Dear Dr. Ticcy,
My friend said I should try hypnosis for my Tourette. Does hypnosis help with tics?
You are not the first person to ask this question. In recent years there has been a growing interest in using complementary and alternative therapies to treat tics. In general, there are less studies on the effectiveness of these therapies than say more traditional approaches like medication. As a result, it is hard to say definitively that hypnosis does or not does not impact tics, there needs to more studies in order to fully understand the effects over time.
Hypnosis is defined as a “state characterized by heightened suggestibility, relaxation, and imagination…usually produced by a procedure called hypnotic induction”. This induction is made up of a series of instructions and suggestions (by one’s self or a hypnotist) linking external and internal states.
A study published in 2007 reported several cases where hypnosis was effective in treating patients with TS. One case involved a man with severe tics who was 25 years old. He was first exposed to hypnotic suggestions that “habits” might be necessary during morning class only, and later to suggestions that these habits not happen during school. Afterward, the man reported ticcing only occasionally at home and in public places when he was with his parents.
Another case involved the self-hypnosis of four children with TS (ages 6-10). Three of children experienced a reduction in their tics after their first appointment where they learned self-hypnosis. This improvement in tic frequency was reportedly sustained over time.
A 2010 study reported on 33 cases where children with TS received self-hypnosis training. The children ranged in age from 6 to 19. The study looked at what the children said about their tics during the 2.5 month treatment period. Of the 33 participants, 79% or 25 of them reported tic improvement and personal satisfaction with the technique. In terms of timing, 12 patients saw their tics change dramatically after just two visits, 13 after only three visits and 1 after four visits. Keep in mind, that these results are subjective do to the fact that they were reported by the patients themselves and no standardized measures were used.
In general, it is fair to say that hypnosis appears to have promise based on the evidence to date. That said, it is not certain that hypnosis will help with tics.
Have you tried hypnosis? Did it reduce your tics? Would you try it in the future?
Lazarus, J.E. & Klein S.K., Nonpharmacological treatment of tics in Tourette Syndrome adding videotape training to self-hypnosis. J Dev Behav Pediat 2010 21:498-504.
Martino, Davide & James Leckman (ed). Tourette Syndrome (2013) New York: Oxford University Press.
Raz A et al. Elucidating Tourette’s Syndrome: perspectives from hypnosis, attention, and self-regulation. Am. J Clin Hypn 2007 49:289-309.