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Old 12-18-1998
William Mahaffy William Mahaffy is offline
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Hypnosis—a Cure for Motion Sickness

My partner used to suffer from seasickness. Drugs had undesirable side effects and other remedies simply didn't work. Finally, as a last resort, she went to a hypnotist who taught her some self-hypnosis techniques. After practicing them on several daysails, she was totally cured and was even able to handle Gulf Stream crossings! I would like to hear your opinion on this natural cure for seasickness.

T.P.

William Mahaffy responds:

T.P. ,

There is some evidence in the literature to support the use of positive reinforcement for limiting the symptoms of motion sickness. In a study conducted in Europe, two groups of naval cadets were studied during a North Sea deployment. One group was instructed that while there was a chance they might become seasick, it would not be a major problem and they would be able to accomplish their tasks easily. The other group was given no positive reinforcement. At the end of the deployment, each group rated the level of discomfort during the cruise. The data suggest that the positive-reinforcement group suffered fewer symptoms.

The important thing to remember here is that motion sickness is a physiologic condition related to the vestibular system. It is not an entity that everyone can get rid of just by "not thinking about it." This is not to say that hypnosis may not be useful in some circumstances—as evidenced by your partner. The key is to find the solution that works for each individual and keeps everybody sailing comfortably.

Bill Mahaffy