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Are There Risks To People Who Are Hypnotized If They Have Epilepsy or Mental Health Disorders?

A few people asked me this question today during the broadcast of the first episode of ITV’s You’re Back In The Room starring Keith Barrie.

You’re Back In The Room seems to be the marmite of Saturday Evening TV at the moment, going by the twitter feed trend for #yourebackintheroom  Where game show meets stage hypnosis show in a cocktail of unconscious mayhem.

Some thought it the most hilarious thing they’d ever seen.  Others felt it was fake and badly scripted acting.  But one sceptical tweeter did remark that he wouldn’t have believed it but for the fact that he knew one of the participants and what he was doing was totally out of character.  I’ve also watched people do things completely out of character as stage hypnosis subjects.

But amidst the “are they, aren’t they” debate of whether the hypnosis was real or not, the same serious question came up.  Is There A Risk To People Who Are Hypnotized If They are Epileptic or have a Mental Health Disorder?

First and foremost, no properly trained stage hypnotist worth their salt would allow a volunteer to take part in a stage hypnosis show if they were known to be pregnant, intoxicated, diagnosed with epilepsy, or with a mental health disorder like bipolar or schizophrenia.  The producers of You’re Back In The Room would have taken their time to screen all volunteers for the above.

In a more impromptu stage hypnosis show, the stage hypnotist makes a statement at the beginning regarding the contra-indications for stage hypnosis participation.  Apart from the obviously pregnant, or the obviously inebriated, there isn’t a lot a stage hypnotist can do if a person that is bipolar, or has schizophrenia does not disclose it and is not showing obvious signs.  They do often have good days.  And some are the last to admit there is anything wrong with them refusing even to take prescribed medication.

But that’s where the stage hypnotist has their back up plan of assistants watching the volunteers for signs of mental distress.  Which can be a little harder to notice when everyone is acting flamboyantly on stage.  Even without hypnosis, running around and flapping one’s arms like a bird

By contrast, in a therapeutic setting, where the subject is sitting or reclining in one spot and not expected to move around, the pregnant, drunk and epileptic are in no danger from trip hazards of flying objects from another entranced subject.  The drunk client probably won’t make it past the therapist’s front door at any rate.

For those that make it to the chair or couch, the setting is typically designed to be tranquil and relaxing, a far cry from the fast paced mayhem of a stage show designed to entertain.  Whether sleep is involved or not (and one hour of hypnotic sleep is equivalent to four hours of conventional sleep), it’s a safe, non-excitable environment.  Even a change in the breathing of one client under observation, or flush of colour in the face never slips past the notice of a hypnotherapist’s watchful eye.  A stage hypnotist has less opportunity to observe things during the show, which is why the vulnerable are precluded from participation in a show.

In hypnotherapy, potential clients are asked at initial consultation about any history of bipolar, schizophrenic or other psychotic episodes; even regular or recent recreational drug use, as well as prescribed medications. The answer to these pre-session questions are designed to flag any contra-indications for hypnotherapy.

Again, it requires honesty on the part of the client.  A client may be so desperate for the therapy that they’ve rehearsed satisfactory answers.  General demeanour, manner of speaking, and how questions are answered may belie any tendencies towards delusionary behaviour which would influence what a well trained Hypnotherapist does next.

So, even if a patient is going to great lengths to conceal relevant mental health history (note, relevant, as we all have mental health; some of us have good mental health, and some of us have mental health that could be better; while others have poor mental health), a trained eye can observe cautionary signals.  A person already living from day to day with negative and positive hallucinations is not in the best frame of mind for the stimulation of the imagination that arises during hypnosis.

When a trained Hypnotherapist is in any doubt about the mental welfare of a client, they must obtain the name and address of the client’s doctor and seek clearance about the client’s medical history with regards to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or any other psychotic condition.  There are other modalities that do not use hypnotic trance that would be more appropriate for people with these conditions.

1 Comment

  1. Colm Coleman says:

    I am epileptic and i have been since i was born im now 36 and have been put under hypnosis 3 times the third time being on stage by the famous keith barry i have had not one sezuire while i was under so hypnosis does not affect epileptics well at least not me anyway

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