Hypnotherapy as a form of medical treatment has become more popular nowadays. Nonetheless, hypnosis as a form of treating pain and suffering has been a viable practice for centuries. According to Alladin (Alladin et al, 2008), “modern hypnosis” dates back to the 18th century, when Franz Anton Mesmer, an Austrian doctor, claimed that he could restore the patients’ magnetic fluid, thus curing them. Consequently, during the 1800s, John Elliotson a British medic became interested in medical hypnosis. However, he fell into the opposite extreme, getting involved with mesmerism, which has resulted in him being discredited by his colleagues.

Later on, James Esdaile used hypnosis in order to induce anaesthesia in surgical patients. The practice is still used nowadays for various patients (such as cancer patients, or those allergic to pain medication) in order to induce pain relief. Still, in the case of surgical patients, anaesthesia is accomplished using chemical substances. According to the same source (Alladin et al, 2008), hypnosis was accepted as a valid medical treatment in 1958 by the American Medical Association. Since that time, it has been used in the USA with the purpose of relieving pain. Even if numerous studies have proven the effectiveness of hypnosis in the pain treatment, there are still some people who would not accept such treatment when going into the hospital. Some people think that hypnosis is a fraud, and they prefer actual medicine to be used to relieve their pain.In fact, scholars (Nadis, 2001) proved that stage hypnosis is sometimes directed in such a way to trick people.

In the USA, hypnosis has become more popular nowadays for treatment of psychological disorders, such as depression or addiction. People often go to a licensed psychologist, who is practicing hypnosis, to block certain painful or traumatising memories. Many psychologists promise to help their patient quit smoking using hypnosis. Additionally, studies have proven that the practice is also effective in other areas of medical care. 

Alladin “Hypnotherapy Explained” 

Alladin (Alladin et al, 2008) wrote a book entitled “Hypnotherapy Explained”, where he presented the historical evolution of hypnotherapy and its effectiveness in modern medicine. The third chapter of the book reviews the application of hypnosis in five specific medical conditions and five psychiatric disorders. The research is aimed at proving the effectiveness and efficiency of the practice.

He cited a series of research studies that proved the efficiency of the medical practice in pain relief, respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, dermatological disorders, other acute medical disorders and even cancer.  All studies cited by him (proved efficiently that hypnosis can significantly reduce all kinds of pain (e.g., radiation pain in the case of cancer patients, pains from severe burns and so on), besides, it reduces anxiety and diminishes medication side effects, especially psychological ones (paranoia, depression, severe anxiety).

You should cite sources for these claims you are making in the previous paragraph.

Alladin (Alladin et al,2008) also discussed, in the third chapter, about the proven efficacy of hypnosis for treatment of psychological disorders, such as anxiety disorders (characterised by physiological reactivity, avoidance behaviour and maladaptive cognition), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders (amnesia, identity disorders), conversion disorders and insomnia. His study is well-written and the secondary research was extremely thorough. Alladin (2008) cited many researches, conducted in the past regarding the efficacy of hypnosis. However, his study is more like a revision of the available literature on the topic, as no primary research was conducted.

The advantage of this study is that it is extremely well researched and all examples are relevant; however, it would have been better to make an attempt at gathering actual data from a primary study, conducted by the author himself. This is more a general study, merely presenting the domains in which hypnosis was proven to be effective. 

Neurophysiological correlations of hypnotic analgesia by Vanhaudenhuyse 

It is clear that many studies focused on pain management, since it has been a primary use of hypnosis for thousands of years., Vanhaudenhuyse (Vanhaudenhuyse et al., 2009) conducted a study on the neurophysiological correlations of hypnotic analgesia. With this study, they attempted to discover and analyse the neurological responses to hypnosis and the physiological reactions in pain management.

The study starts by presenting the recent literature and discoveries on the topic of hypnotherapy as a pain relief treatment. They speak about the scepticism around the theory and provide reliable medical evidence to support the fact that, in reality, hypnosis is an extremely effective viable medical procedure.

As in the previous study, carried out by Jensen (Jensen, 2008), Vanhaudenhuyse (Vanhaudenhuyse et al, 2009) focus on the hypnotherapy as a means to cure or relieve chronic and acute pain.

After citing a number of secondary sources in order to introduce the reader to the subject of the article, Vanhaudenhuyse et al. (2009) moved to presenting their study and the results obtained.

Using fMRI technologies, they made a comparison between the brain activation to various painful stimuli of patients who were under hypnosis and of those who were not. The results were edificatory, as once more they proved empirically that hypnosis is a viable treatment in pain management. Acute differences in neural activity appeared on the MRI of the subjects.

The study showed that hypnosis reduces the perception of pain by decreasing the level of cortical activation. In other words, Vanhaudenhuyse (Vanhaudenhuyse et al, 2009) managed to show, by using MRI technologies, that the hypnotised brain is less sensitive to pain that the one of a patient who is not hypnotised. The study is relevant through its results and methods, clearly showing the effects of hypnosis on the human brain. This study is one of the most well researched and relevant in showing the efficacy of hypnosis as an analgesic.

There are many researches regarding the efficacy of hypnosis in medicine and they focus on a variety of domains. Nonetheless, most studies focus on proving the efficiency and effectiveness of hypnosis in the treatment of chronic and acute pain. There are no so many studies on the effects of hypnosis in psychology. Researchers wanted to explore more than just its role in pain management, and they wanted to see how hypnotherapy could help cancer patients, for example.

The study about effects on hypnosis in cancer patient by Liossi and White 

One study, conducted by Liossi & White (Liossi & White, 2001), concluded that “it seems likely that the terminal cancer patient is in a unique position to benefit significantly from clinical hypnosis because the focus of care is on symptom manage and enhancement of quality of life”.

The study focused on analysing the effects on hypnosis in cancer patients. The main research question was whether or not hypnotherapy could improve the quality of life in terminally ill patients.

The psychological distress, experienced by such patients, is not only related to pain. There are also many cases of depression and other psychological disorders.

The research was very efficient, as they conducted the study on fifty terminally ill patients. Half of them were given regular care, as regulated by the World Health Organisation, with the proper pain medication and psychotherapeutic counselling, and the other half received weekly sessions of hypnosis with a certified specialist for four weeks. The results were all in favour of hypnosis, but the researchers discovered several issues, such as the dependency on the therapist and the difficulty to go to the hospital.

This study is very relevant and well-conducted, as it took place in a hospital, on a sample of 50 patients. The methods were proper for this kind of study and the results are useful for proving the efficacy of hypnosis as a means of medical care giving. Another study regarding the efficacy of hypnotherapy in cancer patients was conducted by Peynovska et al., in 2005 in the UK (Peynovska et al., 2005). This research focused on proving that hypnosis is an effective supplementary treatment in cancer intervention.

The trial was conducted on a number of 25 consenting patients. After the initial starting point, one of the patients decided he did not want to participate in the trial anymore and two patients were excluded from the trial, as the doctors discovered they did not have cancer.

As opposed to Liossi & White (Liossi & White, 2001), Peynovska et al. (Peynovska et al., 2005) tried to prove that hypnotherapy was effective in cancer patients from the earliest stages of the disease, helping them improve their quality of life and overcome the psychological effects of being aware about the disease (anxiety, depression and so on).

They discovered that physical symptoms, such as the side effects from chemotherapy (vomiting, nausea, hair loss, reduced energy), and pain were sometimes worsen by psychological factors, such as depression, the fear of treatment failure, and the fear of death. Such a fear accentuated the physiological symptoms, causing the disease to be more unbearable and worsening the psychological effects. The researchers wanted to prove that this vicious circle may be broken with the help of hypnotherapy, thus relieving both the physiological and the psychological symptoms.

The study was efficient, as it managed to prove that 19 out of 20 patients (Peynovska et al., 2005) have experienced a drop in the anxiety level (which was supported with clinical evidence) and they all reported feeling better, more optimistic about the disease, with a desire to live their lives in the best way they can, no matter how long they had.

Nevertheless, there were patients that did not experience much change. Those were the patients that were extremely sceptical from the beginning and who refused to practice self-hypnosis. Many patients declared they wanted to continue the hypnosis sessions.

Jensen: hypnotic analgesia in clinical practice

A very well written and thoroughly research study is the one done by Jensen (Jensen, 2008). The author conducted a study regarding hypnotic analgesia and its implications in clinical practice. In this study, Jensen quoted numerous studies that proved the efficacy of hypnosis as a treatment for pain relief. He speaks highly about hypnotic analgesia and attempts to prove the viability of the practice (a form of medicine).

He describes the historical discoveries regarding the mechanisms of pain perception, starting from Descartes’ single pain centre in the brain, the gate control theory of pain, and ending with an accurate description of what is known nowadays of pain centres and how they are projected on the somatosensory cortex.

He then argues that given the extensive research, done on the topic, and the clear results, regarding the efficacy of hypnosis as a treatment for pain relief with little to no side effects, clinicians are well entitled to consider hypnotherapy for acute and chronic pains.

He believes that through hypnosis, the doctor can access the patient’s brain and make changes to the cortical connectivity, thus relieving the patient’s pain.

Additionally, since the brain area, that controls pain, is so vast, the pain clinician can teach the patients some techniques (also known as autohypnosis) in order to have a better management of their pain.

This article is more complex, because it comes with clinical evidence that supports the theories, raised by Jensen (Jensen, 2008).

The study’s significance is considerably high, as it uses the author’s own research (from his interactions with patients) and a rich secondary research. Clearly, the author has studied the topic in depth and, based on the current literature and clinical trials, he has reached the conclusion that hypnotherapy is an effective medical practice..

However, his study only focuses on the role of hypnosis in pain relief treatment and pain management, failing to explore the other uses of the practice. Perhaps, this will benefit the study, as it is very specific, bringing forward all the information on the role of hypnosis as an analgesic.

Flammer & Bongartz: meta-analytical study

Flammer & Bongartz (Flammer & Bongartz, 2003) conducted a study, regarding the overall efficacy of hypnosis, and summing up the results from 57 random clinical trials in a meta-analytic study.

In this study, they selected only those clinical trials in which the efficacy of hypnosis was verified in relation with patients who suffered from such disorders as acute or chronic pain, depression anxiety – conditions within the ICD-10 classification – or  patients undergoing some procedures that required anaesthesia (for example, the removal of a tooth at the dentist, or minor surgery).

The physiological mechanisms underlying hypnotherapy were assessed, and some of the studies analysed the responses in the brain cortex of patients who were hypnotized and of those who were not. The results cannot be extrapolated to the entire study, because the sample was too small comparing to the population.

The factor that may have led to the error in this study is the use of estimates. The authors used estimative statistical data (means, medians, and means of correlation) in order to determine whether their hypothesis (that hypnosis is an efficient medical practice in many branches of medicine) was true or false.

Furthermore, the computation method for the results of each study (57 in total) and the comparison of the results was laborious and complicated. This may have led to errors, and it definitely diminishes the readers` understanding. This study may have been too extensive in proving that hypnotherapy is an effective method in numerous domains of medicine.

Brian Alman: 5 case studies

Another point of view on hypnotherapy in medicine was formulated by Brian Alman (Alman, 2001), who, in a complex study, verified the efficacy of hypnosis in the treatment of several conditions, through 5 case studies.

The study aimed at illustrating and explaining the useful application of hypnotherapy in medical practice, through a series of case studies in which patients were helped to improve their health through hypnosis. The first case study refers to a 57 year old male, who suffered from a mild thrombosis, and the brain lesions lead to intractable hiccups. After a 1.5 hour hypnosis session, the hiccups ceased. Although the patient did not believe in the effectiveness of the therapy and did not think he has been hypnotised, he stated that he was experiencing complex visual hallucinations, brief periods of acoustic and olfactory hyperacuity, and brief sialorrhea (hypersalivation). The patient also realised that he no longer needed the inhaler that he has been using twice daily for 10 years. The follow up revealed that the patient was asthma free and pulmonary functions were normal (Alman, 2001).

The second case study refers to an obese and depressed woman who lived in an abusive home. After each episode of violence with her husband, she forgave him, but she became hording garbage in her house. After three hypnotherapy sessions in which no specific suggestion was made for her to dispose of the garbage, she went home and cleaned her house. Nevertheless, she saw no connection between hypnotherapy and her sudden urge to clean (Alman, 2001). The third case study refers to a woman who was a war orphan and an inmate of the Nazi. For decades she visited many doctors regarding her inability to swallow, but no obstruction was found in her oesophagus. After three hypnosis sessions in which no suggestion regarding chocking was given, she stated that “she felt liberated” (Alman, 2001).In the fourth case study, reference is made to a successful business woman who had an abusive childhood, was suffering from depression and considering suicide. After a few sessions, she was relieved from her depression (Alman, 2001). The fifth case study analyses the effects of hypnotherapy on a woman who suffered from depression, but medication was not effective in her case(Alman, 2001). After just one session, her depression became less severe and her dysarthric speech improved. Nevertheless, her physicians believed that the change was too abrupt to be attributable to a remission of her demyelinating disease (a disease affecting the nervous system, in which the myelin sheath covering the neurons is destroyed or damaged).

This relationship between the mind, the body and hypnotherapy has been further explored by Hartman & Zimberoff (Hartman & Zimberoff, 2011). This article also introduces the term “integrative medicine”, defined as a type of medicine that “combines mainstream medical therapies and complementary and alternative medicine therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness”.

Hypnotherapy is considered a type of alternative medicine that can aid traditional medicine at times, but cannot replace medical care in some serious conditions, such as cancer, or some disorders that require surgery (heart failure, etc.).

Hartman & Zimberoff

All through the study, Hartman & Zimberoff (Hartman & Zimberoff, 2011) used real clinical examples in order to show that there is a connection between the mind and the body, and working on the mind can seriously improve the health of the body. There are quite a number of examples of patients that received a certain treatment for their diseases that would have made them feel better, however there was no change in their condition because they suffered from depression. Because the mind was ill and the patient did not have the will to get better, the physiological condition could not have been improved.

A medic must attempt to conduct the healing process at all levels – mind and body – in order for the patient to get better health. One particular example in this study connects a patient’s stomach aches to a repressed, traumatizing memory from her childhood.

This study  effectively shows that the mind often works better in healing the body than medication. There is such a theory as the placebo effect, and psychotherapy can induce such a state. Numerous studies have been made on the topic of the placebo effect and results have shown that the body can begin healing if the mind believes that the cure was found.

This study manages to show  that there is a close connection between the patient’s mind and body, thus demonstrating that hypnosis (controlling the brain) will have an outcome on the physiology of the patient, speeding up the healing process, or curing the disease.

There are many advantages of the use of hypnotherapy as a clinical procedure. The most researched branch is the use of hypnosis in pain relief treatment, but there are many other unexplored possibilities.

There are many trials that show the effectiveness of hypnosis in relieving chronic and acute pain, or in improving the quality of life of cancer patients. However, there is a little research done in relation  to the use of hypnosis in other types of diseases, such as stress related gastritis, pulmonary disorders, or even dermatology.

Furthermore, hypnosis is a viable treatment in psychotherapy as well, helping with depression, PTSD, anxiety or behavioural disorders. It is even effective in curing addictions and insomnia. People nowadays want to go through hypnosis treatment in order to quit smoking. These people have already tried other methods that did not give any results, or do not what to appeal to medication in order to cure this addiction.

Studies have shown the efficacy of the procedure; however, as in a case of any other theory, there is still a lot of scepticism. Sometimes, data is too diverse, that’s why it is declared irrelevant. It actually depends a lot on a patient. The human brain is greatly influenced by the power of suggestion. If the patient believes hypnotherapy is better than medication, then so it will be. Otherwise, hypnotherapy may be ineffective.

Conclusion

There is still much to discover on the topic of hypnotherapy. Hypnosis may work in some cases, reducing pain, repressing traumatising memories, or ridding the patient of a bad habit, and it can fail in other cases. A lot of research still needs to be done in order to be able to formulate a definite response to the efficacy of hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy is a real, viable and effective for of medicine, focusing on healing the mind in order to help the body heal. Doctors nowadays should acknowledge the importance the mind has in conducting all processes in the body, and heal the patient using all means available. This discipline should be taught in medical schools, as it is an important part of modern medicine.

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