Hypnosis Research & Evidence

Hypnosis Research & Evidence
© Donald Robertson 2004

This page is constantly being updated. It contains a sample of important research studies on the efficacy of hypnosis.
Thanks to Fiona Biddle from whose literature review in The Hypnotherapy Journal, many of these references are taken.

[Self-Hypnosis] [Asthma] [Pain] [Anxiety] [IBS] [Insomnia] [Phobia] [Sexual Issues]

Self-Hypnosis

Self-hypnosis has been used to treat a wide variety of clinical problems. Succesful outcomes involving self-hypnosis with adults or children have been reported for the treatment of anxiety (including test anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, simple phobia and panic disorder), chronic pain (including psychogenic dysphonia, post-traumatic contractures of the hand, abdominal pain and tension headaches) and habit disorders (including smoking, over-eating, alcoholism and drug addiction) as well as in the management of mourning, hypertension, cancer, tinnitus, enuresis, insomnia and depression. The findings from empirical studies and case reports indicate merit in the clinical use of self-hypnosis, and point to some features of self-hypnosis that appear important in positive treatment outcomes. (Lucy O’Neill & Kevin McConkey, ‘Treating anxiety with self-hypnosis and relaxation’, Contemporary Hypnosis, 1999, vol. 16(2):68)

In a research study involving over 100 patients suffering from stress-related conditions it was found that 75% felt their symptoms were improving after 12 weeks of self-hypnosis practice, within one year 72% of the group reported complete remission of their symptoms as a result of the self-hypnosis. (Maher-Loughnan, G.P. 1980, “Hypnosis: Clinical application of hypnosis in medicine’, British Journal of Hospital Medicine, 23: 447-55)

Over a six year period, 173 successive patients suffering from asthma were treated using self-hypnosis, 82% were either much improved or experienced total remission of symptoms. (Maher-Loughnan, G.P. 1970, ‘Hypnosis and autohypnosis for the treatment of asthma’, International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis. 18: 1 -14)

A study of 20 individuals compared the use of self-hypnosis and relaxation therapy in managing anxiety over 28 days. Both groups were shown to have achieved significant reduction in psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety. However, the self-hypnosis group exhibited greater confidence in the positive effects of the treatment, higher expectation of success, and greater degrees of cognitive and physical improvement. (Lucy O’Neill, Amanda Barnier, & Kevin McConkey, ‘Treating Anxiety with self-hypnosis and relaxation’, Contemporary Hypnosis, 1999, vol. 16 (2): 68)

‘Various case studies have reported the succesful use of self-hypnosis in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, public speaking, simple phobia and panic disorder. Overall, previous speculations and empirical findings suggest that increases in a sense of self-reliance, self-control and self-efficacy may be central to the alleviation of anxiety through self-hypnosis.’ (Lucy O’Neill, Amanda Barnier, & Kevin McConkey, ‘Treating Anxiety with self-hypnosis and relaxation’, Contemporary Hypnosis, 1999, vol. 16 (2): 68)

Insomnia

A recent ‘Clinical Review’ of hypnosis and relaxation therapies published in the BMJ looked at the existing research on hypnosis and concluded that hypnosis was proven to be effective for treating insomnia. (Vickers & Zollman, ‘Hypnosis and relaxation therapies,’ BMJ 1999;319: 1346-1349)

Asthma

Over a six year period, 173 successive patients suffering from asthma were treated using self-hypnosis, 82% were either much improved or experienced total remission of symptoms. (Maher-Loughnan, G.P. 1970, ‘Hypnosis and autohypnosis for the treatment of asthma’, International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis. 18: 1 -14)

A recent ‘Clinical Review’ of hypnosis and relaxation therapies published in the BMJ looked at the existing research on hypnosis and concluded: ‘Randomised trials have shown hypnosis to be of value in treating asthma [...]‘ (Vickers & Zollman, ‘Hypnosis and relaxation therapies,’ BMJ 1999;319: 1346-1349)

Pain

Following an extensive review of the existing literature on hypnotherapy, a special committee commissioned by the British Medical Association formally concludede that: ‘In addition to the treatment of psychiatric disabilities, there is a place for hypnotism in the production of anaesthesia or analgesia for surgical and dental operations, and in suitable subjects it is an effective method of relieving pain in childbirth without altering the normal course of labour.’ (BMA, ‘Medical use of hypnotism’, BMJ, 1955, vol. I, 190-193)

A recent ‘Clinical Review’ of hypnosis and relaxation therapies published in the BMJ looked at the existing research on hypnosis and concluded: ‘Randomised controlled trials support the use of various relaxation techniques for treating both acute and chronic pain,’ (Vickers & Zollman, ‘Hypnosis and relaxation therapies,’ BMJ 1999;319: 1346-1349)

Anxiety/Phobia

Following an extensive review of the existing literature on hypnotherapy, the British Medical Association concluded that hypnotherapy was not only effective but may be ‘the treatment of choice’ in dealing with anxiety (‘psychoneurosis’) and stress-related (‘psycho-somatic’) disorders: ‘The Subcommittee is satisfied after consideration of the available evidence that hypnotism is of value and may be the treatment of choice in some cases of so-called psycho-somatic disorder and psychoneurosis. It may also be of value for revealing unrecognised motives and conflicts in such conditions. As a treatment, in the opinion of the Subcommittee it has proved its ability to remove symptoms and to alter morbid habits of thought and behaviour. […]‘ (BMA, ‘Medical use of hypnotism’, BMJ, 1955, vol. I, 190-193)

A recent ‘Clinical Review’ of hypnosis and relaxation therapies published in the BMJ looked at the existing research on hypnosis and concluded: ‘There is good evidence from randomised controlled trials that both hypnosis and relaxation techniques can reduce anxiety [...]‘, the same report also concluded that hypnosis was proven to be effective in treating panic attacks and phobia. (Vickers & Zollman, ‘Hypnosis and relaxation therapies,’ BMJ 1999;319: 1346-1349)

A study of 20 individuals compared the use of self-hypnosis and relaxation therapy in managing anxiety over 28 days. Both groups were shown to have achieved significant reduction in psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety. However, the self-hypnosis group exhibited greater confidence in the positive effects of the treatment, higher expectation of success, and greater degrees of cognitive and physical improvement. (Lucy O’Neill, Amanda Barnier, & Kevin McConkey, ‘Treating Anxiety with self-hypnosis and relaxation’, Contemporary Hypnosis, 1999, vol. 16 (2): 68)

Sexual Issues

In a study of 189 people with psychological issues relating to sex, it was proven that self-hypnosis combined with cognitive therapy was more effective than cognitive therapy alone. When self-hypnosis was taught, the number of sessions required was less, relaspse was less likely, and clients expressed more satisfaction with the overall outcome. (Carrese & Araoz, ‘Self-Hypnosis in sexual functioning.’ Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy & Hypnosis, 1998: Sep., vol 19(2):41-48)

IBS

A recent ‘Clinical Review’ of hypnosis and relaxation therapies published in the BMJ looked at the existing research on hypnosis and concluded: ‘Randomised trials have shown hypnosis to be of value in treating [...] irritable bowel syndrome.’ (Vickers & Zollman, ‘Hypnosis and relaxation therapies,’ BMJ 1999;319: 1346-1349)

An experimental study of 12 patients with IBS showed that treatment resulted in significant improvement in symptoms and reduction in related anxiety. (Galovski, T.E., and E.B. Blanchard, ‘The treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with hypnotherapy.’ Applied Psychophysiology & Feedback, 1998: Dec., vo. 23(4):219-232)