The Chemistry of Hypnotherapy


When someone usually hears about hypnosis they think about an entertainment show with hypnotized people performing bizarre actions; however, hypnotherapy can be beneficial. Hypnotherapy is a healing method used to treat and manage eating disorders, addictions, sleeping disorders, depression, pain, and fears by using relaxation, concentration, and attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness called a trance. All the benefits of hypnotherapy are natural and have no side effects like drugs or medications. I chose this topic because I am fascinated with hypnosis and how another person can control and enhance our lives through our minds. Hypnotherapy improves and affects lives by changing a way a person forms habits and thoughts. As the main outcome, this method releases hormones like serotonin and dopamine in our brains to help us live happier lives.

Composition of ...


    • Serotonin: C10H12N2O
    • Dopamine: C8H11NO2
    • Neuropeptides
      • Brain receptors
      • Brain circuits

Brain waves

    • Alpha
      • occipital lobe
    • Theta
      • Cerebral cortex

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components


Neurotransmitters are the chemicals which allow the transmission of signals from one neuron to the next across small gaps called synapses. There are three main neurotransmitters dealing with hypnotherapy: serotonin (C10H12N20), dopamine (C8H11NO2), GABA (C4H9NO2). Dopamine drives exchange of information form one part of the brain to another, involved in learning new ideas and its release gives of pleasure and satisfaction. GABA is due to anxiety and pains, but with a average amount GABA, it has a calming action on the brain and mind. Serotonin is found in the intestine and regulates appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature, mood, and behavior. Neuropeptides act like neurotransmitters. A neuropeptides is a chain of amino acids that is released either into the blood where it activates receptors in our body, or directly into the brain where it can activate receptors in our brain. For example, oxytocin and vasopressin have striking and specific effects on social behaviors. In contrast to neurotransmitters, neuropeptides have prolonged effects and actions and thus help a patient going through hypnotherapy.

Brain waves

The two trances or state of mind for hypnotherapy are alpha and theta. Normal brain waves for everyday functioning is between 14-40 hertz. After relaxation and closed eyes the brain changes brain waves to those of lower frequencies. A slight and light hypnotic state is the alpha state. A deep hypnotic state is theta state. Alpha is between 7.4-14 hertz and is a deep relaxation wave, heightens imagination, visualization, learning and concentration, and originates in the occipital lobe. Theta is between 4-7.5 hertz and is a light meditation and sleeping wave, and you experience vivid visualizations, great inspiration, profound creativity and exceptional insight. It is the realm of subconscious, or known as the silence voice, and originates in the cerebral cortex.

Chemistry's Role

Brain waves, neurotransmitters and neuropeptides are all naturally occurring in the human body. Hypnotherapy works by lowering the brain waves and opening up the subconscious to suggestion. When old thought patterns (like habits) are freed and new thought patterns are formed during hypnotherapy, neuropeptides are stimulated and create new networks in the brain. Then chemicals are released into the body and the instructions of the hypnotist can be done to treat all the problems stated earlier, but usually hypnotherapy treats pain and bad habits like smoking. For pain management the somatosensory cortex is used, which is responsible for tactile experience and suffering. Chemicals can block pain sensations lessening pain. At various points on the nervous system, called gates, neuropeptides decide what sensations to block and pass along. So some painful stimuli never reach the brain, and the process of controlling it is used in hypnotherapy. When sensations do make into the brain, they pass through the emotional center of the brain and with the element of fear, it forms feeling into pain. Removing the emotional attachment to pain is another part of hypnotherapy. This process acts like morphine: people become unattached to their bodies and body sensations do not matter. Also, hypnotherapy controls pain by inducing the brain to release large amounts of endorphins. For breaking habits the brain uses the prefrontal cortex which is the decision making part of the brain. When neuropeptides are released they bind to receptors and activate a series of events inside the cell or neuron, and causes them to become active. A single molecule released from a neuron activates another neuron and then activates a circuit; a circuit changes emotions and behaviors. Therefore, a hypnotist uses hypnosis and the power of suggestion to change a person’s own pain or bad habit by simpling “rewiring” new networks in their brains.

Background Research

Hypnosis means nervous sleep so hypnotherapy means nervous sleep healing. Hypnosis in ancient times was used in religious rituals and has been performed for thousands of years. But in the 1700s and 1800s many people believed hypnosis was performed by magical people and spirits. In the late 1700s an Australian physician, Franz Mesmer became the father of hypnotism. Stereotypical hypnosis was completed by dangling a bright object, like a pocket watch, in front of the victims eyes and having them focus on to it until they fell into a deep sleep. Typical hypnotic techniques, used now in hypnotherapy, call for reclining posture, muscular relaxation, and optical fixation followed by closing eyes. Then the hypnotherapist gives suggestions to the patient to allow them to change habits because the trance they are in allows them to be more open in contrast to the conscious state of mind. In 1958 the AMA (American Medical Association) recognized hypnotherapy as a qualified treatment technique.


basic information on hypnotherapy

problems hypnotherapy improves

procedure of hypnotherapy

what happens to the patient’s mind during the procedure

the benefits of hypnotherapy with scientific statistics

Describes the role of neurotransmitters

How depression affects the brain and mood

What treatments can decrease depression

More information about neurotransmitters

How they are involved in depression and

How they affect the brain and what they produce

Information about what neuropeptides are and what their job is

Contrasting and comparing the roles of serotonin and dopamine

Information about the brain functions affected during hypnotherapy

Gives background about what hypnosis is and how to perform it

brain waves, their frequencies, and when the brain changes between brain waves

About the Author

Kenzy Gilsdorf is a junior at Billings Senior High School. She is involved in the Platinum Program, STEM Club, Spanish Club, Key Club, Senior Advocates, Tennis, and Billings Youth Leadership. In her spare time she likes to hang out with friends and family, play with her dog, and play tennis. She hopes to attend college on the west coast.