With any new treatment, it’s natural to think about negative effects, but some people worry a lot about the side effects of hypnotherapy.
I’m guessing that the reason you are reading this blog is that you are thinking about finding a solution to a problem or just curious and want to find out more.
This blog isn’t about me pretending that there aren’t any side effects of hypnotherapy. Rather it’s about giving you some information so you can put things into perspective and make informed choices.
Hypnosis is difficult to define; however, it’s about a conscious state where the client focuses their attention and is able to use imagination and pick up positive suggestions from the therapist.
Hypnotherapy can be a standalone therapy, or it can be used as a therapeutic tool to many psychotherapeutic approaches.
But before I talk more about hypnosis, let’s start with some background information.
I was in the same boat as you before I became a hypnotherapist. I wasn’t sure. I wanted information.
One of the first things that surprised me was that hypnosis has been endorsed by the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association since the 1950s. It is also supported by the British Psychological Society and many more reputable organisations around the world. But there are some people who are very sceptical about approaching a hypnotherapist. Why is that?
What are Side Effects?
One reason I found was that people are sceptical of hypnosis because they worry about negative effects, sometimes called side effects.
But before delving into the effects of hypnosis, let’s first look at the term ‘side effects.’
According to Dictionary.com, a side effect is
An effect of a drug, chemical or other medicine that is in addition to it’s intended effect, especially an effect that is harmful or unpleasant.
An accompanying or consequential and usually detrimental effect
Side effects are the consequences of treatment that go beyond the desired effect. As all humans are different, there may be side effects to medical treatments because treatments don’t just affect one part of the body.
It’s easier to understand the side effects of medications. For example, if you go to see your doctor about infection and you are given antibiotics, there is a possibility that you might get diarrhoea. This is considered a negative consequence but if you have a life-threatening infection you might accept a bit of diarrhoea. Of course, many people don’t get stomach problems with the short term use of antibiotics, even though it’s a know side effect of antibiotics.
There is also a small risk of an allergic reaction to the antibiotic and which could be serious and rarely could be fatal. Nevertheless, today there are other treatments and medications that will help reverse life-threatening allergic conditions if administered quickly. Most people don’t get allergic reactions. So generally, antibiotics are good if prescribed by a doctor.
Everything in life has positive and negative consequences.
Some side effects are beneficial. For example, if taken orally, pain killers target all areas of the body to help people with conditions like fibromyalgia, where pain can be felt all over the body.
Everything in life is about risk assessment.
With medicines, negative effects can also be described as adverse events if the problem was not foreseen and was very different to what was expected.
So now lets’s discuss hypnotherapy.
Side Effects of Hypnotherapy
Remember that hypnotherapy and stage hypnosis are different as they have different intentions and may use different techniques. Stage hypnotists use hypnotic techniques with entertainment to make people laugh.
Hypnotherapists have the intention of helping people using their knowledge and skills of hypnosis with therapy. Often they have other skills that complement hypnotherapy such as a healthcare qualification, counselling, psychology or management skills. The intention is to do no harm and to provide a beneficial service.
Hypnotherapists want to help people to overcome emotional and some physical related problems. They do not claim to cure illness. The aim of hypnotherapy is to empower you to help you meet your goals. There is an agreement on how you will work together and what the payment will be before you start.
Let’s look at the evidence for adverse events and side effects.
Hypnosis does have side effects, especially if used inappropriately in entertainment. But when stage hypnotists have trained well, the risks considerably decrease.
The risks of hypnosis in clinical applications have also been studied.
A study by Bollinger (2018) reported that there were no adverse events reported with clinical trials using hypnosis. There is a widely agreed idea that if hypnotists are properly trained, the risks from hypnotherapy are low and short-lived. Furthermore, the same as medications, the benefits can outweigh the concerns.
Hypnotherapy can help people with some medical conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), pain management, anxiety, fears and phobias, bad habits, sports performance and much more.
5 Negative Side Effects of Hypnotherapy
Here are 5 negative side effects reported related to hypnosis with some tips to overcome them. With a good initial assessment by the hypnotherapist, the risk is reduced.
Hypnosis helps you to relax your body. When you breathe slower and relax, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, and blood vessels open. So during relaxation, the blood vessels allow blood to flow better. Headaches can therefore occur because of changes in the blood flow.
Headaches can also occur if you have bad posture for any length of time, so it’s always a good idea to sit in a comfortable chair with your head and body supported or lie on the bed during hypnosis.
If people are very stressed before hypnosis or are dehydrated, they might also be more prone to headaches. This is why information is provided before hypnosis to help you feel comfortable, and a hypnotherapist will observe, listen and ask you questions before commencing.
Furthermore, any headache after hypnosis is usually short-lived.
It is worth mentioning that hypnosis can also be beneficial for some kinds of headaches. But as with any medical condition, you are advised to get a health check with your doctor first.
For some people, they feel that their head is spinning, or it can feel a bit like waking from a deep sleep. That woozy feeling could be because you haven’t had anything to eat for a long time, or you might be dehydrated. It may also be related to your blood pressure if it’s a bit low.
As you reorientate yourself to the room, have a drink of water and do some deep breathing so any lightheadedness will go off.
Good rapport with the hypnotherapist helps to prevent anxious feelings, but still, anxiety can occasionally occur when someone is going into hypnosis for the first time.
They may feel anxious because they want something to change, but they are worried about the process. This could be because the person hasn’t been given enough information, or it’s explained too quickly to help make them feel at ease. Alternately they are thinking about stage hypnosis and are worried that they will be out of control. The anxious feeling might result in feeling nauseous for a few moments. Deep breathing usually helps this.
It’s worth mentioning that anxious feelings when having hypnosis for the first time are different to anxiety disorders which can be helped with hypnotherapy. There is a lot of evidence that shows hypnosis helps stress and anxiety, and fears and phobias.
4. Creation of false memories
False memories might occur if the hypnotherapist uses a technique called regression to explore memories of the past and then leads the person to believe things that aren’t true. This was found to be a problem in the 1980s and 1990s when some psychologists using hypnosis used words that led the person to think that they had been abused.
Regression is a skilled procedure, and the hypnotherapist should have had training before using this method. But what is just as important is the fact that there should never be a claim that what we remember is exactly true because everyone’s memories change over time and can be distorted by new information. Some hypnotherapists never use regression techniques. However, when it is used properly, it can help some issues. Ethical hypnotherapists explain regression, answer questions and get your consent first.
Even without regression during any type of therapy, some traumatic events from the past may also make people upset when remembering them, so the therapist should be trained in dealing with traumatic memories if they occur.
5. Drowsiness or feeling sleepy
This side effect occurs because of difficulties of waking up from hypnosis (although people who are hypnotised are not asleep).
Occasionally, people take a few more minutes to become fully alert. It’s a bit like being woken suddenly from a deep, relaxing sleep. This results in feeling sleepy and a bit disorientated for a few moments.
One way to wake yourself up is to have a good stretch after the hypnotherapy.
So, overall the risks are much less if the hypnotherapist is qualified and does an assessment to check your suitability for hypnosis prior to starting. Furthermore, hypnotists use techniques to prevent these side effects.
Finally, although there are other rare considerations, hypnotherapy provides many benefits, and most people will not experience any sided effects at all when they visit a qualified hypnotist. A good hypnotherapist will listen to the client and use suggestions that are aligned with the client’s goals to bring about change.
Although non-hypnotic treatments can also produce negative effects if the client’s needs are not considered in the treatment plan, hypnosis seems to evoke more worries due to misconceptions and a lack of knowledge.
For most people undergoing hypnotherapy is a pleasant experience, and you learn to make changes to feel so much better. Smokers who quit with hypnosis save money, people who lack confidence can develop their potential in life, and even Olympic sportspeople can develop more emotional strength with hypnosis.
When choosing a doctor, dentist or any other therapist like a hypnotherapist, gather information and choose someone qualified and most likely to meet your needs or someone who has been recommended. You can check credentials through professional bodies, or you could also talk to your doctor.
I’m Linda from Awaken the change. If you are considering hypnotherapy, you can find lots of information about me on the National Hypnotherapy Society and the General Hypnotherapy Register, or check out my website and contact me for a free initial consultation.