Science: Can Hypnosis Replace Medicine?
It should stun women, cure bowel disease and break cancer cells. For hundreds of years, therapists have been trying to bring hypnosis to the world's hospitals. Although scans indicate that the condition affects certain parts of the brain, far from everyone is susceptible to the messy words.
What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a psychological condition that can make you more focused and less attentive to your surroundings. At the same time, the hypnotist's repeated instructions and calm voice can change the activity in different areas of your brain so that you suddenly act and think in a different way than you otherwise would.
Hypnosis affects the three networks of the brain that together control our consciousness. In this way, the patient's thoughts can be diverted from problems
Science announces judgment:
Hypnosis relieves smoke
Most investigations of hypnosis as a form of treatment have been so poorly performed that it is difficult to trust the positive results and come to some sure conclusions. However, analyzes of many different studies show a small possible effect on, for example, nicotine dependence, fear of surgery and irritable colon.
- Fear before surgery
- Smoking cessation
- childbirth Fear
- Irritable colon
Lack of evidence
- Weight Loss
- childbirth pain
- Pain during surgery
- exam Anxiety
3% hear fancy votes
5% see fancy things
15% behave like young children
17% perceive fancy scents
19% perceive imagined flavors
25% can be hypnotized to let your arms fall
The persistent attempts by dermatologists to remove three warts from the 55-year-old male patient’s right hand again fail.
After three years of freezing treatments and corrosive acid, the patient finally seeks out a hypnotist.
The hypnotist leads the man into a light sleep-like trance and asks him to imagine how the healthy skin slowly grows over the stubborn outgrowths so that they are gone in a week.
Seven days later, one of the warts has disappeared, which first makes the hypnotist disappointed before telling the patient that he was afraid of hoping for too much and only wished they disappeared one at a time.
The hypnotist’s name is Chema Nieto. In 2009, he published his success story in a scientific journal and thus builds on several hundred years of depictions that hypnosis is a conceivable alternative to the usual medical treatment of a variety of diseases.
Everyone is far from convinced of the healing effect of hypnosis. However, there are indications that the trans-like state can, in some cases, affect the brain and, for example, relieve pain in birth women, attenuate anxiety symptoms and help smokers get rid of the cigarettes.
It is often about individual sunshine stories that are contradicted. Alternatively, the treatment has been tested on so few subjects that it is difficult to draw any specific conclusions.
In other cases, the researchers do not take into account the patients who, for various reasons, drop out during the study, which ultimately gives the positive results a more prominent place in the final statistics.
Hypnosis seduces the brain
However, hypnosis treatments are not a new invention.
The German physician Franz Mesmer was a bit of a pioneer when in 1784, he introduced a hypnosis-like condition that caused his patients to disappear into a spasmodic sleep that seemed to cure their ailments.
50 years later, the English physician John Elliotson established a clinic in London where he used hypnosis to anesthetize and treat both mental and medical disorders.
In 1845, hypnotists took over responsibility for all the anesthesia at a hospital in the Indian city of Calcutta, where they helped surgeons successfully perform 300 significant and thousands of smaller operations.
Since then, doctors in several hospitals around the world have been experimenting with hypnosis, while hypnotists at thousands of clinics offer alternative treatments, though without the approval of the health authorities in many countries.
The word hypnosis came from the Greek sleep god Hypnos and was used for the first time by the Scottish neurologist James Braid in 1843.
He made up with the prevailing notion of hypnosis based on unexplained magnetic forces at the time and showed that it is so-called focused attention that affects the nervous system. And that explanation still holds today.
We know this thanks to neurologist Amir Raz from McGill University in Canada. He has a history as a show hypnotist and is one of the researchers who has contributed most to understanding the mechanisms behind hypnosis.
In his research, he focuses on the conflicts that arise in the brain when the hypnotist, with the help of various techniques, makes people see themselves and their surroundings in entirely new ways.
Even in people who are not hypnotized, this type of conflict is continually occurring. For example, when we see a tempting cake and want to eat it even though we are losing weight, we force the brain to choose between two conflicting desires, which creates a conflict.
Amir Raz and other researchers believe that a similar phenomenon occurs when, for example, the hypnotist takes up a volunteer on stage and makes him believe that he is Elvis Presley and then in front of “Love Me Tender” in front of the audience.
Basically, the person knows very well that he is not Elvis and that he cannot sing at all. But self-perception is challenged by the hypnotist’s insistent words.
In a normal situation, the brain would quickly return to reality, preventing it from bursting into song in front of hundreds of spectators. Under the influence of the hypnotist’s many repeated and clear instructions, the notion of being Elvis can still seem so enticing that the brain can be seduced.
The voice ward off conflict
In a large 2005 study, Amir Raz used a classic psychological experiment called Stroop’s test to examine whether hypnosis can affect the brain’s ability to resolve conflicts.
In the study, the subjects would say the colour of some letters that formed the name of another colour.
For example, the word RED could be written in green letters, which triggered a conflict between visual centers that registered a different colour than the center in the brain that processed the letters.
Thus, the brain had to choose whether it relied most on sight or the read word, and the conflict caused the reading speed to decrease significantly.
The researchers then put the subjects in a slightly hypnotic trance and explained to them that the letters they would soon see formed incomprehensible words in a language they could not.
They would not care about the letters but focus only on their colour.
The study showed that there was no conflict between the two centers of the brain when participants were hypnotized and temporarily unable to read.
Since then, brain scans and several other researchers have confirmed that hypnosis also affects other areas of the brain. It is close at hand to assume that hypnosis can relieve ailments such as fear and pain – which are just coming from the brain.
Stomach pain should be talked away
Despite numerous attempts at hypnosis, there is not much scientific coverage to help the hypnotist better than patients can.
An irritable colon is one of the diseases in which researchers have investigated whether hypnosis can have a beneficial effect.
Although the disorder is first and foremost a problem in the gastric region, patients are often treated with antidepressants because the brain is both thought to be involved in the cause of the disease and the patients’ ability to cope with the symptoms.
It led to physician Alexander Ford reviewing five studies in which the beneficial effect of hypnosis on the abdominal pain had been tested.
In the so-called meta-analysis from 2018, he found that hypnosis reduced patients’ symptoms by 26 percent, while antidepressants could reduce symptoms by 34 percent.
In total, the five studies comprised only 183 subjects, which is a statistically weak basis to base their conclusions on.
Still, Ford came to the conclusion that hypnosis can be an alternative to regular medicine.
Curious are more receptive
A similarly small and uncertain positive effect of hypnosis, researcher Hannah Ainsworth at The University of York in England published in another meta-analysis from 2009.
Like Alexander Ford, she went through five previous studies that all showed a positive effect of hypnosis. But even here, the number of subjects, only 214, was a problem for credibility.
Few subjects, on the other hand, were no problem in a large study from 2013 with a total of 1,222 first-time nurses at the hospital in Aarhus.
Here, midwife Anette Werner investigated whether self-hypnosis could relieve pain during childbirth.
Among other things, the women were asked to listen to recordings at home, where a trained hypnotist with a gentle voice tried to strengthen the women’s self-confidence and resilience before the impending birth.
At the same time, the voice would change the women’s time perception so that the painters would be perceived as very short-lived.
However, the conclusion was that hypnosis did not reduce the need for women to relieve the pain with so-called epidural anesthesia.
In return, the treatment made the whole experience more pleasant and less marked by fear.
A similar result was presented in a 2015 English study where researchers concluded that hypnosis reduced the need for epidural anesthesia by just eight percent, which is not a statistically significant difference.
Both the English and Danish surveys were part of a large meta-analysis from 2016 involving 2,954 women, which indicated that the only beneficial effect of hypnosis during childbirth was that women’s need for other painkillers in addition to epidural anesthesia was halved.
The researchers concluded that the studies generally included too few test subjects and were too poorly arranged for the results to form the basis for any conclusions.
A common problem in some studies was that it wasn’t clearly stated if the results were based on all the women who participated in the study, or if some of them had gradually been eliminated.
Accurate sorting is a weakness in all medical studies, and especially in trials of hypnosis. Far from all subjects are receptive to the hypnotist’s words.
In a 2000 study, Professor of Psychology, Vilfredo De Pascalis, found that 28 percent of the 356 subjects in his survey were almost impossible to hypnotize, while ten percent were highly susceptible to hypnosis.
Other scientists have come up with comparable results, but why, this is not what the researchers know. Some believe that hereditary factors come into play while others see a connection between receptivity and personality traits such as curiosity and empathy.
In any case, this means that researchers who want to investigate the effect of hypnosis treatment can already expect that about a quarter of subjects will not respond to treatment.
If the researchers do not take heed of the people who are sorted out, there is a risk that they will eventually compare two different treatments in the patient groups in the study.
In some cases, the researchers have tried in advance to test the susceptibility of the subjects – in the same way, that show hypnotists usually do before a performance.
But for a researcher, it is doubtful purely scientific to select the most susceptible to their trials because the control group and the hypnosis group are at risk of being different and incomparable, which can affect the subjects’ response to the treatment.
Thus, at present, it has not yet been possible to confirm whether hypnosis on a scientific level can really be an alternative to medicine. However, the researchers do not want to completely reject hypnosis because it undoubtedly affects the brain – especially if you are among the ten percent who, for reasons unknown, are particularly susceptible to hypnosis.