When you hear the word hypnosis, you may picture the mysterious hypnotist figure popularized in movies, comic books and television. This ominous, goateed man waves a pocket watch back and forth, guiding his subject into a semi-sleep, zombie-like state. Once hypnotized, the subject is compelled to obey, no matter how strange or immoral the request. Muttering "Yes, master," the subject does the hypnotist's evil bidding.
In 1784, at the request of King Louis XVI, a Board of Inquiry started to investigate whether animal magnetism existed. Among the board members were founding father of modern chemistry Antoine Lavoisier, Benjamin Franklin, and an expert in pain control, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. They investigated the practices of a disaffected student of Mesmer, one Charles d'Eslon (1750–1786), and though they concluded that Mesmer's results were valid, their placebo-controlled experiments using d'Eslon's methods convinced them that mesmerism was most likely due to belief and imagination rather than to an invisible energy ("animal magnetism") transmitted from the body of the mesmerist.
Hypnosis has been used as a pain relieving technique during dental surgery and related pain management regimens as well. Researchers like Jerjes and his team have reported that hypnosis can help even those patients who have acute to severe orodental pain. Additionally, Meyerson and Uziel have suggested that hypnotic methods have been found to be highly fruitful for alleviating anxiety in patients suffering from severe dental phobia.
Hypnotherapy has been studied for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Hypnosis for IBS has received moderate support in the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance published for UK health services. It has been used as an aid or alternative to chemical anesthesia, and it has been studied as a way to soothe skin ailments.
Hypnotism has also been used in forensics, sports, education, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. Hypnotism has also been employed by artists for creative purposes, most notably the surrealist circle of André Breton who employed hypnosis, automatic writing, and sketches for creative purposes. Hypnotic methods have been used to re-experience drug states and mystical experiences. Self-hypnosis is popularly used to quit smoking, alleviate stress and anxiety, promote weight loss, and induce sleep hypnosis. Stage hypnosis can persuade people to perform unusual public feats.
Since hypnotherapy is an adjunct form of therapy, used along with other forms of psychological or medical treatment, there are many applications. Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, phobias, substance abuse including tobacco, sexual dysfunction, undesirable spontaneous behaviors, and bad habits. It can be used to help improve sleep, learning disorders, communication, and relationship issues. Hypnotherapy can aid in pain management and help resolve medical conditions such as digestive disorders, skin issues, and gastrointestinal side effects of pregnancy and chemotherapy. It can also be used by dentists to help patients control their fears or to treat teeth grinding and other oral conditions.