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Hypnotized into health: Benefits of hypnotherapy & self-hypnosis

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You are getting sleepy … very sleepy … and feeling much better! A new study showed that hypnosis can help alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Forty percent of participants in the study found that their symptoms were relieved after 12 weeks of hypnotic treatment once a week.

Despite popular belief, hypnosis doesn’t involve creepy magicians like in the movies. Instead, it’s a way some therapists relax patients by having them hyperfocus on a pleasant memory, feeling or sensation, leaving the patient more open to suggestions, Mayo Clinic says.

And this isn’t the first time studies have suggested that hypnosis might have medical benefits. In addition to reportedly helping with psychological struggles like addiction, hypnosis has been found to prevent the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy; ease chronic pain; reduce pain during childbirth; and help clear up certain skin problems. Though it probably shouldn’t be anyone’s sole weight loss effort, dieters in some studies say they lost a few pounds thanks to hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis is another option for folks interested in giving this nontraditional method a try. The method is similar to meditation and involves sitting in a quiet place, visualizing soothing images, then making suggestions to yourself like “I feel no pain” or “I am empowered.” Try this guide for detailed instructions. Like guided hypnosis, self-hypnosis also has been found to help reduce chronic pain, according to one study from 2010.

There are a few risks associated with hypnosis, the creepiest being the chance that it could create “false memories.” After a person is hypnotized, she can sometimes mistake images or ideas suggested during hypnosis as actual memories. One study found that patients who were warned about the chance of false memories were less likely to report them; but even with a warning, many participants still claimed to have remembered an event suggested to them during hypnosis. For this reason, hypnotism may not be the best treatment for people with certain mental disorders.

Strange potential side effects aside, hypnosis is a generally safe way to tackle problems that traditional care hasn’t helped, like smoking addictions, compulsive eating or chronic stress. Interested in giving it a try? Contact the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis at ASCH.net to find a hypnosis practitioner in your area.

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