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Can Hypnosis Stop my Binge Eating?

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/12/2011

Hypnosis is viewed skeptically by some as a treatment for any condition. However, there are studies that highlight its effectiveness in treating in chronic pain. This has led some to wonder if hypnosis would be a useful binge eating treatment.

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    Why Use Hypnosis for Binge Eating?

    Binge eating disorder is characterized by regularly eating unusual amounts of food even when full1. Binge eaters are prone to eat rapidly and feel out of control during binging episodes. There are other emotional signs related to binge eating including anxiety and depression. Feeling disgusted or upset during eating is also likely, and people with binge eating disorder suffer from compulsions to eat. Changing this behavior is an obvious goal for people who binge eat, and this is where hypnosis is thought to help treat binge eating.

    Hypnosis is a trance like state where the individual is open to suggestion which can be used to modify perceptions, behavior, and emotions2. During this period, people can focus on specific thoughts or feelings and usually feel calm and relaxed. Hypnosis has been found to be effective in helping to treat many problems including pain, smoking, and stress. Because of this, it has been suggested that it might be able to treat binge eating. Hypnosis, however, has not been studied in this context.

    This article will briefly look at research where it has been studied to assess whether hypnosis can help stop binge eating. Specifically, research concerning hypnosis and weight loss will be discussed.

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    Is Hypnosis Effective as a Weight Loss Technique?

    Hypnosis appears to be helpful for weight loss, but this is only when it is used with other weight loss techniques3. In an overview of six studies conducted by Irvin Kirsch, he identified an overall weight loss of 12.83 lbs for those who had hypnosis in conjunction with their weight loss treatments. Those who didn't receive hypnosis only lost 6 lbs after six months. Of the six studies, two found weight loss to be less among those who received hypnosis and all but one of these studies had small sample sizes. The one study with a fairly large sample size of 109 found higher weight loss among those who received hypnosis.

    Hypnosis appears to be effective as a complementary treatment for weight loss. In this regard, hypnosis may be helpful for people who suffer from binge eating since they are likely to be overweight or obese. Still, there is little evidence to suggest that hypnosis can stop binge eating, but further research should be conducted to study this relationship. It's thought to work because behaviors and emotions can be modified using hypnosis. Binge eating may be one of these behaviors.

    There are some caveats for anyone who would like to try this treatment. First, the evidence is lacking, so your doctor should be consulted for a second opinion. There are possible side effects with hypnosis which include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and anxiety. Secondly, other treatments for binge eating disorder exist and should be used first, with hypnosis as a complementary treatment. Finally, if you are to use hypnosis to treat binge eating, choose a certified hypnotist who has a background in psychology.