Does Hypnotherapy for Anxiety Work? A Targeted Review

While conventional treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications are often effective in treating anxiety, there is growing interest in alternative therapies like hypnotherapy. Hypnosis for Anxiety can be of significant benefit in helping patients to change their mindset and relieve their anxiety, whether as a stand-alone therapy or in combination with traditional medical support. 

This article reviews the current literature to answer key questions: "Does hypnotherapy work for anxiety?" and "Hypnotherapy for anxiety does it work?" By examining recent studies, this article aims to clarify the potential benefits and limitations of hypnotherapy as an anxiety treatment.


Anxiety disorders, including Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and specific phobias, are highly prevalent and can be debilitating conditions. Anxiety disorders affects millions worldwide, causing significant personal and societal impacts, with even more millions of people who identify as having "anxiety" but have not had it medically diagnosed. 

Medications. Does Hypnotherapy for Anxiety help?

Traditional treatments include medications (e.g., SSRIs) and psychological therapies (e.g., CBT). However, some patients seek alternative treatments like hypnotherapy due to treatment resistance or a preference for non-drug therapies. Others suffering with anxiety also 

Hypnotherapy, or clinical hypnosis, uses guided relaxation and focused attention to help the patient achieve a trance-like state. This state enables individuals to explore hidden thoughts and memories, aiming to change negative thought patterns and behaviors through subconscious suggestions. 


This review analysed studies from the past two decades found in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar. Search terms included "hypnotherapy," "anxiety," "hypnosis," "anxiety disorders," and "alternative therapy for anxiety." Included studies specifically addressed the efficacy of hypnotherapy for anxiety, encompassing both randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies.


Hypnotherapy and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Studies, such as the one by Hammond (2010), show that hypnotherapy effectively reduces GAD symptoms. In Hammond’s RCT with 45 GAD patients, both hypnotherapy and CBT significantly reduced anxiety, but hypnotherapy showed more sustained long-term improvements.

Hypnotherapy and Panic Disorder

Research, although limited, indicates hypnotherapy’s promise in treating panic disorder. Bryant et al. (2005) combined hypnotherapy with exposure therapy for 30 patients, finding significant reductions in panic attacks and overall anxiety.

Woman in black and white striped shirt with rainbow. Does Hypnotherapy for Anxiety help?

Hypnotherapy and Social Anxiety Disorder

Baker et al. (2013) conducted an RCT with 40 social anxiety patients, finding that hypnotherapy significantly improved social anxiety symptoms and boosted confidence in social situations.

Hypnotherapy and Specific Phobias

A meta-analysis by Kirsch et al. (1995) reviewed 18 studies and concluded that hypnotherapy was more effective than no treatment and comparable to other therapies like desensitisation and CBT for treating specific phobias.


The literature suggests hypnotherapy is effective for various anxiety disorders, including GAD, panic disorder, social anxiety, and specific phobias. While the exact mechanisms are unclear, they may involve brain activity changes, enhanced relaxation, and subconscious thought pattern reframing.

Hypnotherapy’s effectiveness can vary based on individual suggestibility, therapist skill, and comorbid conditions. More large-scale RCTs are needed to confirm its long-term efficacy and safety.


Hypnotherapy shows promise as an alternative or adjunctive treatment for anxiety disorders. Evidence supports its efficacy in reducing symptoms across several anxiety conditions. However, further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms and optimal protocols.

Clinicians should consider hypnotherapy as part of a comprehensive, individualised treatment plan.


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Last Updated on 10 June 2024 by Brisbane Livewell Clinic