Hypnosis is a special state of your mind. In hypnosis, the mind is relaxed and shows exceptional focus. In hypnosis, your mind is highly suggestible and changes fast.
Due to this, hypnosis makes therapies exceptionally effective.
But what are the side effects of hypnosis? And let’s compare those to the side effects of most used medicines.
The renowned Mayo Clinic recommends hypnosis as a safe, complementary, and alternative medical treatment.
It is important to choose a trained and certified therapist or health care professional.
Certification ensures that the hypnotist is properly trained, possesses the required knowledge, and also continues professional education. I am certified by The International Association of Counselors and Therapists which guarantees also that certified therapists uphold the Code of Ethics.
However, hypnosis is not always appropriate for people with severe mental illness.
Side Effects of Hypnosis
According to the Mayo Clinic article about hypnosis, adverse reactions to hypnosis are rare. They may include:
- Anxiety or distress
- Creation of false memories
Let’s look at those in more detail.
What is Known About Headaches
The main causes of headaches are lifestyle factors and can be avoided:
- Certain foods
- Changes in sleep or lack of sleep
- Poor posture
- Skipped meals
Headaches can also be caused by disorders. World Health Organisation states that headache disorders are among the most common disorders of the nervous system.
Migraine, tension-type headaches (TTH), and medication-overuse headaches are responsible for high population levels of disability and illness.
Migraine alone is the sixth highest cause worldwide of years lost due to disability. Headache disorders combined are the third highest.
At the same time, multiple studies have shown that hypnotherapy can effectively reduce both short- and long-term headaches.
Headaches after hypnosis can happen due to the release of the old emotional burden. They neither last long nor repeat.
What is Known About Dizziness and Drowsiness
The most common causes of drowsiness are sleep deprivation and sleep disorders like apnea and insomnia. Other causes of drowsiness are:
- depression and other psychiatric problems
- certain medications
- and medical conditions affecting the brain and body.
Dizziness can have many possible reasons, such as:
- inner ear disturbance
- motion sickness
- medication effects
- underlying health conditions, like poor circulation, infection, or injury.
In hypnosis, the mind is relaxed, and the slower brain activity resembles the transition into sleep or from sleep to the waking state.
During a hypnotherapy session, a client may even fall asleep. This happens when the client is no longer actively engaged in the process but is listening to positive suggestions spoken in a calm tone by the therapist.
At the very end of the hypnotherapy session, a competent therapist takes care to bring the client back from the relaxed state to the normal state of awareness. So, normally the client should not experience any dizziness or drowsiness after the session.
Creation of False Memories
Your memories are based on your sensory perception of events in your life.
But your brain filters out only the most significant signals.
From all the available sensory information that you can perceive, only an insignificant part will reach your consciousness.
And even those signals you will see in the light of your life experiences and beliefs system. So in the end, we perceive a very individual reflection of reality.
This is often observed in crime investigations when witnesses report different or contradictory stories.
And even entirely false memories exist. So-called “implantation studies” showed that about 30% of participants form false memories. And you won’t need any hypnosis to make someone remember what has never happened.
So, in hypnotherapy, the concern is not about “Is that the way it was?”. As Gil Boyne explains in his book “Transforming Therapy. A New Approach to Hypnotherapy”: “Whatever they (clients) report is truth for them and that’s what must be dealt with therapeutically.”
While dealing with the existing memories, a skilled hypnotherapist makes sure not to implant any (new) false memories for example about sexual or physical abuse. Such memories would be harmful to the client. False memories can be easily avoided by not interpreting the client’s words and not making corresponding suggestions.
Even if you remember certain events from your past, in hypnosis you access the memories on a deeper, emotional level.
Most clients who choose hypnotherapy are aware of hurtful or traumatic events in their past. Accessing the memories from those times in hypnosis can be very emotional but this also holds a huge healing potential.
Suppression of negative emotions about traumatic events in the past can be the reason for serious psychological issues causing continuous high-level distress. Hypnosis is a very effective treatment for anxiety.
Already in World War I and II, hypnotherapy had been offering fast improvements in treating the war fatigue of the soldiers. This was done by accessing and experiencing emotional memories of the traumatic war events.
Soldiers were not able to process these emotions on the battlefield and experienced severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Through the processing of suppressed emotions under hypnosis, soldiers experienced relief from PTSD symptoms.
A competent hypnotherapist creates a safe environment and takes care of you during the whole hypnotherapy session. After an intense session of Transformational Hypnotherapy, a client may feel tired but also experiences a huge emotional relief.
Let’s Compare with Medicines
The most-sold medicine in the US in 2015, Humira (generic name Adalimumab), the most-sold prescription medicine made up $8.2 billion in sales.
Adalimumab is used to reduce inflammation by acting on the immune system. It treats conditions like arthritis and Crohn’s disease
Common side effects of Adalimumab that happen in more than 1 in 10 people are:
- pain, swelling, redness, or itchy skin where your injection was given
- a mild nose, throat, or sinus infection
- a headache
- stomach pains, feeling or being sick
- a rash
- muscle or bone pains
These side effects might be experienced up to 4 months after you stop taking adalimumab.
The 2nd most-sold medicine in the US in 2015, Abilify (aripiprazole) made up $7.9 billion in sales.
Aripiprazole is used to treat certain mental and mood disorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, and irritability associated with autistic disorder.
It works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters). This medication can decrease hallucinations and improve concentration. It helps to think more clearly and positively about yourself, feel less nervous, and take a more active part in everyday life.
The side effects of aripiprazole include:
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, excess saliva/drooling, blurred vision, weight gain, constipation, headache, and trouble sleeping may occur.
Many of these side effects are typical for antidepressant drugs in general.
Common side effects of Aspirin, as a commonly used medicine and frequently advised by medical specialists, include:
- rash, gastrointestinal ulcerations, abdominal pain, upset stomach, heartburn, drowsiness, headache, cramping, nausea, gastritis, and bleeding.
Can hypnosis damage your brain?
No, hypnosis is a natural state of your brain – relaxed, yet alert and focused.
You naturally enter such a state just before you fall asleep and after you woke up but aren’t fully awake yet.
Does hypnosis have long-term effects?
Yes, the state of hypnosis activates the ability of your brain to change – neuroplasticity. Therapies use the state of hypnosis and enhanced neuroplasticity to achieve fast positive shifts in thinking and behavior. These positive changes are long-term due to changes in the brain.
- Hypnosis is a safe treatment
- Side effects of hypnosis are rare, mild, and short-lived
- The positive and fast results of hypnotherapy overweight significantly the rare and mild negative effects
- It is highly advisable to spend some quiet time after a longer hypnotherapy session to rest
- Side effects of hypnosis are insignificant compared to those of the most used medicines
Please share in the comments below what was your personal experience of hypnosis.
- Otgaar H, Howe ML, Patihis L. What science tells us about false and repressed memories. Memory. 2022 Jan;30(1):16-21. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2020.1870699. Epub 2021 Jan 12. PMID: 33435830.
- Smith, G. Elliot., Pear, T. H. (1918). Shell shock and its lessons. 2d ed. Manchester: University press.
- Brown, W. (1923) Clinical: William Brown. Psychopathology and Dissociation. British Medical Journal, Vol. I, 1920, p. 139 et seq.. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 4:335