Allergic Rhinitis and Hypnotherapy
Anecdotal and research evidence suggests that hypnosis may be an effective [treatment for allergic rhinitis. ] Hypnosis comes in different forms, but generally it is described as a form of heightened attention combined with deep relaxation ("trance"), uncritical openness, and voluntarily lowered resistance to suggestion. Suggestions are typically introduced once the person is deeply relaxed into a trance state. In the case of hypnosis for a health challenge, the suggestions involved will relate to the that specific health challenge that is being addressed. For allergic rhinitis, this might be, "Your body recognizes pollen as a harmless substance and chooses not to mount an immune response."
Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis does not involve the patient losing control and becoming vulnerable to manipulation by the hypnotist. More theatrical versions of hypnosis are called "stage hypnosis," which has little in common with therapeutic hypnosis.
Hypnosis might be helpful for treating allergic rhinitis for a variety of reasons. First, stress is generally accepted as playing a role in triggering or worsening allergic conditions such as allergic rhinitis; by helping the patient relax deeply, hypnosis might help decrease the stress that contributes to the condition. Second, a growing field of study called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) recognizes the biochemical connections between the mind and the body. Hypnosis might help alter the allergy-related immune response by acting first on the mind, which can then influence the physical symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Hypnosis has been studied for its effect on a number of health challenges and has demonstrated potential for treating such things as asthma, burns, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), peptic ulcers, psoriasis, warts, headaches, vertigo, and pain.
Hypnosis has not been widely studied as a treatment for allergic rhinitis, but in one study, self-hypnosis appeared to provide some benefits.47 (In this case, self-hypnosis refers to the self-administered application of hypnotic techniques. Theoretically, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis because it is an active treatment that requires the patient to engage his or her own mind.) Because it is a very low-risk treatment option for allergic rhinitis, hypnosis might be worth trying.
Hypnosis is probably most effective when it is practiced regularly and frequently. It is also most effective when it is tailored to the individual patient, including his or her specific health challenges, preferences, experiences, etc. For instance, some hypnosis uses imagery and colors to help relax the patient and make hypnotic suggestions. The images and colors employed should be those that speak to each individual patient.
Hypnosis is currently available in a variety of forms. You can purchase pre-recorded hypnosis sessions for general or specific health challenges. You can also have one-on-one sessions with a hypnotherapist or health professional who practices hypnosis. At the end of the day, all hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis because it requires you to engage your own mind. You can experiment with various options and use the hypnosis techniques that suit you best to practice hypnosis by yourself. Indeed, most hypnosis will only be effective if you practice it regularly and frequently.
Hypnosis is not nationally recognized as a distinct profession and therefore has no licensure. Various certifications are available but not required for practice. Hypnosis practitioners are often separated into two camps: clinical hypnosis and lay hypnosis.
Clinical hypnosis is a credential for people with advanced study and experience in a health profession who are formally trained to use hypnosis as part of their health profession. This could be dentists, doctors, nurses, psychologists, and others. Sessions offered by these people might be fully or partially covered by your health insurance. Two professional institutions, the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association, offer certification in clinical hypnosis.
Lay hypnosis is less formally defined and is not as centrally organized as clinical hypnosis. It generally refers to all other hypnosis training and practice. There are a number of schools and organizing bodies that offer training and certification in hypnosis.
People seeking hypnosis as a treatment for a health challenge such as allergic rhinitis will probably have the most success if they choose a hypnosis professional who understands at least the basic physiology of their condition.
In the hands of a competent practitioner, hypnotherapy should present no more risks than any other form of psychotherapy. These risks might include worsening of the original problem and temporary fluctuations in mood.
Contrary to various works of fiction, hypnosis does not give the hypnotist absolute power over his subject. However, as with all forms of psychotherapy, the hypnotherapist does gain some power over the client through the client’s trust; an unethical therapist can abuse this.
- Langewitz W, Izakovic J, Wyler J, et al. Effect of self-hypnosis on hay fever symptoms—a randomised controlled intervention study. Psychother Psychosom. 2005;74:165-172.