Hypnotherapy and Anorexia

Hypnotherapy or hypnosis has a long and successful history in treating anorexia nervosa.

According to Baker and Nash (1987) and Nash and Baker (1993) hypnosis was introduced to anorectic patients as a means of gaining enhanced self-control associated with various opportunities for increased security and mastery. The induction techniques used were structured and permissive. Hypnotic interventions were specifically designed to enhance the patient’s personal sense of power, to increase capacity for autonomous functioning, to support the therapeutic alliance, to provide a sense of ego support that leads to mastery and expectations for success. Hypnotic techniques were also used to correct body-image distortions seen as closely associated with the issue of integration or an appropriate and mature sense of personality. Improvement of body imagery and general identity integration led to enhancement of the client’s general capacity for mastery. This treatment approach was used successfully with 36 women with anorexia. Follow-up data at 5 and 12 months indicated that 76% of the patients demonstrated remission of symptoms and an acceptable, stabilized weight. In contrast, of 38 women who were treated identically without the use of hypnosis, only 53% achieved the same level of symptom remission and stabilized acceptable weight.

anorexiaHornyak (1996) presenting a case of treatment of anorexia nervosa that lasted 20 months provided detailed presentation of the issued involved in hypnotherapy. At different stages of the treatment, hypnotherapy focused on self-regulation, relaxation for mastery and control of tension states, affect identification and symptom management, ego-strengthening, “parts metaphors” based on ego-state theory, hypnotic intervention for the frustrated self state, autonomy and separation concerns, hypnotic interventions designed to accentuate the experience of separateness, hypnotic imaginary-mirror exercises, internalization and integration . According to Hornyak “hypnotic interventions can strengthen the self structure by providing needed self experiences within the context of a supportive relationship” (p.70). Three years after treatment, the client reported continued progress and, although at one point she had lost 5 lbs, she had regained the weight.

Barabasz (2000) used hypnotic techniques of integration/replication to treat a case of a woman with anorexia with body image distortion.

Baker EL & Nash MR (1987). Applications of hypnosis in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 29, 185-193. Barabasz M (2000). Hypnosis in the treatment of eating disorders.

In L. M. Hornyak & JP Green (Eds), The use of hypnosis in women’s health care. Washington DC: American Psychological Association Hornyak LM (1996) Hypnosis in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. In SJ Lynn, I Kirsch and JW Rhue (Eds),

Casebook of clinical hypnosis (pp 51-73). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Nash MR & Baker EL (1993). Hypnosis in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. In JW Rue, SJ Lynn & I Kirsch (Eds), Handbook of clinical hypnosis (pp. 383-394). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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