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Does Hypnosis for Anxiety Actually Work? Everything You Need to Know


For some people, the term “hypnosis“ may conjure up images of joking around on stage, with audience members barking like dogs or convinced they’ve turned into Batman and can save the world!

When done appropriately, however, hypnosis is actually a gentle means of guiding the mind that’s used as a complementary therapy for anxiety (and numerous other conditions) by many legitimate medical professionals.

During hypnosis, the person’s attention is so focused while in this state that anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out or ignored. In this naturally occurring state, a person may focus their attention — with the help of a trained therapist — on specific thoughts or tasks

Interestingly, trained hypnotherapists often say all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, meaning that the subject is really the practitioner. Self-hypnosis is similar to guided imagery — a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) technique — combined with positive affirmations.


What Are the Benefits of Hypnotherapy?

The hypnotic state allows a person to be more open to discussion and suggestion. It can improve the success of other treatments for many conditions, including:

  • Phobias, fears, and anxiety
  • Some sleep disorders
  • Stress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Grief and loss
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It also might be used to help with pain control and to overcome habits, such as smoking or overeating. It also might be helpful for people whose symptoms are severe or who need crisis management.


How Does Hypnotherapy Work?

Hypnotherapy can be used in two ways, as suggestion therapy or for patient psychoanalysis.

  • Suggestion therapy: The hypnotic state makes the person better able to respond to suggestions. Therefore, hypnotherapy can help some people change certain behaviours, such as to stopping smoking or nail-biting. It can also help people change perceptions and sensations and is particularly useful in treating certain kinds of pain.
  • Analysis: This approach uses the relaxed state to explore possible unconscious factors that may be related to a psychological conflict such as a traumatic past event that a person has hidden in their unconscious memory. Once the trauma is revealed, it can be addressed in psychotherapy. However, hypnosis is nowadays not considered a “mainstream” part of psychoanalytic psychotherapies.


Common Questions 


Will Hypnosis Make Me Asleep or Unconscious?

No. Hypnosis is not something that is ‘done’ to someone – it is a participatory and collaborative process. Contrary to the term often used in pop culture, you will not “go under” hypnosis. In fact, most patients report a juxtaposition of heightened mental focus and relaxed physiological experiencing.

I Have Really Bad Anxiety. Will Hypnosis Work on Me?

Many people with anxiety disorders have anticipatory anxiety. That is, once people have had an unexpected experience that elicited a negative or uncomfortable reaction, they can often become worried and/or expectant that it will happen again. 

You are literally giving yourself the suggestion that you are going to become anxious… and voila… you become anxious. So, if you are talented at giving yourself negative hypnotic suggestion that means that you are hypnotisable and also have the capacity to be responsive to positive hypnotic suggestion! Anxious people tend to be at least moderately hypnotisable. They are already skilled at imagining something vividly and experiencing the reality of that imagining in an emotional and or physiological reaction.

Can Hypnosis for Anxiety Work?  

Clinical hypnosis lends itself well as an adjunctive anxiety treatment modality. Hypnosis can also be integrated with insight-oriented anxiety approaches used to understand and work through the origins of anxiety symptoms. For example, hypnotic daydreaming is a way of generating naturalistic and projective ideas and images about the core needs, wishes, and fears underlying anxiety. Lastly, attachment-focused hypnosis is a method for developing and cultivating positive internal resources to promote healing from relational attachment trauma and associated developmental wounds.



When you find your mental health under attack, try these simple steps for anxiety-reducing self-hypnosis.

How to Practice Self-Hypnosis

  1. Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Know that you can use self-hypnosis anywhere, but distraction-free surroundings certainly help with focus, especially if you’re new to the practice.
  2. For a few moments, breathe deeply, rhythmically, and slowly. You may want to inhale and exhale to the count of four. Or breathe in, hold for a moment, and release for a longer exhalation. Find whatever feels most calming for you. If you haven’t yet, close your eyes.
  3. Picture yourself in a place that brings you comfort and peace. It doesn’t have to be anywhere you’ve ever been or even a real location. You could be riding a unicorn on Jupiter if it soothes you. Or you might choose somewhere your bathtub or the beach. You can even return to a happy memory. Just isolate a pleasant environment where you’d like to spend some time.
  4. Engage all of your senses to ground yourself in your new mental surroundings. Smell your grandmother’s family-recipe apple pie, if you’ve chosen to return to a childhood memory. Feel the ocean breeze on your face and the sand between your toes as you visualise lying on the beach. Watch the flicker of candlelight from your vantage point in a relaxing bubble bath.
  5. Choose an affirmation you feel you need at this moment. An affirmation can be tailored to the specifics of any situation or as simple as a few little words like, “I am safe” or “I am strong.”
  6. Repeat this until you start to feel better

If you’ve experienced hypnosis, we’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

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