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Table of Contents > Articles > Will Hypnotherapy Help Your Asthma?
Will Hypnotherapy Help Your Asthma?

If you are familiar with the shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing of asthma, you are not alone. Today, over 10 million Americans suffer from this chronic illness in which the airways become inflamed, making it difficult to get air in and out. Conventional therapies work to prevent and control symptoms with anti-inflammatory drugs, bronchodilators, and antibiotics (when asthma is the result of a bacterial infection). While conventional medications help to relieve symptoms, they may also have undesirable side effects. Over the past 20 years, researchers have taken a closer look at an alternative treatment for asthma: hypnotherapy (the name given to hypnosis when it's used for medical purposes). So, does the research support using this alternative approach to care, and if so, how do you use hypnotherapy to manage asthma?

The medical community in general does recognize hypnotherapy as helpful for a number of health conditions, including asthma. In particular, hypnotherapists can help you handle anxiety and stress, which often intensify asthma symptoms. A recent article presented a summary of 20 different studies on hypnotherapy in asthma treatment, published between 1960 and 1997 and involving over one thousand subjects from 2 to 80 years of age. The authors conclude that hypnotherapy is a powerful technique for treating asthma and that more studies are needed to explore its effects.

The authors of this study also note, however, that hypnotherapy is more effective in subjects who are more "susceptible" to it. It seems that some people respond more to a hypnotherapist's suggestions than others: about 20 percent of people take to hypnotic suggestion easily, 20 percent do not respond at all, and the rest of us fall somewhere in between. Children over the age of 5 generally respond well to hypnotherapy. You may have difficulty responding to hypnotherapy if you have a strong desire to remain in control of your circumstances. You may also struggle if you feel uncomfortable working with a hypnotherapist or are used to accepting a more passive role in your own health care. Hypnotherapy requires you to be an active partner and to commit yourself to regular self-hypnosis (which a therapist can teach you). Those who benefit the most practice 15 to 20 minutes of self-hypnosis every day.

So how does hypnotherapy work? In a typical hypnotherapy session, a hypnotherapist will work to bring you into a trance-like state. This state is a normal part of human consciousness. In fact, many of us enter this state on our own on a regular basis—we refer to it as "drifting off into space" or "spacing out." A hypnotized person is fully aware of what's going on and can end the session if he or she is feeling uncomfortable. Once a trance-like state is achieved, a hypnotherapist can suggest how you should feel about something when you wake up.

A variety of approaches to hypnotherapy have resulted in similar and sometimes dramatic improvements in asthma. For some people, self-hypnosis has helped to reduce the intensity of sudden episodes of wheezing and has helped them to avoid a hospital visit; for some it has completely eliminated the need for medication. For most, hypnotherapy is an effective addition to an overall treatment plan. More and more doctors agree: When taught by a well-trained and skilled clinician, hypnotherapy can be, and often is, helpful for managing asthma.

To find a qualified hypnotherapist, ask your doctor or look on the Internet at the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists' Web site at


Chronic: refers to an illness or disease that develops slowly and is persistent (often lifelong)


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Review Date: October 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

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