Q: Hypnosis as a Bipolar Treatment?
I recently discovered that my daughters boyfriend has been
diagnosed with bipolar. I was wondering if hypnosis could be a treatment that
his mother could look into? If so, could you recommend a good Doctor in Ohio? I
do know that he has been on just about every kind of medicine that is given for
this disorder. Nothing has been working for this kid. Please Help.
Dear Ms. C' --
I interpret your question as boiling down to this (pardon me if I'm off
target): there are treatments for bipolar disorder that have evidence
for their effectiveness; and then there are treatments that are offered by
someone, for some reason, that do not. Usually the reason for considering the
no-evidence group is money: the person offering the treatment "sold it" very
well, and raised some patient or family's hopes. Sometimes I wonder how someone
could do this, taking people's money for something that has no evidence for its
Sometimes the reason for considering the no-evidence
approach is hope. Sometimes people just want to believe a certain
treatment could work. It might be cheaper, or appear to be faster, or it might
be more acceptable to the patient and/or her family in some way. For example,
some people are much more comfortable with the idea of an herb or otherwise
"natural" treatment. For them, such an option may seem more attractive than a
"chemical", unless somehow the chemical has something else going for it (e.g
evidence for effectiveness).
But here's the catch: the person who offers a
treatment that has no evidence for its effectiveness usually believes,
totally, that what he (sic) is offering is going to help that patient. And
as a result, the treatment might just work! There's pretty good evidence that
really believing in the treatment you're offering -- just that, just believing
in it -- can make a treatment work. Humans are very persuade-able, very
"suggestible" under some conditions, and being desperate for help is one of
those. So if somebody really believes what they're doing can help, and is able
to really project that belief in some way so that it's obvious to the
person in the patient-role, for many mental health conditions that's enough to
get 25% to 30% of people clearly better. Depression is one of these. This is
part of the "placebo" response you've heard about.
Hypnosis is a treatment built upon suggestion and
persuasion. To my knowledge there is no evidence for hypnosis, as such, as part
of a treatment for bipolar disorder. However, hypnosis has one big advantage
over many no-evidence treatments you might find offered out there: except
financially, its unlikely to make the person worse or present any long-term
risks (at least if the hypnotist is a responsible practitioner who does not take
advantage of his/her patients).
(You can find a summary of evidence-based
approaches to the treatment of bipolar disorder on my website's
section on bipolar
disorder; look at the section on Treatment; though it was written primarily
for bipolar II, it applies fairly well to bipolar disorder generally).
Published February, 2004