Written and reviewed by Ralph Miller, certified clinical hypnotherapist | Edited by Sahar Miller | Last Update November 6, 2020
When the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs suggests hypnosis for anxiety, you know there’s probably something to it beyond the charlatans in movies swinging pocket watches back and forth and suggesting you’re getting very sleepy.
But in all seriousness, hypnotherapy really does have some powerful benefits when it comes to treating anxiety. And if you suffer from anxiety, then you may be wondering if hypnotherapy will work for you.
That’s why we’re going to explore what hypnotherapy is and if it works for anxiety. We’ll share some of the success rates, benefits, and side effects to consider.
What is Hypnotherapy
The VA defines hypnotherapy as a process of triggering a trance state and encouraging ‘helpful cognitive, emotional, or physical healing responses.’ Additionally, they share that ‘a trance is a natural biological state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention.’
The VA’s Health Services Research & Development team has concluded that there is evidence that hypnosis has a positive effect for the following conditions:
- Anxiety disorders
- Anxiety related to medical procedures
- Procedural pain and anxiety
- Anxiety and insomnia or other sleep disorders
- Anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Anxiety in cancer patients
- Anxiety and pain
- Anxiety and headaches or migraines
- Anxiety and depression
Does it Work?
This meta-analysis on the effectiveness of hypnosis in treating anxiety looked at 15 studies and 17 trials and found that hypnosis was effective at reducing anxiety.
Of interest too was the finding that ‘hypnosis was more effective in reducing anxiety when combined with other psychological interventions than when used as a stand-alone treatment.’ That means that you may want to utilize hypnosis as an add on therapy, rather than just by itself in order to improve anxiety.
Another study on the beneficial effects of hypnosis found that “procedural hypnosis including empathic attention reduces pain, anxiety, and medication use.”
Results of the meta-analysis referenced above concluded that ‘hypnosis reduced anxiety more than about 79% of control participants,’ and that “the average participant treated with hypnosis improved more than about 84% of control participants.”
Benefits of using hypnosis for anxiety may include:
- Reduced pain
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced medication use
- Better sleep
- Improved mood
Safety and side effects
Hypnosis is generally considered safe and free from side effects. One thing to note is that the use of hypnosis to work through traumatic events from your past could lead to the creation of false memories and may trigger emotional reactions.
Other side effects are more rare and may include:
How Many Sessions?
The number of sessions required to treat anxiety with hypnosis should be determined by your local clinical hypnosis provider and will be based on your needs, your responsiveness to treatment, the length of time you’ve experienced anxiety issues and the hypnosis provider’s scope of practice.
Clinical hypnotherapy costs vary by geographic location and the skill level of your practitioner.
Typical sessions may run anywhere from $50 to $150 per session.
It is advisable to learn self-hypnosis in order to increase the effectiveness of professional treatments by practicing self-hypnosis between sessions. This may also reduce the overall cost of using hypnotherapy to treat anxiety.
Frequently asked questions
Does hypnotherapy work for anxiety?
Yes, research has demonstrated that hypnotherapy helps relieve the symptoms of anxiety for many people.
What if I have severe anxiety? Will hypnotherapy work?
Hypnotherapy can work for severe anxiety and the VA recommends it as a treatment for veteran’s experiencing such anxiety, such as that related to PTSD. Each person is different and success depends on how debilitating the symptoms are. One of the possible side effects of hypnotherapy is the triggering of strong emotional reactions associated with past traumatic events. This is why research suggests the use of other psychological interventions in conjunction with hypnotherapy are more effective than using hypnotherapy as a stand-alone treatment.
Does hypnotherapy work for anxiety and panic attacks?
Yes, both anxiety and panic attacks can be helped by hypnotherapy. It may also be more effective if you learn self-hypnosis to help handle panic attacks when they occur and consider utilizing other psychological interventions (such as therapy) as opposed to utilizing hypnotherapy as a stand alone treatment.
Does hypnotherapy work for anxiety and depression?
Yes, both anxiety and depression can be eased with hypnotherapy.
What are the success rates when using hypnotherapy for anxiety?
In research studies, 79% of those using hypnotherapy saw reductions in stress levels. 84% saw long-term results in association with their anxiety.
How many hypnotherapy sessions will I need?
The number of sessions you need with be determined by you and your hypnotherapist. If you are able to relax and put yourself into a relaxed state easily, hypnotherapy sessions will be more effective. If you struggle with issues of control, or are not able to relax with your hypnotherapist.
How much will hypnotherapy for anxiety cost?
Costs will vary depending on how many treatments and for how long. The use of self-hypnosis will reduce the cost associated with paying a professional hypnotherapist in the long-term.
How long does it take for hypnotherapy to work for anxiety?
It may take multiple sessions. The exact number is to be determined by your hypnotherapist and how receptive you are the hypnosis.
Are there side effects to using hypnosis for anxiety?
Side effects are rare. However, they may include anxiety, which will be counterproductive to the use of hypnotherapy to treat anxiety.
Other CAM treatments to help with anxiety
These other healing modalities in conjunction with hypnosis may also be effective for anxiety.
- Tai Chi
- Qi Gong (Chi Kung)
- Breath Work
For example, the use of self-hypnosis or meditation may greatly increase the effectiveness of your hypnotherapy treatments, while doing a physical practice such as Yoga, Tai Chi, or Chi Kung may also help alleviate stress and promote relaxation while simultaneously reducing your level of anxiety.
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Legrand, F., Grévin-Laroche, C., Josse, E., Polidori, G., Quinart, H., & Taïar, R. (2017). Effects of hypnosis during pregnancy: A psychophysiological study on maternal stress. Medical hypotheses, 102, 123–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2017.03.026
Valentine, K. E., Milling, L. S., Clark, L. J., & Moriarty, C. L. (2019). THE EFFICACY OF HYPNOSIS AS A TREATMENT FOR ANXIETY: A META-ANALYSIS. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 67(3), 336–363. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207144.2019.1613863