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Hypnosis

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of consciousness resembling sleep, but the person can still concentrate on memories, sensations, or other things. Hypnosis is an altered, relaxed state of mind, often used to help learn to control bad habits, pain, and stress.

About 5 percent of mentally healthy people cannot be hypnotized and the same percentage are very susceptible to hypnosis. However, hypnotism will not work if the person does not want to be hypnotized, and the subject of hypnosis can interrupt it at any time. Hypnotism requires trust and imagination.

When hypnotized, a person's heart rate decreases, body temperature changes, and blood flow to certain areas is reduced. The state of deep relaxation can divert attention from pain and other negative stimuli. Hypnotism even can be used as a pain reliever during certain surgeries, such as dental surgery.

Some uses of hypnotism include:

  • To reduce pain

  • To stop smoking

  • To reduce anxiety

  • To improve depression

  • To overcome a fear or phobia

Hypnosis and memory retrieval

Using hypnosis to extract hidden or vague memories may not be reliable, according to a 2002 study. Although there is a widespread belief that hypnosis produces accurate memories, researchers found that hypnosis does not work well as a memory-recovery method. In addition, people who have been hypnotized tend to feel confident that their memories are accurate, contributing to the persistence of false memories.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marcellin, Lindsey, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Nelson, Gail A., MS, APRN, BC
Date Last Reviewed: 1/28/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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