By Ian Lipski, M.D., and Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D.
You know that feeling of being so wrapped up in a good book or great movie that you lose track of time or self? That's very similar to what hypnosis is like; it's a state of highly focused attention that allows a patient to concentrate on a self-created image so that the awareness of his or her current environment becomes less important and less clear.
In the context of cancer treatment, it involves the use of imagery and relaxation to reduce anxiety or pain or overcome some other obstacles.
Hypnosis within a medical setting involves a shift in consciousness precipitated by a self-induced concentration exercise. Medical hypnosis empowers patients who are faced with a perceived loss of control and generally improves satisfaction with medical procedures and the hospital experience.
Extensive research indicates medical hypnosis can decrease pain and anxiety and the amount of medications needed in the interventional radiology suite. It can also shorten procedure time.
For claustrophobic patients undergoing MRIs, it has been shown to decrease the non-completion rate for some scans. Relieving pre-operative anxiety has been shown to lower intraoperative anesthetic requirements for some surgeries.
A hypnotic intervention begins with understanding a patient's sensory preferences and eye movements, and avoids negative suggestions (e.g., "this will hurt a little"). Practitioners try to match patient body language/position and incorporate language used in the hypnosis process.
Procedural hypnosis or guided imagery doesn't deal with the psychology or behavioral aspects of a patient's psyche.
The hypnosis procedure can take as little as five minutes.
Medical hypnosis used as a non-pharmacological adjunct has been found to ease patient discomfort, reduce hospital costs and improve patient satisfaction.
For more information on medical hypnosis or other therapies to reduce anxiety and pain, contact MD Anderson's Integrative Medicine Center at 713-794-4700.