The following list includes selected summaries from scientific/clinical studies that support the use of hypnosis as a process that is beneficial for various health issues. Click on any one or more of the below items to view related studies on that focus.
Studies where the use of guided imagery, meditation, or autogenic training, have been included in this collection, as these are all hypnotic techniques.
These studies have been provided for reference only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for medical advice. Some applications mentioned in this collection require a physician referral, so please be sure to consult your doctor for recommendations specific to your medical care.
Special thanks to hypnotist Karl W. Mollison, CH, BCH for collecting this list of research summaries.
“Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD: a feasibility study.”
Zylowska, L., D. L. Ackerman, et al. (2008). J Atten Disord 11(6): 737-46.
OBJECTIVE: ADHD is a childhood-onset psychiatric condition that often continues into adulthood. Stimulant medications are the mainstay of treatment; however, additional approaches are frequently desired. In recent years, mindfulness meditation has been proposed to improve attention, reduce stress, and improve mood. This study tests the feasibility of an 8-week mindfulness training program for adults and adolescents with ADHD. METHOD: Twenty-four adults and eight adolescents with ADHD enrolled in a feasibility study of an 8-week mindfulness training program. RESULTS: The majority of participants completed the training and reported high satisfaction with the training. Pre-post improvements in self-reported ADHD symptoms and test performance on tasks measuring attention and cognitive inhibition were noted. Improvements in anxiety and depressive symptoms were also observed. CONCLUSION: Mindfulness training is a feasible intervention in a subset of ADHD adults and adolescents and may improve behavioral and neurocognitive impairments. A controlled clinical study is warranted.
“Alternative and controversial treatments for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.”
Baumgaertel, A. (1999). Pediatric Clinics of North America 46(5): 977-92.
ADHD is a syndrome that can be treated effectively, safely, and economically with stimulant medications. There is no equal alternative to these agents in short-term treatment of ADHD symptoms. However, many families seek alternatives to stimulants and other drug treatments for a variety of reasons. Alternative approaches reflect the complexity and heterogeneity of the disorder by being equally manifold, complex, and often obscure in their modus operandi. Scientific evidence suggests that individualized dietary management may be effective in some children. Trace element supplementation also may be beneficial when specific deficiencies are present. At this point, nootropics, herbs, and homeopathy are being seriously researched regarding their role in neurologic functioning, but evidence to support their role in the specific treatment of ADHD is inconsistent or lacking. Self-regulatory techniques such as hypnotherapy and biofeedback do not alter the core symptoms of ADHD but may be helpful in controlling secondary symptoms. These methods are unique in ADHD treatment because children can become active agents of their own coping strategies. There is no scientific evidence to support the validity of vision therapy, oculovestibular treatment, or sound training (Tomatis method) as treatment modalities for ADHD. However, auditory stimulation with individualized music may help to improve situational performance in cognitive tasks. Regardless of the treatment approach, the diagnosis of ADHD and other comorbidities first must be established through a standard medical evaluation. The standard treatment options always should be presented and discussed carefully. If alternative approaches are sought, the merits of available options should be reiterated. If the primary care provider is not comfortable or knowledgeable about an acceptable method, referral to capable and responsible practitioners in the community who are experienced in these areas should be considered. The primary care provider, the alternative “specialist,” and the family all should be willing to engage in “collaborative research,” applying the same standards for treatment evaluation that one would apply in mainstream methods. Communication among all parties involved in a treatment strategy is the key to demystifying alternative approaches, creating strong therapeutic relationships, and optimizing management.
“Effect of self-hypnosis on hay fever symptoms – a randomised controlled intervention study.”
Langewitz, W., J. Izakovic, et al. (2005). Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 74(3): 165-72.
BACKGROUND: Many people suffer from hay fever symptoms. Hypnosis has proved to be a useful adjunct in the treatment of conditions where allergic phenomena have an important role. METHODS: Randomised parallel group study over an observation period of two consecutive pollen seasons. Outcome data include nasal flow under hypnosis, pollinosis symptoms from diaries and retrospective assessments, restrictions in well-being and use of anti-allergic medication. We investigated 79 patients with a mean age of 34 years (range 19-54 years; 41 males), with moderate to severe allergic rhinitis to grass or birch pollen of at least 2 years duration and mild allergic asthma. The intervention consisted of teaching self-hypnosis during a mean of 2.4 sessions (SD 1.7; range 2-5 sessions) and continuation of standard anti-allergic pharmacological treatment. RESULTS: Of 79 randomised patients, 66 completed one, and 52 completed two seasons. Retrospective VAS scores yielded significant improvements in year 1 in patients who had learned self-hypnosis: pollinosis symptoms -29.2 (VAS score, range 0-100; SD 25.4; p < 0.001), restriction of well-being -26.2 (VAS score, range 0-100; SD 28.7; p < 0.001. In year 2, the control group improved significantly having learned self-hypnosis as well: pollinosis symptoms -24.8 (SD 29.1; p < 0.001), restriction of well-being -23.7 (SD 30.0; p < 0.001). Daily self-reports of subjects who learnt self-hypnosis do not show a significant improvement. The hazard ratio of reaching a critical flow of 70% in nasal provocation tests was 0.333 (95% CI 0.157-0.741) after having learnt and applied self-hypnosis.
“Reduction in skin reactions to histamine after a hypnotic procedure.”
Laidlaw, T. M., R. J. Booth, et al. (1996). Psychosomatic Medicine 58(3): 242-8.
Abstract: This study sought to test whether a cognitive-hypnotic intervention could be used to decrease skin reactivity to histamine and whether hypnotizability, physiological variables, attitudes, and mood would influence the size of the skin weals. Thirty eight subjects undertook three individual laboratory sessions; a pretest session to determine sensitivity to histamine, a control session, and an intervention session during which the subject experienced a cognitive-hypnotic procedure involving imagination and visualization. Compared with the control session, most subjects (32 of 38) decreased the size of their weals measured during the intervention session, and the differences between the weal sizes produced in the two sessions were highly significant (N = 38; t = 4.90; p < .0001). Mood and physiological variables but not hypnotizability scores proved to be effective in explaining the skin test variance and in predicting weal size change. Feelings of irritability and tension and higher blood pressure readings were associated with less change in weal size (i.e., a continuation of reactivity similar to that found in the control session without the cognitive-hypnotic intervention), and peacefulness and a lower blood pressure were associated with less skin reactivity during the intervention. This study has shown highly significant results in reducing skin sensitivity to histamine using a cognitive-hypnotic technique, which indicates some promise for extending this work into the clinical area.
“The effects of guided imagery on comfort, depression, anxiety, and stress of psychiatric inpatients with depressive disorders.”
Apostolo, J. L. and K. Kolcaba (2009). Archives of Psychiatric Nursing 23(6): 403-11.
This article describes the efficacy of a guided imagery intervention for decreasing depression, anxiety, and stress and increasing comfort in psychiatric inpatients with depressive disorders. A quasi-experimental design sampled 60 short-term hospitalized depressive patients selected consecutively. The experimental group listened to a guided imagery compact disk once a day for 10 days. The Psychiatric Inpatients Comfort Scale and the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales (DASS-21) were self-administered at two time points: prior to the intervention (T1) and 10 days later (T2). Comfort and DASS-21 were also assessed in the usual care group at T1 and T2. Repeated measures revealed that the treatment group had significantly improved comfort and decreased depression, anxiety, and stress over time.
”Mind-body interventions in oncology.”
Carlson, L. E. and B. D. Bultz (2008). Curr Treat Options Oncol 9(2-3): 127-34.
OPINION STATEMENT: A number of mind-body interventions have been studied for use with cancer patients, primarily measuring outcomes relating to pain control, anxiety reduction, and enhancing quality of life. This chapter defines the scope and characteristics of mind-body interventions, followed by a selective review of research indicating their appropriate use or cautions in cancer care. Mind-body interventions included are hypnosis, imagery/relaxation, meditation, yoga, and creative therapies. Current evidence supports the efficacy of hypnosis and imagery/relaxation for control of pain and anxiety during cancer treatments. Meditation is supported for reductions in stress and improvements in mood, quality of life, and sleep problems. There is a growing body of support for yoga from randomized controlled trials for improving quality of life, sleep, and mood. Creative therapies such as visual arts, dance, and music may help cancer patients express their feelings and cope with the demands of a cancer experience. Research on biological marker effects of mind-body therapies remains inconclusive. Study of mind-body interventions generally requires additional, methodologically rigorous investigation of how various interventions best assist patients during various phases of cancer survivorship, although a major benefit of these therapies lies in the opportunity for patients to self-select them.
“Hypnosis in the treatment of anxiety.”
Smith, W. H. (1990). Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 54(2): 209-16.
Hypnotherapy and training in self-hypnosis can help persons achieve remarkable success in alleviating anxiety, not only in anxiety disorders, but also in any problem involving anxiety. The author describes the role of hypnosis in the treatment of several disorders and provides clinical examples illustrating treatment of generalized anxiety, phobias, and posttraumatic stress disorders. He concludes that because hypnosis exploits the intimate connection between mind and body, it provides relief through improved self-regulation and also beneficially affects cognition and the experience of self-mastery.
“Rational self-directed hypnotherapy: a treatment for panic attacks.”
Der, D. F. and P. Lewington (1990). American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 32(3): 160-7.
A single-subject research design was employed to assess the efficacy of rational self-directed hypnotherapy in the treatment of panic attacks. Presenting symptoms were acute fear, dizziness, constricted throat, upset stomach, loss of appetite, loss of weight, insomnia, fear of doctors, and fear of returning to work. Treatment lasted 13 weeks plus a 2-week baseline and posttherapy period and a 6-month follow-up. Objective measurements (MMPI, TSCS, POMS) and self-report assessments (physiological symptoms and a subjective stress inventory) were implemented. Using hypnosis and guided imagery, the subject reviewed critical incidents identifying self-defeating components within a cognitive paradigm, revising and rehearsing these incidents. Results showed an increased sense of control, improved self-concept, elimination of pathological symptoms, and cessation of panic attacks.
“Managing desperate emotional behaviour with hypnosis.”
Swartz, C. (1981). Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie 26(8): 555-7.
When no other psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy could prevent debilitation or institutionalization consequent to longstanding frequent repeated maladaptive behaviour, hypnosis has been observed to be effective in suitable patients. A documentation, three cases of such chronic severe behaviour which have been encountered by the author are described; each had been regarded as hopelessly unmanageable by the primary physician at the time of referral for hypnotherapy. Relevant to their suitability for hypnosis, all three patients were able to understand normal speech with difficulty, were able to concentrate well, and were agreeable to using hypnosis.
“Efficacy of guided imagery with relaxation for osteoarthritis symptoms and medication intake.”
Baird, C. L., M. M. Murawski, et al (2010). Pain Manag Nurs 11(1): 56-65.
Supporting safe self-management interventions for symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA) may reduce the personal and societal burden of this increasing health concern. Self-management interventions might be even more beneficial if symptom control were accompanied by decreased medication use, reducing cost and potential side effects. Guided imagery with relaxation (GIR) created especially for OA may be a useful self-management intervention, reducing both symptoms and medication use. A longitudinal randomized assignment experimental design was used to study the efficacy of GIR in reducing pain, improving mobility, and reducing medication use. Thirty older adults were randomly assigned to participate in the 4-month trial by using either GIR or a sham intervention, planned relaxation. Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed that, compared with those who used the sham intervention, participants who used GIR had a significant reduction in pain from baseline to month 4 and significant improvement in mobility from baseline to month 2. Poisson technique indicated that, compared with those who used the sham intervention, participants who used GIR had a significant reduction in over-the-counter (OTC) medication use from baseline to month 4, prescribed analgesic use from baseline to month 4, and total medication (OTC, prescribed analgesic, and prescribed arthritis medication) use from baseline to month 2 and month 4. Results of this study support the efficacy of GIR in reducing symptoms, as well as in reducing medication use. Guided imagery with relaxation may be useful in the regimen of pain management for clinicians.
“Effect of guided imagery with relaxation on health-related quality of life in older women with osteoarthritis.”
Baird, C. L. and L. P. Sands (2006). Research in Nursing and Health 29(5): 442-51.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of disability in older adults, which, in turn, leads to poor quality of life (QOL). Disability is caused primarily by the joint degeneration and pain associated with OA. A randomized pilot study was conducted to test the effectiveness of guided imagery with relaxation (GIR) to improve health-related QOL (HRQOL) in women with OA. A two-group (intervention versus control) longitudinal design was used to determine whether GIR leads to better HRQOL in these individuals and whether improvement in HRQOL could be attributed to intervention-associated improvements in pain and mobility. Twenty-eight women were randomized to either the GIR intervention or the control intervention group. Using GIR for 12 weeks significantly increased women’s HRQOL in comparison to the women who used the control intervention, even after statistically adjusting for changes in pain and mobility. These findings suggest that the effects of GIR on HRQOL are not limited to improvements in pain and mobility. GIR may be an easy-to-use self-management intervention to improve the QOL of older adults with OA.
“A pilot study of the effectiveness of guided imagery with progressive muscle relaxation to reduce chronic pain and mobility difficulties of osteoarthritis.”
Baird, C. L. and L. Sands (2004). Pain Manag Nurs 5(3): 97-104.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common, chronic condition that affects most older adults. Adults with OA must deal with pain that leads to limited mobility and may lead to disability and difficulty maintaining independence. A longitudinal, randomized clinical trial pilot study was conducted to determine whether Guided Imagery (GI) with Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) would reduce pain and mobility difficulties of women with OA. Twenty-eight older women with OA were randomly assigned to either the treatment or the control group. The treatment consisted of listening twice a day to a 10-to-15-minute audiotaped script that guided the women in GI with PMR. Repeated-measures ANOVA revealed a significant difference between the two groups in the amount of change in pain and mobility difficulties they experienced over 12 weeks. The treatment group reported a significant reduction in pain and mobility difficulties at week 12 compared to the control group. Members of the control group reported no differences in pain and non-significant increases in mobility difficulties. The results of this pilot study justify further investigation of the effectiveness of GI with PMR as a self-management intervention to reduce pain and mobility difficulties associated with OA.
“Differential effectiveness of psychological interventions for reducing osteoarthritis pain: a comparison of Erikson [correction of Erickson] hypnosis and Jacobson relaxation.”
Gay, M. C., P. Philippot, et al. (2002). Eur J Pain 6(1): 1-16.
The present study investigates the effectiveness of Erikson hypnosis and Jacobson relaxation for the reduction of osteoarthritis pain. Participants reporting pain from hip or knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to one of the following conditions: (a) hypnosis (i.e. standardized eight-session hypnosis treatment); (b) relaxation (i.e. standardized eight sessions of Jacobson’s relaxation treatment); (c) control (i.e. waiting list). Overall, results show that the two experimental groups had a lower level of subjective pain than the control group and that the level of subjective pain decreased with time. An interaction effect between group treatment and time measurement was also observed in which beneficial effects of treatment appeared more rapidly for the hypnosis group. Results also show that hypnosis and relaxation are effective in reducing the amount of analgesic medication taken by participants. Finally, the present results suggest that individual differences in imagery moderate the effect of the psychological treatment at the 6 month follow-up but not at previous times of measurement (i.e. after 4 weeks of treatment, after 8 weeks of treatment and at the 3 month follow-up). The results are interpreted in terms of psychological processes underlying hypnosis, and their implications for the psychological treatment of pain are discussed.
“Biochemical correlates of hypnoanalgesia in arthritic pain patients.”
Domangue, B. B., C. G. Margolis, et al. (1985). Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 46(6): 235-8.
Self-reported levels of pain, anxiety, and depression, and plasma levels of beta-endorphin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin were measured in 19 arthritic pain patients before and after hypnosis designed to produce pain reduction. Correlations were found between levels of pain, anxiety, and depression. Anxiety and depression were negatively related to plasma norepinephrine levels. Dopamine levels were positively correlated with both depression and epinephrine levels and negatively correlated with levels of serotonin. Serotonin levels were positively correlated with levels of beta-endorphin and negatively correlated to epinephrine. Following hypnotherapy, there were clinically and statistically significant decreases in pain, anxiety, and depression and increases in beta-endorphin-like immunoreactive material.
“Functional relaxation and guided imagery as complementary therapy in asthma: a randomized controlled clinical trial.”
Lahmann, C., M. Nickel, et al. (2009). Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 78(4): 233-9.
BACKGROUND: Asthma is a frequently disabling and almost invariably distressing disease that has a high overall prevalence. Although relaxation techniques and hypnotherapeutic interventions have proven their effectiveness in numerous trials, relaxation therapies are still not recommended in treatment guidelines due to a lack of methodological quality in many of the trials. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the efficacy of the brief relaxation technique of functional relaxation (FR) and guided imagery (GI) in adult asthmatics in a randomized controlled trial. METHODS: 64 patients with extrinsic bronchial asthma were treated over a 4-week period and assessed at baseline, after treatment and after 4 months, for follow-up. 16 patients completed FR, 14 GI, 15 both FR and GI (FR/GI) and 13 received a placebo relaxation technique as the control intervention (CI). The forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV(1)) as well as the specific airway resistance (sR(aw)) were employed as primary outcome measures. RESULTS: Participation in FR, GI and FR/GI led to increases in FEV(1) (% predicted) of 7.6 +/- 13.2, 3.3 +/- 9.8, and 8.3 +/- 21.0, respectively, as compared to -1.8 +/- 11.1 in the CI group at the end of the therapy. After follow-up, the increases in FEV(1) were 6.9 +/- 10.3 in the FR group, 4.4 +/- 7.3 in the GI and 4.5 +/- 8.1 in the FR/GI, compared to -2.8 +/- 9.2 in the CI. Improvements in sR(aw) (% predicted) were in keeping with the changes in FEV(1) in all groups. CONCLUSIONS: Our study confirms a positive effect of FR on respiratory parameters and suggests a clinically relevant long-term benefit from FR as a nonpharmacological and complementary therapy treatment option.
“Evidence-based hypnotherapy for asthma: a critical review.”
Brown, D. (2007). International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 55(2): 220-49.
Asthma is a chronic disease with intermittent acute exacerbations, characterized by obstructed airways, hyper-responsiveness, and sometimes by chronic airway inflammation. Critically reviewing evidence primarily from controlled outcome studies on hypnosis for asthma shows that hypnosis is possibly efficacious for treatment of symptom severity and illness-related behaviors and is efficacious for managing emotional states that exacerbate airway obstruction. Hypnosis is also possibly efficacious for decreasing airway obstruction and stabilizing airway hyper-responsiveness in some individuals, but there is insufficient evidence that hypnosis affects asthma’s inflammatory process. Promising research needs to be replicated with larger samples and better designs with careful attention paid to the types of hypnotic suggestions given. The critical issue is not so much whether it is used but how it is used. Future outcome research must address the relative contribution of expectancies, hypnotizability, hypnotic induction, and specific suggestions.
“Psychological aspects of asthma.”
Lehrer, P., J. Feldman, et al. (2002). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 70(3): 691-711.
Asthma can be affected by stress, anxiety, sadness, and suggestion, as well as by environmental irritants or allergens, exercise, and infection. It also is associated with an elevated prevalence of anxiety and depressive disorders. Asthma and these psychological states and traits may mutually potentiate each other through direct psychophysiological mediation, nonadherence to medical regimen, exposure to asthma triggers, and inaccuracy of asthma symptom perception. Defensiveness is associated with inaccurate perception of airway resistance and stress-related bronchoconstriction. Asthma education programs that teach about the nature of the disease, medications, and trigger avoidance tend to reduce asthma morbidity. Other promising psychological interventions as adjuncts to medical treatment include training in symptom perception, stress management, hypnosis, yoga, and several biofeedback procedures.
“Hypnosis and asthma: a critical review.”
Hackman, R. M., J. S. Stern, et al. (2000). Journal of Asthma 37(1): 1-15.
Asthma is among the most common chronic diseases of the western world and has significant effects on patients’ health and quality of life. Asthma is typically treated with pharmaceutical products, but there is interest in finding nonpharmaceutical therapies for this condition. Hypnosis has been used clinically to treat a variety of disorders that are refractive to pharmaceutical-based therapies, including asthma, but relatively little attention has been given recently to the use of clinical hypnosis as a standard treatment for asthma. Significant data suggest that hypnosis may be an effective treatment for asthma, but it is premature to conclude that hypnosis is unequivocally effective. Studies conducted to date have consistently demonstrated an effect of hypnosis with asthma. More and larger randomized, controlled studies are needed. Existing data suggest that hypnosis efficacy is enhanced in subjects who are susceptible to the treatment modality, with experienced investigators, when administered over several sessions, and when reinforced by patient autohypnosis. Children in particular appear to respond well to hypnosis as a tool for improving asthma symptoms.
“Hypnosis for exercise-induced asthma.”
Ben-Zvi, Z., W. A. Spohn, et al. (1982). American Review of Respiratory Disease 125(4): 392-5.
Hypnosis has been used for many years in the treatment of asthma, but studies of its usefulness have been controversial. We assessed the efficacy of hypnosis in attenuating exercise-induced asthma (EIA) in 10 stable asthmatics. The subjects ran on a treadmill while mouth breathing for 6 min on 5 different days. Pulmonary mechanics were measured before and after each challenge. Two control exercise challenges resulted in a reproducible decrease in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). On 2 other days, saline or cromolyn by nebulization was given in a double-blind manner with the suggestion that these agents would prevent EIA. Hypnosis prior to exercise resulted in a 15.9% decrease in FEV1 compared with a 31.8% decrease on the control days (p less than 0.001). Pretreatment with cromolyn resulted in a 7.6% decrease in FEV1. We conclude that hypnosis can alter the magnitude of a pathophysiologic process, namely, the bronchospasm after exercise in patients with asthma.