Does hypnosis work?
November 29, 2011 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Does hypnosis work for habit curing? Details inside.

I am wondering if anybody has any experience with hypnosis and if it works for habit curing. I have come to realize that I have a huge trigger with free food, and it is derailing my weight loss efforts. I had several years where I was in an unhappy career, making little money, poor and broke and miserable. I had money and self-esteem issues as a result. And now I am in a much better place, but free food seems to be some sort of binge trigger for me. My rational brain knows that if I really want a cupcake, I can afford to buy one myself at a convenient time. But somehow, the free plate of cupcakes at work has an irresistible pull on me. I am fine as long as I am in situations such as at home where I control the food, but when there is free food e.g. at a party or work event, I have no self control. I try to exert willpower, and it literally seems to be beyond that and into a deeper place. I am at my wit's end and feel this is negatively effecting my life.

A coworker suggested I consider hypnosis; she used it to help her quit smoking, she says. Does this stuff work? If so, how can I find a qualified practitioner? I would love if this truly was a problem which could be fixed. Any stories, ideas, suggestions are welcome.
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Anecdata: Hypnosis had done absolutely nothing to help my FIL quit smoking. He tried it for many months, and being a curious sort even attended courses to learn to self-hypnotize. It hasn't worked at all.
posted by vidur at 8:00 PM on November 29, 2011

Does this stuff work?

It can, but hypnosis works better for some than others. And I really can't speak to its efficacy for issues around eating.

Also, many of those who offer hypnosis services are also therapists and many who do offer it aren't particularly attached to hypnosis if it's not working for their patients. It's like the little puppets you can use with kids to get them talking. Maybe a kid will use them, maybe not. They're just tools.

If so, how can I find a qualified practitioner?

If you call a local therapist usually they can give you a name right away.

I would love if this truly was a problem which could be fixed.

It is! And just by posting here you've already started to work on it.

Any stories, ideas, suggestions are welcome.

I went to some free sessions at my university (by the way, you can download some MP3s off the uni's website if you like, but none have to do with weight loss) and walked in to find a big, comfy chair, peaceful mood lighting, and a student intern who asked me some questions about what I hoped to accomplish, and then turned on a spoken word recording and left the room. I loved the way the positive ideas were presented while I was very relaxed. It made me feel like I was more open to change and it was a growing experience for me. It's amazing how much wiser you can be after you've consciously reduced the amount of anxiety in your system.

They gave me a new script to take home every time (a "script" is hypnosis parlance for the thing you're listening to), and after a while I offered to read some to my wife. She laughed at first but they were incredibly helpful to her when she had a bit of insomnia or stress.

Anyway, congrats on your decision and good luck!
posted by circular at 8:10 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you use hypnosis for pain control or to quit smoking or something similar, you're basically using selective attention to ignore symptoms (pain, nicotine cravings). Hypnosis gets you into a highly focused state to help you do that.

The length of time people can keep this up after being hypnotised ("posthypnotic suggestion") is about one to two weeks. (And some people are better at this than others.)

Getting hypnotised can help people quit smoking by helping them ignore cigarette cravings for the first week or so when it's hardest, but it doesn't really do anything long-term.

I don't see how it would help at all with what you're describing.

I think you should try seeing a psychologist who uses CBT or multiple approaches. (I'm not a psychologist, so I'm not going to try to recommend anything here.)
posted by nangar at 8:30 PM on November 29, 2011

(probably not a shocker, considering my nick) I have this problem too.

When I finally get to a better place in life (celebrate yours!) I plan to overstock on sweets and let myself binge as much as my deprived heart desires. I hope this will fill the void and put an end to the cravings. From here it looks as if three weeks of this should do the trick, but I haven't gotten there yet :-( to be able to check it out (if you choose this rout you might want to try to get the healthiest kind of sweets you can, to minimalize the damage).

Good luck and great for you that you're in a better place (in the meantime, when at a public place with free food, be as far away as possible from the food)!
posted by ThiefOfSweets at 2:18 AM on November 30, 2011

My husband has been a hypnotist for a number of years. In general, it helps with quitting smoking if the person is motivated. Meaning, if they go in at the request of a spouse, it's not as likely to work as if they decide to do it themselves. Some people do come back after a couple of years for a booster session, but if it's gonna take, it usually takes for longer than a week or two.

With food issues, it can take more than one session. Food is really ingrained into our psyches.

If you decide to try it, I'd look for a clinically trained hypnotist. You may be able to find a therapist or psychologist who also uses hypnosis as part of their practice, and discuss with them whether it would be a good fit for you.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:47 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

vidur: "Anecdata: Hypnosis had done absolutely nothing to help my FIL quit smoking. He tried it for many months, and being a curious sort even attended courses to learn to self-hypnotize. It hasn't worked at all"

On the other hand, my mother seems to think it helped her a great deal. she was 2 packs/day for many years, did hypnosis 15 years ago, and hasn't had a smoke since.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:18 AM on November 30, 2011

This is an ideal sort of issue for hypnosis. I had a close friend with a very similar problem, and he gained a remarkable degree of control over it in a short time with hypnosis. The beneficial effects have lasted for >20 years, and have helped with other issues as well. Of course, it doesn't work for everyone, but it's definitely worth a try.
posted by Corvid at 4:58 PM on November 30, 2011

My mother went to a hypnotist to quit smoking and it worked. I went to the same hypnotist for weight-loss and it didn't work.
posted by deborah at 12:10 AM on December 2, 2011

I went to a hypnotist for a fear of needles when I needed some regular blood tests done. I was extremely resistant, claimed I couldn't be hypnotised, refused to lie back in the chair and dragged my boyfriend along with me.

It worked.

Good luck!
posted by LyzzyBee at 2:31 PM on December 9, 2011

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