Hypnotherapy in anorexia

Hi, I wonder if anyone has any experience of hypnotherapy being used to treat anorexia? Our 15 year old daughter has been struggling for two and a half years, has undergone conventional talking therapies for the past year, but nothing seems to be touching the fundamental eating disorder thoughts. They seem to be so deeply ingrained, she doesn't even know why she is restricting, but desperately wants to get better. I thought hypnotherapy might bypass the objective mind and get straight to the subconscious where these urges seem to be? Thanks.

14 Replies

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  • Hi susiecoo, I never thought of hypnotherapy since my daughter won't go to talking therapy. I have had hypnotherapy in the past for anxiety and it does work. Costly but does work. Afterall they do that for stopping cigarette smoking, for insomnia, etc. If you do try it for your daughter, please let us all know. I wish you well in finding help. I certainly understand what you are going through. x

  • There always seems to be "underlying" causes when dealing with Anorexia. Talk it out. Time often heals.

  • Thank you lori716 - talking it out is what has been happening in the 'conventional' therapies, family therapy and CBT. It has been of some use but as our consultant has said, for some people they may not know what triggered the anorexia, there are many strands... Some of these now lie so deep even my daughter doesn't know what is going on. Time will probably heal but time is not on her side if she wants to avoid re-admittance as an in-patient, something she is desperate to avoid. Hence her desire to try anything which might help. As an addendum, we have run the idea past her consultant who is not against our trying it, so we will give it a go and report back.

  • Best of luck to you and yours!

  • Hi there I have myself had hypnotherapy treatment to help recovery from anorexia. I had already found conventional talking therapies to be the turning point in my struggle but saw a hypnotherapist just over a year after I was discharged from the eating disorder team as I had returned to a healthy weight. I was however still struggling a lot with the aftermath of recovery, though my weight was fairly stable, and I suffered from frequent sort of panic attacks relating to eating. I found that when I went to the hypnotherapist with something specific I wanted to work on or eradicate, she was able to quite successfully help me. I have found that two years after the treatment the problem I discussed with her gradually has left me behind. Some other things I was struggling with however, I was unable at the time to put fully into words or understand myself and so it is not the sort of therapy that will necessarily unlock the cause or roots or find the key to someone's problems. It is more something that can help to retrain the brain out of a specific negative and destructive cycle as happens with someone suffering anorexia.

    Though it is no miracle treatment or quick cure, and like anything requires time and patience, I personally would recommend hypnotherapy for use with eating disorder recovery, and would suggest it could be very useful even in the early stages of recovery. Anorexia is a cruel illness which is extremely difficult to break down even if the sufferer desperately wants to get better. It can feel so controlling and dominates the rational mind, and so I think that hypnotherapy could be extremely useful for somebody still at that stage of the illness, and could help them to break down and let go of the patterns of thinking that the anorexia uses to control the persons behavior. Hypnotherapy is definitely worth a try, and even if it is not immediately successful it is something that may be worth coming back to. If nothing else it is (in my experience) a calming and relaxing experience, and quite enjoyable, and can offer some comfort and respite that talking therapies often cannot - they can often be the opposite. If your daughter finds the talking therapies upsetting or stressful perhaps hypnotherapy would be a good thing to try. Everyone is different and will find that different things get through to them. Try all you can, as there is something out there that will help your daughter get over this awful illness and lead a happy and healthy life in the future. Have faith and don't give up.

  • pr1995, thank you so very much for the feedback regarding hypnotherapy. I am happy that you have found your way back and I wish you continued success. It's very uplifting to hear a positive story. My best to you. x

  • Thanks pr1995, from what you say it does sound worth a go. Your experiences of the treatment echo my own thoughts i.e. that it can bypass the rational mind and get to the deeper levels which are controlling the sufferer. If we can find a recommended practitioner locally, I'll report back on how it goes.

  • There are no "wonder drugs" or "treatments"! As a parent, Give her Love, Show her Kindness and Support but don't succumb to her tendencies or they will become not only her downfall but destroy you as well!! I have been dealing with this for ten years and only wish I realized then what I know now!!

  • Hi, when I was in the grip of an eating disorder and desperate to get well, I was seeing a consultant clinical psychologist working in a specialist eating disorder unit who had had treated hundreds of sufferers. I asked her about having hypnotherapy and she advised not to have it. She said the best way to treat he anorexic thoughts, obsessions, deluded belief I was fat and all that goes with the anorexic mind set was to get to a healthy weight. I found out after a long long struggle that this was true. When I passed a weight that got me out of the 'starvation syndrome' (a certain BMI) all of this eased of. I had tried everything over many years - except actually getting my weight up. I have to say that until weight reaches a certain point the brain can't concentrate, take in any complex ideas, rationalise, or understand some things so can't find solutions.

    That is why in the unit patients don't have CBT or therapy because it would be pretty much pointless. Perhaps this is why CBT isn't helping for your daughter? But how to help her eat and get to that point? Has she support from a specialist eating disorder unit? I strongly advise bypassing the CMHT / AMHT simply from personal experience and those of other sufferers I've know over 20 years, It really is time wasted as they don't have the expertise to understand and give the level of care and treatments she needs. If she's been ill for a long time then it is absolutely your best chance. But its just my own thoughts. I see others have had success so do what feels right for you and her. Good luck and all very best. x

  • Thank you for your input, breakingfree. Yes, she is under the supervision of a specialist unit and she had recovered her weight as an in-patient, but this on its own was not enough to quieten her anorexic thoughts. So despite six months of therapy with the clinical psychologist, once home her weight started to slide back down again. The hypnotherapy will be one more tool in the arsenal - conventional therapy will continue and she is still under the overall supervision of the unit. So it is an addition, not a replacement. We are lucky to have a specialist unit relatively close by!

  • It does take quite a long time for the mind to catch up with body, especially after only 6 months treatment. I gained my weight over many many years. NICE guidelines say after discharge from a specialist unit, weekly therapy should continue for 12 mths. I do hope she can continue to be supported for this length of time. I'm really pleased she has the specialists close by. I had several inpatient admissions ranging from 3 - 9 mths and always lost weight on discharge, that is extremely common. Don't lose hope though. I was told several relapses are normal and expected as part of the journey. I'd be very interested to hear how she gets on with the hypnotherapy. Just one thing more. An effect of the brain being starved is getting very obsessed and focussed, being very black and white about things and having lots od food rules. I remember clearly only allowing myself one type of bread and if my Mum bought another which had 2 calories more per slice I couldn't eat it. And I set myself very strict times for meals and snacks. If they were ready more than 3 minutes late then the rule was broken and I wasn't 'allowed' to eat it. That was distressing because deep down I desperately wanted to eat - yet the anorexic part of me was delighted! Anyway, my psychiatrist on the unit prescribed me an antipsychotic combined with an anti-depressant to reduce the obsessive thoughts. I remember the change was amazing. Somehow I could eat different brand of bread and wasn't quite so strict with other rules. I'm not sure how old your daughter is, so maybe it wouldn't be recommended but I just wanted to share that.

    Do post again and please send a big hug to your daughter - she has a brilliant Mum! x

  • Thank you breakingfree. So glad you are now strong enough to share your experiences with us - it is very helpful. I will post again in a few weeks time, first hypnotherapy session scheduled for Monday, so fingers crossed x

  • I suffered with anorexia through my teens, I'm now 21 and have been recovered for a few years. I also didn't really know why I was anorexic and found that all the therapies I was offered were no help. It was a long recovery but in the end the only thing that could make me change was me. Last year I got a bit depressed and anxious so my mum suggested hypnotherapy. I completed a 5 week course and during the course I didn't think it was having any effect, but as the weeks went by I started feeling better and now I can confidently say that seeing the hypnotherapist helped me a lot. Hypnotherapy makes you more open to suggestions, really gets in to your subconscious mind and helps you realise a lot about yourself and replace negative thoughts / memories with positive. But just like my recovery from anorexia, it will only really work if you let your mind be open to change. You say your daughter wants to get better, so I think hypnotherapy would defiantly be worth a try. Good luck.

  • Hi. I developed my ED much later in life, I am lucky to be supported now by an excellent outpatient team and to be seen weekly by a psychiatrist trained in EMDR. Over the last few months, this has been the focus of my weekly sessions. Although EMDR is not hypnotherapy, it is very similar in nature. I believe initially it was developed as a therapy type for sufferers of a trauma/event, but more recently it has been used for wider stimuli. I have found this the most forward thinking therapy which I have undertaken. No one is quite sure of the science, but it allows you to 'open' to imagine and consider situations and to role play events. You are always present and never 'under' like in hypnotherapy, but if you allow yourself to be all in and work with the therapist it frees your mind and your thoughts. I am really glad I went down this path. Even if it was quite uncomfortable at times and made me feel sometimes worse, it was all just bringing things to the forefront that have remained contained for so long.

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