Hypnosis is derived from the ancient Greek work “hypnos” for sleep.  Hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion, is a trance-like state as a result of heightened focus and concentration. The journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews has defined hypnosis as a kind of top-down regulation of conscious awareness, a process in which “mental representations […] override physiology, perception, and behavior.” Hypnosis is usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images. Under hypnosis, the person feels calm and relaxed, and is more open to suggestions.

Hypnosis is the oldest Western form of psychotherapy and it’s a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies. To study hypnosis itself, researchers first had to find people who could or couldn’t be hypnotized. Only about 10 percent of the population is generally categorized as “highly hypnotizable,” while others are less able to enter the trancelike state of hypnosis. About 25 percent of the population is thought to not be hypnotizable at all. These individuals tend to be highly skeptical of the benefits of hypnosis and unlikely to willingly participate in it. It was important to have the people who aren’t able to be hypnotized as controls for the study.


Hypnosis may be an effective tool for the following conditions:

  • Pain control. Hypnosis may help with pain due to burns, cancer, childbirth, fibromyalgia, temporomandibular joint problems, dental procedures and headaches (migraine & tension headache). A treatment that combines brain stimulation with hypnosis could improve the known analgesic effects of hypnosis and potentially replace addictive and side-effect-laden painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs. However, more research is needed before such combined therapy could be implemented.
  • Hot flashes. Hypnosis may relieve symptoms of hot flashes associated with menopause.
  • Behavior change. Hypnosis has been used with some success in the treatment of insomnia, nightmares, sleep terrors, sleepwalking, bed-wetting, smoking, and overeating. Hypnosis may be used as part of a comprehensive program for quitting smoking or losing weight.
  • Side effects of cancer treatment. Hypnosis has been used to ease side effects related to chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Hypnosis was found useful in patients with anxiety associated with tissue biopsy. 
  • Mental health conditions. Hypnosis may help treat symptoms of anxiety, depression, phobias and post-traumatic stress. Hypnosis is also studied in the treatment of psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia.  
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Short term effectiveness of hypnotherapy is shown in the treatment of IBS.  

Hypnosis has been used instead of anesthetics to decrease pain and anxiety before and after surgery. It boosts healing from many conditions including epilepsy, neuralgia, rheumatism, and skin conditions. The physiological and neurological changers that occur under hypnosis are similar to the self-healing placebo effect i.e. a case of mind over matter.     


There is no specific preparation needed for patients planned to go for hypnotherapy. It is suggested that patient should wear comfortable clothing to help him relax. Also, make sure that he is well-rested so that he is not inclined to fall asleep during the session. Hypnotherapy should be given by a certified therapist or health care professional. The most effective hypnotherapists are not those who exude some supernatural power of magnetism but those who are skilled at communicating with their patients in the language of metaphor and suggestion.

Before undergoing hypnosis, some of the basic inquiries related to therapist should be made as: 

  • Do you have training in a field such as psychology, medicine, social work or dentistry?
  • Are you licensed in your specialty in this state?
  • How much training have you had in hypnotherapy and from what schools?
  • What professional organizations do you belong to?
  • How long have you been in practice?

The cost of therapy should also be inquired to avoid any future hassles. 


The therapist will explain the process of hypnosis and review the treatment goals. Then the therapist will typically talk in a gentle, soothing tone and describe images that create a sense of relaxation and well-being. When you’re in a receptive state, the therapist will suggest ways for you to achieve your goals, such as reducing pain or eliminating cravings to smoke. The therapist may also help you visualize vivid, meaningful mental images of yourself accomplishing your goals. You may feel heaviness on eyelids, limpness of arms, and feel like floating through space. The power of hypnosis is to alter your mind and body.

When the session is over, either you are able to bring yourself out of hypnosis or your therapist helps you to end your state of relaxation. You may eventually be able to practice self-hypnosis, in which you induce a state of hypnosis in yourself.

Contrary to how hypnosis is sometimes portrayed in movies or on television, you don’t lose control over your behavior while under hypnosis. Also, you generally remain aware of and remember what happens during hypnosis.


Neuroimaging techniques have shown that highly suggestible people exhibit higher activity in the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and parietal networks of the brain during different phases of hypnosis. These are areas of the brain involved in a range of complex functions, including memory, perception, emotional processing and task learning. However, the specific brain mechanisms involved in hypnosis are still unclear

Three hallmarks of the brain under hypnosis were seen. Each change was seen only in the highly hypnotizable group and only while they were undergoing hypnosis.

First, there is a decrease in activity in an area called the dorsal anterior cingulate, part of the brain’s salience network. In hypnosis, person is so absorbed that he does not worry about anything else. Secondly, there is an increase in connections between two other areas of the brain — the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula. This as a brain-body connection that helps the brain process and control what’s going on in the body. Finally, a reduced connection between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the default mode network, which includes the medial prefrontal and the posterior cingulate cortex is observed. This decrease in functional connectivity likely represents a disconnect between someone’s actions and their awareness of their actions. When someone is really engaged in something, he does not really think about doing it — he just does it. During hypnosis, this kind of disassociation between action and reflection allows the person to engage in activities either suggested by a clinician or self-suggested without devoting mental resources to being self-conscious about the activity.   


Hypnosis conducted by a trained therapist or health care professional is considered a safe procedure. However, hypnosis may not be appropriate in people with severe mental illness.

Adverse reactions to hypnosis are rare, but may include:

  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety or distress
  • Creation of false memories

Be cautious when hypnosis is proposed as a method to work through stressful events from earlier in life. This practice may cause strong emotions and can risk the creation of false memories. Hypnotic regression or “Therapeutic regression,” which is a method that claims to uncover a person’s repressed memories – often of early abuse and trauma – has sometimes been used in hypnoanalysis, which is a form of psychoanalysis integrating hypnosis techniques. There are claims that hypnosis can help to achieve past life regression, unearthing memories from previous lives. However, the research suggests that hypnotic suggestions can induce false memories and convince the individuals of the truthfulness of these fictitious recollections. Such findings reject claims of past regression and on the memories thus regained. The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association recently found no evidence that hypnosis increases the accurate recollection of the past. In fact, it said, suggestions integral to the hypnotic process may even lead some people to fantasize freely and confuse suggested scenarios with authentic memory.


While hypnosis can be effective in helping people cope with pain, stress and anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy is considered the first line treatment for these conditions. Hypnosis isn’t right and effective for everyone, though. For example, you may not be able to enter a state of hypnosis fully enough to make it effective. Some therapists believe that the more likely you are to be hypnotized, the more likely it is that you’ll benefit from hypnosis.

For some people, hypnosis is associated with loss of control or stage tricks. But it to be a serious science, revealing the brain’s ability to heal medical and psychiatric conditions. Despite the fact that the practice of hypnosis has been around for more than 200 years, many of its mechanisms remain mysterious.

Various links between hypnosis and meditation techniques are also drawn as they both play a role in mind-body regulation. However, researchers claim that hypnosis and meditation are entirely separate processes, as they rely on distinct mechanisms. Hypnosis, is essentially a process through which subjects “trick” their own perception, whereas meditation is a means of enhancing (rather than deceiving) awareness.

The influence of hypnosis resides more in a power transaction between hypnotist and subject than it does in some hypothetical paranormal state of consciousness.