OCD and Hypnosis

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

I recently came across this article about Howie Mandel being hypnotized. Apparently while Mr. Mandel was under hypnosis, many people were able to shake his hand; something he otherwise never allows.

I admit I know very little about hypnosis, which is defined as “a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.” As a teenager, I attended a couple of events where people were hypnotized, and the participants obviously said and did things they wouldn’t normally do. I actually found that frightening.

Sure enough, if you search the Internet for “OCD and hypnosis”, you will find all sorts of claims, ranging from hypnosis as a helpful tool for those with OCD to assertions that OCD can be cured through hypnosis. Can hypnosis help those with OCD? I don’t know. But in my almost five years of blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever heard from anyone who has had first-hand success treating his or her OCD with hypnosis. What bothers me most about this information is that it steers those with OCD and their loved ones in the wrong direction; away from evidence-based treatment that does work: exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

In fact, the way I see it, hypnosis and ERP appear to be opposite in some ways. At least in reference to the “reduced peripheral awareness.” While hypnosis reduces your awareness of what’s going on around you because your focus is narrowed, ERP therapy requires you to be aware of what’s happening all around you, so that you can feel the anxiety that is being created by a specific situation during therapy. In the article, Mr. Mandel describes being hypnotized,  “… like a real and natural Xanax.” No anxiety there.

The bottom line is there is no easy fix for those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Recovery is possible, but it likely takes more than being hypnotized. It takes courage, it takes determination, and it takes ERP therapy.

That being said, if you’ve had successful experiences (or not so successful) with hypnosis, I’d love to hear from you. We all can learn so much from each other.





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7 Responses to OCD and Hypnosis

  1. grannyK says:

    I just plain don’t understand how it works. I mean, how can someone manipulate another so easily? And, as soon as it’s over, wouldn’t you go right back to where you were?

    • All good questions, Granny K, and I don’t have the answers. I’ve heard of people being helped with habits such as smoking, though I’m not sure how successful the hypnosis is long term. Lots of unanswered questions!

  2. I’d be open to trying it.

  3. I’m trained hypnotist as well as a therapist. Trance states are very common. Get lost in a book so the outside world fades away and you are trancing. Drive a familiar route while thinking hard about a problem and then realize you are at your destination and do not remember driving yourself there? Trancing. Meditation? Trancing. Many people use hypnotic tools to bring you to their corner. Think Hitler, think televangelists, think most religious services, think advertising.

    Can a hypnotist get you to do stuff without your consent? Some say all hypnotism is self-hypnotism and therefore aligns with what you want. A good hypnotist can get you to do lots of stuff you would not do ordinarily by hooking into related things you want to do. Want to please someone and if that someone is a hypnotist, he or she could get you crowing like a rooster in front of a thousand people.

    Anytime some says “Close your eyes” and imagine ….” you are being invited into a trance state. I always suggest in any of the above situations, reminding yourself to stay safe, and do only what will not violate your honor system or make you regret how you act.

    All of that said, for a hypnotically talented (and that means some one who goes into a trance easily) person, it is wonderful tool. Most of my successes were helping people give up smoking. That only worked, however, if the person was 100% ready to stop.

    With OCD, I doubt it would provide a “cure” and actually the exposure and response seems to be to be the better option. That said, I think it can partner well with that form of treatment. In fact, it sounds to me somewhat like a trance state or maybe it should be used in conjunction with a trance state. One can use a trance state to live the exposure experience in a controlled way and add a successful outcome. I call that rehearsing success.

    Hope my thoughts are helpful.


    • Hi Katherine, Thanks for sharing. You are always surprising me! I didn’t know you are a trained hypnotist. I’m not sure I understand your last paragraph explaining how hypnosis and ERP can work together. Do you mean ERP should be conducted during hypnosis and the person should imagine a good outcome? I appreciate you sharing your expertise.

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