Research Evaluating the Use of Self-Hypnosis to Treat Depression

Depression is a major disorder that has a life-altering impact on people around the world. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) named it the fourth leading cause of the burden of disease on a worldwide basis. A study by Singleton, Bumpstead, O’Brien, Lee & Meltzer (2001) revealed depressive disorder as affecting 60%-70% of the entire population in the United Kingdom one or more times during the course of their lives. At any one time, 5%-10% of the population in the UK is suffering from depression severe enough to interfere with the normal activities of daily living (Singleton et al., 2001).

The subjects were gathered from Edinburgh, UK, which had 30 physicians serving a population of 85,000 at that time. In the National Health Service (NHS) 90% of all medical care is provided by general practitioners (GPs). Therefore, the subjects came from a homogenous group who, for the most part, never saw a mental health professional. According to Goldberg & Huxley (1992), patients were treated by a GP for both physical and mental disorders. Depression was most often treated with antidepressants. In 1992/1993, 1.9% of the population was taking antidepressants. That number had risen to 8.8% by 2007/2008. Depressive disorder is not only devastating to the individual; it also places a large financial burden on society.

New ways of treating depression are being explored. The Cochrane society conducted a meta-analysis, which indicated a statistically insignificant difference between patients treated with antidepressants and those who were given placebo. (Moncrieff, Wessely & Hardy, 2002, p. 1). The results were similar to those in trials (published and unpublished) comparing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to placebo. According to Kirsch, Moore, Scoboria, & Nicholls (2002), there was minimal difference between the two groups. That conclusion was also drawn by Thomson (1982) in a comparison between tricyclic antidepressants and placebo.

The required criteria for the subjects in the Singleton et al., (2001) research were age 18-65, having a recent incident of depression (either first or recurrent episode) and were going to be treated by the GP with antidepressants. Those patients who had an incident of depression within the preceding 6 month period, were bipolar, psychotic, currently addicted to alcohol or recreational drugs or had suicidal ideation were excluded. The patients accepted into the trial were given three choices: self-help, self-hypnosis therapy or antidepressants. The self-hypnosis utilized an audio program called Integrated Mental Training. Randomization was counterindicated for this study.

The comparison measurements were done using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II; Beck, Steer, Ball, & Ranieri, 1996; Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock & Erbaugh, 1961), the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI 18; Derogatis, 1993), and the Short-Form Quality of Life Questionnaire (SF-36; McHorney, Ware, & Raczek, 1993; Ware & Sherbourne, 1992) administered once before the study began and a second time at the conclusion.

Following twelve weeks of treatment, depression was measured with the following results on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II; Beck et al., 1996). Comparison was made using this study and other research used for the purpose of benchmarking. The results indicated a statistically significant improvement between the BDI mean prior to treatment and the BDI mean after treatment. One result showed a 66% improvement. Conclusions support using self hypnosis for depression as a viable treatment for depressive disorder. Research in a randomized and controlled study is advised.


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Kirsch, I., Moore, T. J., Scoboria, A., & Nicholls, S. S. (2002). The emperor’s new drugs: An analysis of antidepressant medication data submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Prevention & Treatment, 5, article 23. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from

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World Health Organization. (2009). World Health Organization: Programmes and projects/ mental health/disorders management/ depression. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from http://www.


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