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February 13, 1960


Author Affiliations

Cambridge, Mass.

From the Department of Social Relations, Harvard University. Dr. Barber is now Research Associate at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology and Medfield (Mass.) State Hospital.

JAMA. 1960;172(7):680-683. doi:10.1001/jama.1960.03020070038011

Pain is a composite phenomenon, and not all aspects of pain are abolished by hypnosis. Subjects who report that they experience hypnotic analgesia or hypnotic hallucination are able to carry out a similar type of behavior without a hypnotic induction procedure. It has not been experimentally demonstrated that hypnotic procedures offer more satisfactory relief from pain than do placebos. The placebo effect has been reported to give satisfactory relief from severe postoperative wound pain in about 30% of patients; estimates as to the number of persons who manifest or experience such phenomena as hypnotically induced analgesia, age-regression, hallucination, and amnesia range from 5 to 25% of the population. Narcotics and hypnotic procedures do not necessarily affect the sensation of pain per se. By mitigating anxiety and inducing a bemused state they alleviate discomfort and appear to suppress the pain sensation.