Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic method that aims to induce a state of hypnosis. Some people say it helps with symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), although evidence is limited.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by persistent and unwanted thoughts and compulsions. These symptoms can be extremely debilitating and distressing.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the most effective treatment for OCD.
Hypnotherapy has been successfully used to treat some cases of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, but can it help OCD?
Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic method to induce an altered “trance-like” state of mind in which you may be able to temporarily block out external stimuli while remaining highly focused.
Though the terms hypnosis and hypnotherapy are often used interchangeably, there’s a distinct difference between them.
While hypnosis is a state of mind, hypnotherapy is a therapeutic treatment that uses hypnosis to manage a variety of mental and physical health conditions or everyday challenges.
While under hypnosis, deep relaxation is possible and some people may be more open to suggestion.
Hypnosis may sometimes be experienced similarly to being immersed in a good movie or book or even driving a familiar route (when you don’t remember the drive). It’s a bit like being half-awake and half-asleep.
Hypnotherapy has been used to treat the following conditions:
- substance use disorder
- behavioral changes
- chronic pain
- eating disorders
- grief and loss
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- sleep disorders
Hypnotherapy for mental health and medical conditions can only be practiced by a hypnotherapist – a licensed or certified professional.
There is very limited scientific research on the long-term effects of hypnotherapy for OCD. A few case studies may discuss hypnotherapeutic strategies for OCD but it’s unclear if hypnotherapy has any lasting healing effects on the condition.
Proponents of hypnotherapy say that, theoretically, during the relaxed state of hypnosis, a person could safely address some of their OCD intrusive thoughts or obsessions.
For instance, a person with an intense fear of germs can consider these thoughts under hypnosis without experiencing the anxiety that usually accompanies them.
Then any insights achieved during the hypnosis state may be brought back to the conscious mind. This could allow you to discuss them with your therapist and work on coping skills to reduce the distress these thoughts cause.
There’s not much recent research that confirms if this is possible for most people with OCD.
A hypnotherapeutic approach – hypnotically induced dissociation (HID) – has been used to identify and address the dissociative symptoms of OCD with psychotic features.
Dissociation is the feeling of being disconnected from your emotions, thoughts, memories, actions, and sense of self. Some people with OCD experience dissociation, and
Researchers have found that HID may complement traditional OCD interventions such as CBT and EMDR. However, more studies are needed.
Based on 4 decades of
Of all types of CBT, exposure-based treatments have the largest evidence base for OCD.
In fact, the first breakthrough for OCD occurred with the development of exposure and response (ritual) prevention (ERP) in 1966.
ERP gradually exposes you to your fears until you’re no longer reactive to that stimuli. It’s estimated that about 80% of people with OCD respond well to ERP, and it’s still recommended as the first-line treatment for the disorder.
Other treatment options for OCD include the following:
- medication (typically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
- combo treatment of CBT and medication
- deep brain stimulation (DBS)
- transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
Though research on hypnotherapy for OCD is minimal, it doesn’t necessarily rule it out. There are testimonies of people finding success with this type of therapy.
Hypnotherapy may be a complementary option for some people already receiving treatment for OCD symptoms.
If you do decide to try it, it’s highly advisable that you consider a licensed hypnotherapist with experience with OCD.