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There's Entrancing News About Hypnosis

It's gaining credibility as a treatment for a multitude of troubles, from nicotine addiction to post-traumatic stress disorder

Hypnosis helped James Williams cut back on his drinking eight years ago. So when he developed a fear of flying after September 11, he again sought hypnotic relief. "I had always thought hypnosis was a stage show kind of thing. But I've found it incredibly effective at getting me to focus on what I want to accomplish," says Williams, 56, a vice-president of Polyonics, a Westmoreland (N.H.) maker of bar-code stickers. Indeed, today he travels by plane without anxiety.

Although still not well understood, hypnosis has gained credibility in the past five years because of research using the latest brain-imaging technology. PET, MRI, and EEG scans show that hypnotized subjects have altered sensory perception -- and they're not just pushovers, play-acting, or highly imaginative, as once thought. Studies show hypnosis can help treat a multitude of disorders from asthma to warts. But it is not a cure-all and can even be dangerous if you go to a practitioner who lacks adequate training.