Depression is among the most common mental health conditions affecting millions of people across the world.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 264 million people of all ages are affected by depression worldwide (1).
There are many forms of treatment for depression including therapies, medication, medical procedures, hypnosis, and even sleep.
Here, we look at how hypnosis for depression works, how effective it is, and what experts say about it.
Understanding Depression Better
Almost everyone has battled depression at some point in their life. It may be because of financial problems, social problems, health problems, or other related issues.
Reports from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) show that about 8.1% of the adults in America, from 20 years of age and above have had a period of 2 weeks where they struggled with depression between 2013 and 2016 (2).
It also showed that there was a high percentage of women who had depression at 10.4% than men who were at 5.5%.
Depression comes in many forms.
The most popular ones include seasonal depression, major depression, situational depression, perinatal depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), persistent depression, atypical depression, depressive psychosis, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
The causes of depression also vary and they include brain structure, medical issues, using drugs, familiar problems, family history, early childhood trauma, and stressful occasions among others.
Some of the symptoms of depression are irritability, aggressiveness, feeling sad or empty or hopeless, losing interest in hobbies or favorite activities, low libido, difficulty concentrating, lack of sleep or sleeping too much, feeling exhausted, experiencing pain, and having low energy levels.
Hypnosis is believed to be a good intervention for depression among other health conditions because of the relaxation benefits it brings.
How Hypnosis Works
Hypnosis is a state of waking consciousness where someone’s attention is directed to the experiences that happen inwards such as feelings, cognition, and imagery, with the person being disconnected from their environment through the period they are hypnotized.
It works with trance states where the hypnotized person becomes relaxed, attentive, calm, and open to suggestions (3).
Through verbal guidance or mental imagery from a hypnotist, the hypnotized person is made to perceive the hypnotic reality that is being created for them, and what they get to imagine feels real for them.
Hypnosis aims at the subconscious mind where our beliefs, habits, and concepts of life are held.
With access to this part of the mind, we are able to work on the various issues that hold us back and drop them completely through time.
If you would like to know more about hypnosis and everything about it, we encourage you to read our beginner’s guide to hypnosis.
Ideally, there are different types of hypnosis including self-hypnosis, guided hypnosis, and hypnotherapy. We have explained each of them in detail in the guide we have linked to above.
Hypnotherapy is the type that is commonly used to deal with depression.
This is where a therapy such as psychotherapy uses hypnosis as a tool to better deliver the therapy for effective results.
How Hypnotherapy Helps With Depression
In hypnotherapy, the patient is taken through the session by a well-trained, qualified, and experienced hypnotherapist.
Here, hypnosis is used to bring up the main issues that influence the depression in the patient, which is later addressed through therapy.
When it comes to handling depression, hypnotherapy aims to tackle it at a subconscious level. It helps to understand the main causes of this condition in the patient.
It is based on helping the patient increase their levels of relaxation and have good control of their awareness so that when they are talking about their emotions and feelings, they don’t get spikes of anxiety or stress.
After establishing the causes, the hypnotherapist formulates the right suggestions that will help change the patient’s thought patterns and beliefs so that they are able to keep depression at bay.
The clinician or hypnotherapist will help you relax and calm down and then guide you into a trance state where you will then receive the positive suggestions that will help transform your thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs (4).
The number of sessions needed for you to fully overcome depression depends on many factors.
As you begin your therapy, you will be taken through everything you need to know and all your questions will be answered by the hypnotherapist regarding your case and the hypnotherapy sessions you will be receiving so that you know what you will be working with and for how long, going by the type of depression you are battling.
Hypnotherapy has been found to be generally safe with few to no side effects when it comes to treating depression as well as other health conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, smoking problems, concentration issues, teeth grinding, and chronic pain (5).
It has also been found useful in improving the success of treatment of conditions like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), grief and loss, some sleep disorders, fears, and phobias (6).
Hypnotherapy also comes in handy in overcoming other negative habits that a person takes up when depressed that often worsens their state such as smoking, oversleeping, and overeating.
With the help of strong hypnotic suggestions, improvements made can be long term.
While hypnotherapy is considered safe, there are some downsides to it. The most serious one is the possibility of creating false memories.
Hypnotherapy that is based on retrieving memories which could be thought of as the possible causes of the health issues being treated can make a patient create false memories.
Other side effects that might occur include dizziness, anxiety, and headaches, but these go away a short while after the session.
Also, people who have psychotic symptoms like delusions and hallucinations should not be considered for hypnotherapy. That is why those people who are really considering working with hypnotherapy should consult their doctor first.
Moreover, it is worth noting that hypnotherapy may not work for everyone. People who have a hard time focusing and entering a state of trance as well as those who have a negative perspective on it can have a difficult time making it work for them.
Hypnotherapy is also not a malicious practice that involves manipulation, brainwashing, or mind control as depicted by other people.
You will not be made to do anything you don’t want to do. You still keep your free will and judgment even while in a trance state (7).
So, you should not be worried about the myths that have been created around hypnosis since they are true.
What Researchers And Experts Say About Hypnotherapy For Depression
When combined with psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), it can be effective and can bring rewarding results.
A study was done that involved 84 people who had depression. They were divided and some were taken through either CBT or hypnosis for about 4 months and then they were tested (12).
Results showed that those who had received hypnosis showed better improvement than those who got CBT, although the improvements were small.
When these two techniques are used together, they are much more potent (13).
It is also important to note that there are conflicts as far as the idea of using hypnotherapy to retrieve memories is concerned.
Some experts say that it is a good method while others have reported cases of false memories with patients who used the method.
More research is needed in this area to determine the quality and reliability of this aspect.
Experts recommend working with a specially trained, certified, and licensed hypnotherapist.
The hypnotherapist should be licensed by recognized bodies of hypnosis and mental health such as the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis or the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists.
Essentially, hypnotherapy can be a good-to-work-with technique for handling depression.
If you are thinking about it, make sure you check with your doctor first and determine if you are a good fit for it.
Then, work with a properly trained and recognized professional expert.