Can hypnotherapy treat anxiety

Can hypnotherapy treat anxiety

Anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans each year, which makes anxiety the most common mental illness in the United States.

There are many well-known forms of treatment for anxiety disorders including:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • exposure therapy
  • medication

But some people choose to treat their anxiety with alternative treatments like hypnotherapy.

What is hypnotherapy?

Contrary to what you’ve seen in movies, hypnosis involves a lot more than traveling into a trance-like state after looking into someone’s eyes.

During a hypnosis session, you undergo a process that helps you relax and focus your mind. This state is similar to sleep, but your mind will be very focused and more able to respond to suggestion.

While in this relaxed state, it’s believed that you’re more willing to focus on your subconscious mind. This allows you to explore some of the deeper issues you’re dealing with.

Hypnotherapy sessions may be used to:

  • explore repressed memories, such as abuse
  • instill a desire for healthy habits that can lead to weight loss
  • help to relax and reprogram an anxious brain

The practitioner, or therapist, is there to help guide this process. They aren’t there to control your mind.

What are the benefits of using hypnotherapy to treat anxiety?

Even though hypnotherapy isn’t as widely known as psychotherapy and medication for treating anxiety, researchers and scientists have been studying the effects it can have on mental health conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression for several years.

In one 2016 study, researchers scanned the brains of people while they were undergoing guided hypnosis sessions. They found that a hypnotized brain experiences changes in the brain that give a person:

  • focused attention
  • greater physical and emotional control
  • less self-consciousness

How is hypnotherapy used to treat anxiety?

Let’s say you have a fear of flying. During a hypnotherapy session, the therapist can give you what’s known as a “posthypnotic suggestion” while you’re in a state of trance.

In this dreamlike state, the mind becomes more open to suggestion. This allows the therapist to suggest to you how easily confident you will be the next time you sit on a plane.

Because of the relaxed state you’re in, it can be easier to avoid escalating any anxiety symptoms you may feel, such as:

  • a feeling of impending doom
  • shortness of breath
  • increased heart rate
  • muscle tension
  • irritability
  • nervous stomach

Hypnotherapy should be used as a complementary treatment to cognitive behavioral therapy.

However, if you only use hypnosis to treat your anxiety, it could have effects similar to those of meditation. A hypnotic induction would help put you into this relaxed state, just like meditation. You can then use this state to address anxieties and phobias.

So, if you’re trying to treat a fear of flying, you can visualize yourself going back to the first time you were scared of flying. You can use a technique called hypnoprojectives, where you visualize your past events as you would’ve liked to have seen them. Then you see yourself in the future, feeling calm and peaceful while on a plane.

What you need to know before trying hypnotherapy

As long as you’re seeing a licensed mental health professional who has extensive training in hypnosis, the use of hypnotherapy to treat anxiety is considered very safe.

The first thing to consider when choosing a hypnotist is the practitioner’s qualifications. Look for a licensed mental health care professional — such as a psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, counselor, social worker, or medical doctor — who is also a hypnotherapist.

An effective overall treatment plan should include several modalities (approaches), and hypnotherapy is just one of the many clinically effective tools known to help treat anxiety.

You can also ask if they’re affiliated with any professional associations, such as the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

If for example, a hypnotist uncovers trauma while doing hypnotherapy, they need to know how to treat trauma. In other words, having the education and training to diagnose and treat mental health conditions — which comes from being licensed — is a key component in the success of hypnotherapy.


Self hypnosis for stress management

Self hypnosis for stress management

Hypnosis is perhaps one of the least understood therapeutic tools in use. While most people think of hypnosis as a way to get somebody to bark like a dog at the snap of your fingers or take off their clothes when you say the work ‘stupendous’, hypnosis can be a valuable tool in helping people overcome fears, withstand pain, or improve their ability to manage stress in their lives.

Contrary to popular belief, nobody can hypnotize you without your consent or awareness. You can, however, be hypnotized by a trained professional whom you trust, to more easily achieve goals you set for yourself. Even better, you can save time and money and learn to hypnotize yourself using your own voice or even just your thoughts, a practice known as self-hypnosis.

How It Works

Hypnosis can be used for stress management in two ways. First, you can use hypnosis to get into a deeply relaxed state, fighting tension and triggering your relaxation response. This will help to prevent health problems due to chronic stress. Next, hypnosis can also help you achieve various healthy lifestyle changes that can reduce the amount of stress you encounter in your life.

For example, you can hypnotize yourself to stick to an exercise program, keep your home less cluttered, feel more confident setting boundaries with others, etc.

You can use hypnosis to reduce the level of anxiety you feel when you encounter situations that normally trigger stress as well, such as intimidating social situations. In this same vein, you can also effectively use hypnosis to help overcome any negative habits you’ve been using to cope with stress, like smoking or compulsive eating.

What’s involved

The process of hypnosis involves entering a trance, or a deeply relaxed, but focused state (like that of daydreaming or meditation), and making suggestions for your subconscious mind to accept.

You can go to a trained professional for hypnotherapy, and they will talk you through it. Or, you can employ the use of books, videos, or even short articles to learn what’s involved, and achieve effective results at home.


Hypnosis is an extremely versatile tool that can be used for everything from simple relaxation to pain management in childbirth. It’s easy to do, can be quite inexpensive, and the results are lasting.

There are almost no potential negative side effects, and it can give multiple benefits at the same time. Rarely, upsetting information can come up from your subconscious mind and can be discussed and processed in therapy. Also, it is important to remember that


Hypnosis isn’t for everyone. Some people have trouble getting past their initial prejudices about the practice in general, and some have a more difficult time getting into the trance-like state required for hypnotic suggestions to become deeply embedded. Others find that they simply can’t find the time or the focus, and have an easier time with other stress-management techniques.

How Self-Hypnosis Compares to Other Stress Reduction Methods

Like meditation, hypnosis does require more focus and practice than techniques like simple exercise or the use of medications and herbal treatments, and hypnosis also requires some training or the help of a trained professional.

However, hypnosis may be a preferable option for those with physical limitations that make exercise like yoga more difficult. There are few (if any) potential negative side effects, like with some medications or herbal remedies. Also, few other techniques can offer such a wide variety of benefits.

With training and practice, virtually anyone can use hypnosis to some degree of success and experience the many benefits this technique has to offer. This is an often-overlooked but wonderfully effective route to stress relief.

By: Elizabeth Scott