One non-drug treatment for erectile dysfunction that is attracting some attention is hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion.
What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is the induction of a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration. It is a natural mental state known as the Alpha state of consciousness. It is characterized as a condition of increased relaxation where the conscious mind becomes passive and ideas and suggestions can be introduced to the unconscious mind more readily.
The word hypnotism comes from the Greek work “hypnos” meaning sleep. However, hypnosis is not sleep. Hypnosis is actually a state of keen awareness. Although the subject feels relaxed and tranquil, he is aware of everything around him. He can chose whether or not to accept suggestions from the hypnotist (or hypnotherapist). He cannot be made to do anything that is against his will.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about hypnosis, most of them due to stage shows, television, and movies. The process of hypnosis often conjures up an image of the hypnotist swinging a pocket watch in front of his subject’s face, telling him that he is getting “very sleepy”. After the subject falls into a zombie-like trance, the subject begins barking like a dog, singing like Elvis, or acting in some other bizarre manner. But these images do not represent true hypnosis.
Most people have probably experienced hypnosis without realizing it. We pass through the Alpha state as we fall asleep at night and again as we awaken in the morning. We also enter the Alpha state when we are imagining and daydreaming. Television can bring about a state of hypnosis. Have you ever shed a tear when watching a sad television program? You entered a state of increased suggestibility where your reasoning ability (which is contained in your conscious mind) was bypassed. You did not reason that the show was just acting; you accepted the action as being real. So you reacted with real emotion.
TV advertisers have known about the hypnotic power of television for years and have certainly capitalized on it! Advertisers spend billions of dollars to send messages to you, convincing you to part with your hard-earned money to buy their “youth enhancing” skin care product or the latest model SUV. Some advertising plays on the element of fear – e.g. if you don’t buy this life insurance, your loved ones may end up homeless.
But hypnosis can provide many benefits as well. Hypnosis can be an effective method to help you gain control over undesired behaviors (such as smoking, insomnia, obesity, and phobias) or to help you cope better with anxiety or pain.
There are hundreds of different methods that a hypnotist can use to create the Alpha state of consciousness, ranging from counting to progressive relaxation to visual imagery. Once in the Alpha state, the hypnotist can then communicate with the unconscious mind, which is the seat of our emotions.
Does Hypnosis Work for Erectile Dysfunction?
Although there are hundreds of websites that claim that hypnosis sessions or hypnosis CDs can help you overcome erectile dysfunction, there is really not too much scientific evidence. However, most practitioners agree that hypnosis is most successful when erectile dysfunction is not caused by a physical issue such as diabetes, pulmonary disease, heart disease, and other disorders or diseases that restrict blood flow to the penis.
The American Medical Association (AMA) accepted hypnosis in 1958 as an effective method for treating stress and stress-related symptoms. Therefore, when erectile dysfunction is caused by self-imposed mental pressure or anticipatory anxiety – that is, being nervous or stressed or fearing rejection from a partner – it makes sense that hypnosis can be effective. Hypnosis can also be beneficial when erectile dysfunction is due to depression, alcohol, smoking, and drug use.
In a study published in 2003 in British Journal of Urology International, hypnotherapy helped to improve the sexual function of men with non-organic impotence at a rate of 80%. Hypnotherapy outperformed both testosterone (60%) and trazodone (67%). Men who received a placebo had only a 39% improvement rate.
A study published in 1997 in Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology also showed that hypnotherapy is effective when treating impotence that cannot be linked to physical causes. The success rate for hypnotherapy was 75%, while the success rate for placebo was 43-47%. However, it should be noted that there were only 16 men in the hypnotherapy treatment group, and even the authors admitted that further study is needed.
In general, the goal of hypnosis is to reprogram the subconscious mind so that the anxiety, guilt, or fear associated with sexual performance is replaced with new patterns of thinking and feeling. During the Alpha state of hyper-suggestibility, the hypnotist can integrate positive expectations into the mind. In some cases, erectile dysfunction can be the result of one small thought locked away in the subconscious mind. Therapy sessions can help identify that thought and either eliminate it or alter the subject’s reaction to it.
What is the Length of Treatment?
Although length of treatment can vary considerably depending on the severity of the condition, most practitioners feel that erectile dysfunction can be successfully treated in 2-4 sessions. Follow-up visits are often recommended in order to monitor the patient’s condition and provide ongoing reinforcement.
Are There Risks Associated with Hypnosis?
There are basically no serious dangers associated with the practice of hypnosis. It is impossible to “get stuck” in hypnosis. The worst thing that could possibly happen while a subject is in hypnosis is that he might become so relaxed that he falls into a natural state of sleep for 20 or 30 minutes. Other rare adverse reactions include headache, distress, and creation of false memories.
However, it is important to realize that hypnosis is not regulated in the same way as medical practice, so finding a hypnotherapist who is properly licensed and certified is critical. Two national organizations that provide licensing and training are the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. When looking for a potential hypnotherapist, be sure to ask about where he/she is licensed, what his/her degree is in, and how much training he/she has had in hypnotherapy. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis takes a very strong position that hypnosis for the treatment of medical and psychological conditions should only be performed by licensed clinicians. This includes physicians, dentists, chiropractors, nurse practitioners, social workers and marital/family therapists. Most insurance companies will cover 50%-80% of the cost of individual therapy only if treated by licensed professionals.
Although there are many websites proclaiming great success, there is fairly limited research on the effectiveness of hypnosis as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. Because it is generally safe, men who are interested in non-medicinal treatments are certainly free to experiment with it. Keep in mind, however, that hypnosis can expensive and may not be covered by insurance. Also keep in mind that erectile dysfunction may be a sign of an underlying medical condition, so a complete physical examination by your doctor or healthcare provider is essential.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Source: American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
Source: British Journal of Urology International
Source: Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology