Hypnosis is associated with the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for two reasons: (1) the similarity between hypnotic phenomena and the symptoms of PTSD, and (2) the utility of hypnosis as a tool in treatment. Physical trauma produces a sudden discontinuity in cognitive and emotional experience that often persists after the trauma is over. This results in symptoms such as psychogenic amnesia, intrusive reliving of the event as if it were recurring, numbing of responsiveness, and hypersensitivity to stimuli. Two studies have shown that Vietnam veterans with PTSD have higher than normal hypnotizability scores on standardized tests. Likewise, a history of physical abuse in childhood has been shown to be strongly associated with dissociative symptoms later in life. Furthermore, dissociative symptoms during and soon after traumatic experience predict later PTSD. Formal hypnotic procedures are especially helpful because this population is highly hypnotizable. Hypnosis provides controlled access to memories that may otherwise be kept out of consciousness. New uses of hypnosis in the psychotherapy of PTSD victims involve coupling access to the dissociated traumatic memories with positive restructuring of those memories. Hypnosis can be used to help patients face and bear a traumatic experience by embedding it in a new context, acknowledging helplessness during the event, and yet linking that experience with remoralizing memories such as efforts at self-protection, shared affection with friends who were killed, or the ability to control the environment at other times. In this way, hypnosis can be used to provide controlled access to memories that are then placed into a broader perspective. Patients can be taught self-hypnosis techniques that allow them to work through traumatic memories and thereby reduce spontaneous unbidden intrusive recollections.
View details for Web of Science ID A1990EF22100008
View details for PubMedID 2211565