How Do You Treat Nausea with Hypnosis?

Woman on plane by window breathing into a bag

Nausea is a very common symptom that affects most everyone at some point in their lives and causes uneasiness of the stomach.  Sometimes it occurs before throwing up.  Nausea can be caused by infections, ingestion of a substance such as alcohol, chemotherapy, acid reflux from the stomach, motion sickness, eating too much or too little, and can also originate from psychological issues.  Sometimes, nausea even represents the body’s way of saying that the patient cannot stomach something in their life, such as undesired temptations, or a toxic interpersonal relationship. 

Frequently, nausea resolves quickly if it is a result of a temporary issue such as an infection or car ride.  However, sometimes nausea recurs for a long time such as if is caused by an untreated physical issue such as acid reflux, or unaddressed psychological issue, such as fear of throwing up (emetophobia).  Unfortunate patients can have constant nausea that can persist for weeks or months. 

Why Hypnosis can Help with Nausea 

Even if nausea is caused by a physical issue, such as chemotherapy, hypnosis has been shown in a number of studies to help relieve its intensity.  The reason hypnosis can work in this setting is that the sensation of nausea is felt in the brain, and patients can learn to change how their brains react to a nausea signal from the body. 

Hypnosis and counseling can help with nausea caused by a psychological issue when used to help a patient deal better with the triggers of their psychological stress. 

Hypnosis Methods to Treat Nausea 

When nausea is related to a physical issue, metaphors that suggest downward motion can be helpful, since nausea heralds the possibility of something coming up.  Therefore, imagery of a waterfall, rainfall, an escalator going down, or even landing on the moon can be helpful to resolve nausea.  Another image that can help is imagining turn down a dial or lowering a lever that control the nausea.  Usually, I will ask the patient what imagery they like the best or ask their subconscious to suggest an image. 

For nausea that is related to psychology, it is often important to direct therapy at the core reason for the symptom.  Thus, if a patient does not like him or herself, hypnosis can be used to help strengthen their confidence in themselves or self-worth.  One way of accomplishing this is to remind patients of how they have overcome challenges in the past, which demonstrates their abilities.  Another approach might be to introduce patients to the power of their subconscious that helps them respect themselves more once they appreciate the knowledge, wisdom, and abilities that they harbor within. 

Take Home Message 

Once the trigger of nausea is identified, hypnosis therapy can be focused effectively, which often is associated with improvement or resolution of the symptom. 

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Author
Profile Photo or Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP Ran D. Anbar, MD Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP, is board certified in both pediatric pulmonology and general pediatrics, offering hypnosis and counseling services at Center Point Medicine in La Jolla, California, and Syracuse, New York. Dr. Anbar is also a fellow and approved consultant of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Dr. Anbar is a leader in clinical hypnosis, and his 20 years of experience have allowed him to successfully treat over 5,000 children. He also served as a professor of pediatrics and medicine and the director of pediatric pulmonology at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, for 21 years.

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