester's Withington Hospital is the only one of its kind in the UK and treats around 160 patients each year.

'We are helping people control what's going on in their bodies, and telling them they can manage their symptoms,' says Vivien Miller, one of the team of hypnotherapists.

Trials of Prof Whorwell's method have consistently shown impressive results, and he travels the world teaching the technique to other doctors.

He became interested in the potential of hypnotherapy for IBS more than 20 years ago, and says: 'IBS is a nuisance to control. There are no effective treatments, so I thought we should try hypnotherapy.' There are a few theories as to why it works. One is that by making people less anxious, the gut becomes less sensitive and so symptoms are reduced.

Another is that it has an effect on a part of the brain which processes pain. Fortunately, a substantial number of patients respond to drugs or are able to manage their IBS because it is infrequent. But for Christine, hypnotherapy has been a godsend.

Married and living in Greater Manchester, she had been suffering badly from IBS following a hysterectomy six years ago.

Surgery on the abdomen can be a trigger - doctors think internal scarring from surgery might be the cause - and Christine's symptoms started a few weeks after her operation.

'I would have violent cramping in my tummy at least once, sometimes twice a week,' she says. 'It got to the stage where I had to take the day off work when I had an attack and rest until the symptoms subsided.
'It was like a bad migraine and affected my social life and ruined holidays.' Christine was diagnosed with IBS by her GP. She says: 'She tried me on various drugs. They brought some relief, but the pain was still severe and for six years I endured it because there didn't seem to be any other option. I was referred to a consultant and eventually was sent to see Prof Whorwell.

'He prescribed hypnotherapy - and I was sceptical. But within a few weeks of starting my one-to-one sessions at the hospital, my symptoms became less severe and my attacks less frequent. And after six months they were gone completely.

'You have to work at the hypnotherapy outside hospital sessions and use the techniques you are taught.
'My way of seeing off an attack was to start practising what I'd learned. I would put my hand on my tummy and visualise it as a peaceful river, to calm it down. It really works.'

Although the exact cause of IBS is unknown, the condition is thought to be caused by a combination of factors including abnormal movements of the intestines and altered sensation of the gut. Some people develop IBS following gut infections and food poisoning. It isn't possible to prevent IBS from developing. However, certain things can trigger attacks for sufferers and should be avoided. These include stress, eating irregular meals and, in some cases, a lack of dietary fibre. IBS doesn't develop into bowel cancer.
Sufferers commonly experience abdominal cramps that may be eased by passing wind or passing a motion; bloating and abdominal distension; diarrhoea, constipation, or alternating diarrhoea and constipation; or a feeling of incomplete emptying of the rectum. Peppermint oil and antispasmodic medication relieve abdominal pain. If constipation is a problem then increasing fluid, fibre and activity, as well as taking a gentle laxative, may be recommended.
IBS Network is the national patient charity -
0114 272 3253 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0114 272 3253 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

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Hypnosis for IVF evidence

If Israeli professor Eliahu Levitas has his way, women undergoing IVF will all have the benefit of hypnosis as his research shows how it can significantly increase IVF success rates.

According to Levitas’s team from Soroka Hospital in Beersheva, hypnosis can double the IVF success rate.  Levitas’s study of 185 women found that 28% of women in the group who were hypnotised became pregnant, compared with 14% of those who were not.

“We gave hypnosis to a group of our patients during the most stressful part of IVF treatment - the transferring of embryos into the uterus. It’s a crucial point of the treatment, and the point in which the embryo comes in contact with the womb of the woman. It all builds up to that special moment, which is not very painful but is very stressful” said Prof. Levitas.

According to Levitas, that stress can cause complications during the transfer that can put the procedure at risk.

“Studies have been done before which claim that during this short period, there’s so much stress in the woman’s body that it may induce contractions, albeit tiny ones, which may interrupt or even expel the embryos from the uterus at the same moment we’re introducing them”.

“Other techniques have been employed like relaxants and tranquilisers, but nothing has worked well.  On the other hand, hypnosis has been known for many years for producing central relaxation, and has even been used before surgical interventions to calm patients,” said Levitas.

The results showed that the hypnotised women resulted in double the IVF success rate (amount of pregnancies) compared to those who were not hypnotised.

“Performing embryo transfer under hypnosis may significantly contribute to an increased clinical pregnancy rate” Prof Eliahu Levitas.

Reference: Levitas, E et al, “Impact of hypnosis during embryo transfer on the outcome of in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer: a case-control study.” Fertility and Sterility   - Vol 85, Issue 5, (2006), 1404-1408

Relaxation link with pregnancy

There is no doubt that undergoing infertility treatment involves a rollercoaster of emotions and can be very stressful, with many women reporting high rates of anxiety and depression.  Therapies designed to help women reduce stress earlier in the treatment process result in higher pregnancy rates.

A new study published on 1st June 2011 in Fertility and Sterility, a publication of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, shows that women who participate in a mind/body program such as self hypnosis or meditation for stress reduction while undergoing IVF treatment have a significantly higher pregnancy rate than those who do not (52% versus 20%).

The new study was lead by principal investigator Alice Domar, Ph.D, OB/GYN,  Beth Israel: Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF.

Domar’s team studied 100 women about to begin their IVF treatment at Boston IVF.  All of the women were under 40 years of age, had normal hormone levels and none of them had participated in such a mind/body group to reduce stress before.  Two groups were selected at random.  One group participated in a stress reducing mind/body program and the other, a control group, did not receive any stress reduction program.  All the women underwent their IVF treatment and the study tracked their progress and outcome through two IVF cycles.

After the first IVF cycle there were no differences in the pregnancy rates between the two groups.  However, only half of the group participating in the mind/body stress reduction program had begun the sessions and those that had started were only a couple of sessions in.

By the second IVF cycle the majority of women in the mind/body study group had completed at least five sessions. “By that point, they had acquired some real life skills to deal with their stress......and that’s when we saw the significant increase in pregnancy rates.” said Domar.

52% of the women who completed the stress reduction program for infertility were successful with their second IVF cycle compared to 20% of the control group.  This is a statistically significant difference.

“The study supports the theory that psychological distress may be an important detriment to IVF outcome. We worked with a small group, about 100 women total, so we’ll need to continue with a larger group of patients to see if the results bear out.“ said Domar, “but there is a strong indication that stress levels and IVF outcomes are linked and that intervening with mind/body therapies can help.”

References:Alice D Domar, Kristin L. Rooney, Benjamin Wiegand, E. John Orav, Michael M Alper, Brian M Berger, Janeta Nikolovski.  Impact of a group mind/body intervention on pregnancy rates in IVF patients.  Fertility and Sterility 2011. DOI.

Link to Caffeine and Female Fertility

Caffeine reduces muscle activity in the Fallopian tubes that carry eggs from a woman’s ovaries to her womb. “Our experiments were conducted in mice, but this finding goes a long way towards explaining why drinking caffeinated drinks can reduce a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant.” says Sean Ward, professor of physiology and cell biology, at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, who conducted the study.

Ward’s study was recently published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

Human eggs are microscopically small, but need to travel to a woman’s womb if she is going to have a successful pregnancy. Although the process is essential for a successful pregnancy, scientists know little about how eggs move through the muscular Fallopian tubes.  It was generally assumed that tiny hair-like projections, called cilia, in the lining of the tubes, waft eggs along assisted by muscle contractions in the tube walls.

By studying tubes from mice, Ward and his team discovered that caffeine stops the actions of specialised pacemaker cells in the wall of the tubes. These cells coordinate tube contractions so that when they are inhibited, eggs cannot move down the tubes. In fact these muscle contractions play a bigger role than the beating cilia in moving the egg towards the womb.

“This provides an intriguing explanation as to why women with high caffeine consumption often take longer to conceive than women who do not consume caffeine.” said Ward.

Discovering the link between caffeine consumption and reduced fertility has benefits.

“As well as potentially helping women who are finding it difficult to get pregnant, a better understanding of the way Fallopian tubes work will help doctors treat pelvic inflammation and sexually transmitted disease more successfully,” said Ward.

It could also increase our understanding of what causes ectopic pregnancy, an extremely painful and potentially life-threatening situation in which embryos get stuck and start developing inside a woman’s Fallopian tube.

Source: British Journal of Pharmacology. Volume 163, Issue 4, pages 745-754. June 2011.

Other research on how your mind affects your fertility:

1. A study in Fertility & Sterility (1998, vol 69) suggests that because mind/body programs are effective for reducing negative emotions that may impair IVF success, IVF patients should be offered this type of program.

2. Use of stress reducing therapies early in the process increase IVF success rates (in this study from 20% to 52%) Fertility and Sterility 2011.

Fear of birth leads to increase in length of labour

Research published on 27th June 2012 in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology showed that women who were frightened of giving birth had longer labours and were more likely to need intervention.  It is estimated that one in 5 women have severe fear of birth, sometimes also known as tokophobia.  With NHS resources more strapped than ever, women are receiving even less antenatal education and in particular very little support for their emotional wellbeing.

As a result women are turning to providers outside of the NHS to help them prepare both physically as well as emotionally for birth.  A detailed survey of more than 1250 women including 853 first time mothers, who learned self hypnosis as part of their birth preparation, indicated that these techniques lead to a significant reduction of any fear of labour as well as a reduction in intervention.

A staggering 89% said using the techniques had enabled them to overcome any fears connected with giving birth; 72% reported feeling calm during the birth with 61% feeling able to manage the pain in labour.  Only 15% required a caesarean compared with the national rate of almost 25%. Overall, 95% of women felt they had benefited from learning self hypnosis as a way to help them have a more positive birth experience.

The recommendation of using hypnosis is one way that Obstetricians and midwives can provide this support.  There are pockets within the NHS where these techniques are being both recommended such as the Newcastle upon Tyne.  These techniques are a low cost, safe and practical antidote to the fear based, drug-dependent labour management culture that has developed in the UK over the last fifty years.

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