Does hypnosis work for anxiety, depression, and fear?

Source: – Medically reviewed by Lori Lawrenz, PsyD — By Zia Sherrell, MPH — Updated on September 27, 2023

Hypnosis may be effective in treating anxiety, depression, and fear in some people. It is a technique that practitioners have used for centuries to treat various mental health conditions.

The method involves a highly trained therapist using therapeutic words, phrases, or techniques to help a person enter an altered state of consciousness. Hypnosis may involve guided relaxation, self-talk, visualization, or music.

The idea behind hypnosis revolves around altering a person’s brainwaves, allowing them to tap into resources within themselves that they cannot reach when fully conscious. Research shows that the approach can help some individuals manage their anxiety.

Keep reading to learn more about hypnosis for anxiety, fear, and depression, plus some alternatives that may also benefit some people.

Hypnosis for anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and fear that may cause someone to sweat, feel tense, and experience a rapid heartbeat. Those with anxiety disorders have anxiety that does not go away. It interferes with daily life and leaves people feeling overwhelmed.

Hypnosis may help individuals with anxiety because it eases them into a relaxed and calm state.

In a 2016 study, scientists scanned the brains of 57 people undergoing hypnosis. They found changes in the areas of the brain that allowed for greater emotional control and reduced feelings of self-consciousness.

One 2017 reviewTrusted Source found that hypnosis has a significant, immediate, and prolonged effect on anxiety in people with cancer. It was especially beneficial for those with procedure-related anxiety.

Hypnosis for fear

Hypnosis can reduce the fear that individuals experience. Measurable qualities of fear include blood pressure and heart rate.

The technique may lower blood pressure by easing the mind and body into a relaxed and calm state. Once the hypnosis relaxes their body, they can redirect their mind away from focusing on their fears.

Hypnosis for depression

Depression is a serious mood disorder that affects how someone thinks, feels, and handles daily activities. There are many forms of the condition, but common symptoms include:

  • persistent anxious or sad mood
  • irritability
  • loss of interest
  • difficulty concentrating or sleeping

Hypnosis is an effective method of alleviating the symptoms of depression. Those with major depression have a decreased heart rate variability (HRV) — the variation in the time between consecutive heartbeats. According to one study, HRV significantly increases hypnosis, which may mean the technique could treat depression. However, the researchers used a very small sample size, so scientists need to carry out more studies to confirm these findings.

According to a meta-analysis of hypnotic interventions, using hypnosis for depression is potentially as effective as other well-known psychological interventions such as CBT and interpersonal therapy.