In 1987, Marilyn Bellezzo was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder that was, for her,debilitating.
"I was housebound," Bellezzo said. She spent hours curled up on the bathroom floor, suffering from abdominal pain and diarrhea. "I had to raise my children through the bathroom door," said the now 59-year-old resident of Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Over the next 12 years, Bellezzo tried medications anddiets, to no avail. Then as a last resort, she started listening to audio tapes designed to treat IBS through hypnosis.
They made a difference. Now, she says her symptoms are virtually gone.
"I went from that level of severity to just having an occasional episodes lasting a few minutes," Bellezzo said.
addition to IBS, a number of rigorous studies have found the practice is effective at mollifying chronic pain and reducing stress and anxiety before surgery. Studies have also shown hypnosis reduces health care costs — patients who use it stay in the hospital for shorter periods and use less medication.
So why don't more people and hospitals use hypnosis? Part of the reason may be its stigma — patients anddoctorsmay think of it more as "hocus pocus" than science. Another reason may be problems with the quality of hypnosis studies, leading doctors to be wary that it wastes time and money.
All of these are misperceptions, its advocates say.
"Hypnosis is sort of the good kid with the bad reputation," said Julie Schnur a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "It’s a fantastic procedure and can be very effective and very helpful to patients, but does come with this baggage," Schnur said
The concept of hypnosis might call to mind an entertainer lulling an audience
member with a shiny pendulum, and then getting them bark like a dog.
But in medicine, hypnosis means putting a patient in anenhanced state of relaxationduring which the patient is more open to suggestions, said Harold Pass, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York. The patient is not asleep, nor unconscious, and does not lose control over his or her actions, Pass said.