Hypnosis In Medicine

Medical Author: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

The role of hypnosis in medicine has been evolving over the last 100 years. Currently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States is funding clinical trials of complementary and alternative medicine. Hypnosis in medicine has been one of the focuses of this funding effort.

Hypnosis in contemporary medicine was reviewed by James H. Stewart, M. D., of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, (Mayo Clin. Proc 105; 80 (4): 511-524). In this review, Dr. Stewart highlighted basic concepts of hypnosis and reviewed the results of many clinical trials of hypnosis in treating a variety of medical conditions.

Dr. Stewart noted that hypnosis does not involve a process of simply following instructions. Rather, it is an actual change in the perception of the brain as demonstrated by brain tests while people are undergoing hypnosis. Studies have shown that hypnosis does not act as a placebo and is not a state of sleep.

Dr. Stewart also noted that modern hypnotism was introduced by the Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, who is said to have brought what was referred to as "animal magnetism" to France in 1778. Hypnotism came to be called "Mesmerism" and was soon discredited as fraudulent. Hypnosis as a method of psychoanalysis evolved in the 20th century. Over the past 50 years, many studies have demonstrated the potential of hypnosis as an adjunctive treatment for a variety of conditions.