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Holistic Addiction Treatment: Hypnosis

When someone mentions hypnosis, most people picture the classic stage act where a stage magician makes the unsuspecting person do silly things in front of a crowd. In its infancy, hypnosis was thought of as an occult practice used by charlatans and magicians. It was not until 1972 when the Journal of the National Medical Association published the article, “The Use of Hypnosis in the Treatment of Drug Addiction,” that hypnosis as a treatment for drug addiction became popular. In order to make an informed decision about how hypnosis helps addiction, it is important to understand all the aspects of using hypnosis to treat this condition.

What is Hypnosis?

hypnosis in addiction treatment

Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, helps people with addiction change their behavior patterns and find relief from withdrawal symptoms.

Hypnosis is the act of putting someone into a highly suggestive state of consciousness. This means that when a person is hypnotized, they take suggestion easily and quickly. This allows a therapist or other professional to recommend suggestions directly into a person’s subconscious. This state is also used to recover memories and other thoughts from the subconscious and put them into the conscious mind. This allows a person to access these memories to better deal with them.

Therapists use hypnosis to encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative ones on a subconscious level. Hypnotherapy works for addictions because the addiction is strongly associated with feelings in the subconscious. Some researchers say that the power of addiction is in the subconscious.

Types of Hypnosis Used to Treat Addiction

There are three main types of hypnosis. These three types are:

  • Traditional suggestion hypnosis – In this type of hypnosis the therapist helps you enter an extremely relaxed state and then implants a suggestion into your subconscious. This is one of the easier types of hypnosis to perform but is not very effective for those who are highly analytical.
  • Ericksonian hypnosis – This type of hypnosis is very similar to the traditional type. The difference is that the therapist uses metaphors instead of actual suggestions. There are a few types of metaphors that the therapist uses:
    • Isomorphic metaphors – this is a command given using a story with a moral. The moral matches the desired behavioral change.
    • Embedded command – the therapist tells a story to distract the mind. The story contains indirect commands and messages. These messages are hidden in the story as subtext.
    • Process instruction – these make the mind find a memory of the desired learning experience. Then the therapist suggests that that experience be applied to the current situation.
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming – in this technique, therapists use the same thought patterns that created the problem to solve the problem. There are a few ways this is done:
    • Neuro-Linguistic Programming anchoring – this uses a key such as a song or habit to trigger the desired response. The subject picks a memory that made them feel the way that they need to in order to change. Then the therapist associates the two while the patient is under. This allows the unconscious mind to pin the trigger to the desired behavior.
    • Neuro-Linguistic Programming flash – this takes negative and positive experiences that are associated and breaks that association. For example if a client smokes right after a meal, the meal and the cigarette are associated with each other. The therapist breaks this association and the client stops craving a cigarette after every meal.
    • Neuro-Linguistic Programming reframe – The therapist finds an acceptable way for the client to satisfy the same need that the unacceptable behavior satisfies, and then implants that suggestion.

Therapists use each of these types of hypnosis to control addiction behavior, withdrawal symptoms, and help the addict avoid relapse. One other technique is similar to hypnosis but not quite the same. This is subliminal messaging. In subliminal messaging there a messages imbedded in either video or sound that the eyes and ears barely catch but the unconscious mind records. Subliminal messaging is not proven to work completely, although with new technologies some types show promise.

Common Myths about Hypnosis

Some people avoid hypnosis because of the myths that surround its practice. It is easy to dispel these myths. A few common misconceptions and myths are:

  • Hypnosis gives another person control over you – like all therapies the therapist only acts as a guide. The directives given during hypnosis are merely a suggestion. You will not go against your true nature.
  • A hypnotist can make you do things that you would not ordinarily do – this is false. For hypnosis to work, especially for addiction, the person needs to want to change.
  • Hypnosis allows to a person to access past lives – the normal division between fantasy, reality, and suggestion is difficult to discern while under hypnosis. There is no evidence that past lives are real, the past life phenomena only occurs in those who happen to believe in reincarnation.
  • People fall asleep during hypnosis – Nope again, people appear relaxed but are actually awake when they are hypnotized. They are just in a deep state of relaxation. There are no hard and fast rules about what a person looks like when under hypnosis.
  • Only the weak can be hypnotized – this is simply not true. Everyone enters a form of hypnotic trance almost daily. It is true that only the willing can be hypnotized.
  • Hypnosis causes emotional disturbance – although there is a tiny bit of truth to this, hypnosis itself is not typically dangerous. The danger lies in when someone misuses it or is unqualified to offer suggestions.
  • People could be stuck in a trance forever – this just is not true. Hypnosis is normal and you experience some forms of hypnosis almost daily.
  • You always tell the truth when hypnotized – if you would lie about it when you are awake, you will probably lie about it while hypnotized.
  • People do not recall what they do when hypnotized – what you remember depends on the type, depth, and what is important to you.
  • Hypnosis is an occult practice – although hypnosis was once considered an occult practice, it is now a part of science and holistic medicine.

There are many more myths about hypnosis in general. These myths come from before scientists understood what hypnosis was. It is very similar to deep meditation. If something is not true about deep meditation chances are it is also not true about hypnosis.

Who Can be Hypnotized and Who Cannot?

Although everyone falls into a state of hypnosis almost daily, not everyone is open to active hypnosis and suggestion. Creative people are generally easier to hypnotize than logical people are. People with an IQ of below 70 are extremely difficult to hypnotize while someone with a high IQ is easier than most, probably due to their creativity and ability to reason. Another factor in the ability to hypnotize someone is his or her level of sensitivity to suggestion. A person who does not want to be hypnotized usually will not be.

It is harder to hypnotize someone who is actively using drugs that impair thinking. This is why a hypnotist waits until the addict is no longer high to attempt therapy. Smoking marijuana however makes you easy to hypnotize while you are high on it.

What Types of Addiction does Hypnosis Treat

Hypnosis treats all types of addiction. The addicts themselves hamper the success of addiction treatment through hypnosis. Hypnosis requires a few things to be successful. These things are:

  • wiliness on the part of the addict,
  • the addict off the drug at the time hypnosis takes place,
  • the desire to change the behavior, and
  • a well-trained hypnotist.

If all of these things are present, hypnosis can treat addictions to:

  • all drugs,
  • gambling,
  • sex,
  • shopping,
  • tobacco,
  • food,
  • sugar,
  • pornography, and
  • just about any other addiction a person might have.

Hypnosis is capable of changing behavior as long as there is a desire for change.

How Hypnosis can Help with Addiction

The practice of hypnosis is able to help addiction by changing the addictive behavior, associating new positive behaviors, and help with the symptoms of withdrawal.

Much of the hypnosis preformed today forms new positive connections between feelings. Therefore, instead of the drug producing the positive feelings you crave, another desirable behavior is associated with those feelings. This is how hypnosis works to curb addiction.

Hypnosis can also help with some of the symptoms of withdrawal. There are hypnotic techniques and suggestions for anxiety, nausea, depression, and other withdrawal symptoms. The hypnotist can implant suggestions that help with all of these behaviors.

Benefits of Hypnosis

There are many benefits to hypnosis. It has the penitential to help treat a variety of illnesses and addictions. These illnesses are:

  • addiction to just about any substance or behavior,
  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • manic depression,
  • sleep disorders,
  • phobias,
  • grief,
  • stress,
  • post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD,
  • eating disorders, and
  • negative behavioral changes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, hypnosis can also reduce chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, and other disorders. There are however some drawbacks to using hypnosis these conditions.

Drawbacks of Hypnosis

As with any treatment method, there are drawbacks to using hypnosis to treat addiction. These drawbacks are:

  • people who are delusional should not try hypnosis,
  • people who are actively using drugs and alcohol should not be hypnotized,
  • the risk of false memories,
  • it is best when combined with other therapies,
  • the addict has to work for hypnosis to remain effective,
  • some people do not believe hypnosis works, and
  • a medical doctor needs to be consulted before hypnosis is used for medical conditions associated with withdrawal including pain.

These drawbacks are relatively minor compared to other therapies. In most cases the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Risks Involved in Using Hypnosis for Addiction

According to the Mayo Clinic, hypnosis with a therapist who is well trained and knowledgeable in the procedures and conditions involved, is very safe. It is only in certain cases of severe trauma and mental illness that hypnosis might be dangerous.

Hypnosis causes a few adverse reactions. These reactions are:

  • creation of fake or false memories by suggestion of the therapist,
  • sleepiness,
  • dizziness,
  • anxiety,
  • emotional disturbance and distress, and
  • headaches.

There is one major risk when using hypnosis. There is a reason why the mind blocks out a memory. The mind normally blocks memories that are painful or traumatic. This block is a way from the mind to protect itself from something that it cannot handle. In some hypnosis sessions, particularly those that are designed to recover repressed memories, things that the mind is not ready to handle may surface. This produces feelings of discomfort and can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.

Despite the risks, hypnosis has a surprising success record for treating cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Many hypnotherapists are well versed in treating addiction disorders with hypnotic suggestions. Compared to other similar holistic therapies hypnosis is well researched and continues to improve. If you are suffering from addiction and are ready for a change hypnosis is a viable treatment for the cravings and many of your withdrawal symptoms.

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