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Can my binging daughter be helped by a hypnotherapist?

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My 17-year-old daughter has very low self-esteem. She feels she is being judged all the time and constantly compares herself to others.

She has been binge eating for the last couple of years, but this year it has got out of hand and she has put on 15kg. Even so, she is actually still within healthy limits.

She has been to psychologists. She knows rationally what she needs to do, but the strategies are still filed away not being used. She has been diagnosed with depression and tried medication, but took herself off it.

I am considering taking her to a hypnotherapist. What will they do that is different to the CBT [cognitive-behavioural therapy] strategies used by psychologists?

This question was submitted by 'Tracy'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hello Tracy and thank you for your question.

Binge eating, like many other compulsions, is so often used as a way of either

  1. trying to escape current worries through the escapist 'trance' of the binge, in which everything else fades away from the binger's mind whilst they are binging
  2. trying to meet a need for a sense of control, which of course backfires as the binger starts to lose control of the binging itself.

Your daughter needs to meet her primal human needs in ways that are healthy rather than through inadvertent and self-destructive ways such as binging. Cognitive-behavioural theory is based on the idea that what we think determines what we feel, but of course human experience doesn't usually work like that (unfortunately).

There are more neuronal connections leading from the emotional parts of the mind up to the 'thinking parts' than the other way around. So, in reality, it's easier to change your feelings to change your thoughts than vice versa. Challenging thoughts and catching them can be very useful, but hypnosis is a way of actually getting hold of the part of a person maintaining a problem state and changing it directly. Trying to out-logic an emotional problem might help to some extent, but any well-rounded psychotherapist should be able to work with the 'hypnotic mind' rather than just the thinking mind, because so many psychological problems are actually hypnotic in nature themselves (for example, see 'Trauma treatment: why PTSD & phobias are a case of bad hypnosis' over at my blog for therapists).

So, hypnosis used well should be able to help your daughter feel more relaxed, more self-confident, and more able to control and then break away from the binging directly, rather than her trying to use rationality alone to tame the powerful promptings of her emotional mind. But the hypnotherapist needs to be well-trained, not have out-of-date ideas such as feeling they have to 'discover' some root cause and that will be enough, or have ideas that may be so 'woo woo' as to be worse than useless.

Talk to any hypnotherapist you consider before your daughter sees them. Ensure that they are solution-focussed in their approach, that they understand how the brain works, that they know the primal human needs, and that they have been well-trained. You could form questions gleaned from this blog: '3 more golden rules for choosing a hypnosis course'. And this is also a really useful article when choosing a therapist: 'Choosing a psychotherapist'.

I wish your daughter well.

All best wishes,


watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - January 23rd, 2015 in

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