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Hypnosis for Asthma—a Controlled Trial

Br Med J 1968; 4 doi: (Published 12 October 1968) Cite this as: Br Med J 1968;4:71

This article has a correction. Please see:

A Report to the Research Committee of the British Tuberculosis Association*


An investigation of hypnosis in asthma was made among patients aged 10 to 60 years with paroxysmal attacks of wheezing or tight chest capable of relief by bronchodilators. One group of patients was given hypnosis monthly and used autohypnosis daily for one year. Comparisons were made with a control group prescribed a specially devised set of breathing exercises aimed at progressive relaxation. Treatment was randomly allocated and patients were treated by physicians in nine centres. Results were assessed by daily diary recordings of wheezing and the use of bronchodilators, and by monthly recordings of F.E.V.1 and vital capacity. At the end of the year independent clinical assessments were made by physicians unaware of the patients' treatment.

There were 252 patients (127 hypnosis and 125 controls) accepted for analysis, but a number of them did not continue the prescribed treatment for the whole year: 28 hypnosis and 22 control patients failed to co-operate, left the district, or had family problems; one hypnosis and one control patient died. Seven hypnosis and 17 control patients were withdrawn as treatment failures, the difference between the two groups being statistically significant.

As judged by analyses based on the daily “score” of wheezing recorded in patients' diaries, by the number of times bronchodilators were used, and by independent clinical assessors, both treatment groups showed some improvement Among men the assessments of wheezing score and use of bronchodilators showed similar improvement in the two treatment groups; among women, however, those treated by hypnosis showed improvement similar to that observed in the men, but those given breathing exercises made much less progress, the difference between the two treatment groups reaching statistical significance. Changes in F.E.V.1 and V.C. between the control and hypnosis groups were closely similar.

Independent clinical assessors considered the asthma to be “much better” in 59% of the hypnosis group and in 43% of the control group, the difference being significant There was little difference between the sexes. Physicians with previous experience of hypnosis obtained significantly better results than did those without such experience.


  • * Members of the Hypnotherapy in Asthma Subcommittee are: Dr. K. M. Citron (chairman), Dr. S. Black Dr. J A. Crocket, Dr. D. Davies, Dr. P. J. D. Heaf, Dr. S. Z. Kalinowski, Dr. N. Macdonald, Dr. G. P. Maher-Loughnan, Dr. M. K. McAllen, Dr. J. Morrison Smith, Dr. J. Pepys, Dr. J. Brian Show, Dr. A. R. Somner, Dr. C. J. Stewart, and Miss B. J Kinsley.