25

According to this article found on the University of Maryland Medical Center website:

...problems or conditions that may respond to hypnotherapy include: Irritable bowel syndrome, Tension headaches, Alopecia areata, Asthma, Phobias, Insomnia, Addictions, Bedwetting, Fibromyalgia, Phobias, Labor and delivery, Skin disorders [such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema (atopic dermatitis)], Stress, Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), Cancer-related pain, Weight loss, Eating disorders, Warts, and Indigestion (dyspepsia).

Many hypnotherapists seem to advertise hypnotherapy as a panacea for a wide range of psychological disorders. Is there more to it than the placebo effect and short-term relaxation? Is hypnotherapy more effective for some disorders and less effective for others? Do the palliative effects last for months and years after the cessation of treatment?

  • Nice question: can you add some references to the claims you would like analysed? It helps avoiding straw man arguments in the answers. – Sklivvz Mar 7 '11 at 15:50
  • @Sklivvz, is my recent edit what you had in mind? – Ami Mar 7 '11 at 16:08
9

There are two Cochrane Reviews on hypnotherapy.

The review about hypnotherapy for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome states

The quality of the included trials was inadequate to allow any conclusion about the efficacy of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. More research with high quality trials is needed.

The review about hypnotherapy for smoking cessation states

We have not shown that hypnotherapy has a greater effect on six-month quit rates than other interventions or no treatment. There is not enough evidence to show whether hypnotherapy could be as effective as counselling treatment. The effects of hypnotherapy on smoking cessation claimed by uncontrolled studies were not confirmed by analysis of randomized controlled trials.

It is not really possible to use a placebo treatment for hypnotherapy, as it is pretty obvious whether you are being hypnotized or not. Most studies compare hypnotherapy to other methods used to treat the studied conditions, some compare to no intervention.

The studies for smoking cessation were very heterogenuous which complicated the analysis. The most convincing of the studies selected for the review1 consisted of 281 participants and found hypnotherapy comparable in effectiveness to behavioural counselling, which is a known effective treatment.

About the studies included in the review about treatment of irritable bowel syndrom the authors state

The results of the included studies need to be interpreted with caution due to the small size and methodological flaws of the included studies.

I would summarize those results as, "At the moment, we don't know if hypnotherapy works."


[1] Carmody TP, Duncan C, Simon JA, Solkowitz S, Huggins J, Lee Set al. Hypnosis for smoking cessation: a randomized trial. Nicotine & Tobacco Research 2008;10(5):811–8.

  • The summary isn’t quite right. When it comes to (rigorous) clinical studies, absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence (= rejection of the null hypothesis). If studies fail to show efficacy this is usually because there is none. Instead of having no information, we now have information to the contrary, i.e. that hypnotherapy (probably) doesn’t work. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 7 '11 at 18:46
  • 1
    @Konrad In this case the studies are just not good enough, those are reviews of mostly small studies with sometimes poor methodology (as stated in the second review). – Mad Scientist Mar 7 '11 at 18:50
  • @Fabian: You should add that to your answer. – Borror0 Mar 7 '11 at 18:58
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    @Konrad: Hypnosis is inherently a skill based endevour. The fact that one study shows that one hypnotherapist fails only proves that the hypnotherapist isn't effective. Different people might need different time to reach a deep trance state. A study that tests a normed 10 minutes induction will be less effective than a hypnotherapists who reacts more to feedback from the patient. – Christian Mar 10 '11 at 12:22
  • If a treatment archives comparable results to a known effective treatment it works for all practical purposes. Patient only care about which treatment will help them. – Christian Mar 10 '11 at 12:24
-1

Some of your problems, for example addictions, depend on the will of the affected person to stop them.

I stopped smoking 2 years ago, and I was pretty convinced to do so - I only needed to start doing it.

Now, if you go and pay for hypnotherapy, you underline that you want to stop smoking, that you're going to take it seriously, so I would expect that to have a big influence on the outcome of the attempt to stop smoking (gambling, drinking, eating disorders). You already made a decision, but well - not always. Some people will either pretend to want to change their live, some might be unsure.

For skin disorders such as acne and eczema, I don't know - they can be of psychosomatic cause?

  • -1 there are no references, and does not directly address the question – David LeBauer Jun 23 '12 at 18:47

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