By Walter Lesczynski

Have you ever been hypnotized? That phrase ranks among the all-time cheesiest pick-up lines, yet the answer can be quite revealing about a person’s beliefs and personality.Some people believe hypnosis can work wonders. Others, however, are more skeptical, viewing its practitioners as little more than opportunistic charlatans.

“I tried hypnosis last year to quit smoking,” said Sarah Hough, a sophomore from Dayton, Ohio. “I’m still at about a pack per day. It wasn’t cheap and I might as well have used the money to buy more smokes for all the good it did.”

Despite fantastic claims made by weight loss clinics and smoking cessation programs, hypnotism is much less a miracle cure than simply a useful tool when combined with other treatments, experts said.

“There is too much mysticism about hypnosis,” said Don Beal, professor of psychology at Eastern. “Too many people thinking they can lose 100 pounds or stop smoking instantly.”

Beal has performed numerous hypnotisms, but said he believes in a more traditional approach.

“I don’t find it helpful,” he said. “People come in expecting magic. I find it much better to offer straight treatment.”

Part of the problem in attributing success or failure to hypnotic therapy is that it is almost always used in conjunction with another method. For example, a smoker trying to quit may try nicotine gum, the patch and hypnosis simultaneously. This make is difficult to determine its true effectiveness.

Research literature indicates that treatments haven’t fared well in general, although they may have helped the occasional patient. “It’s a useful technique in certain situations, such as pain management,” Dr. Beal said. “I find that perhaps the most beneficial aspect is the relaxation-it’s a very strong component. For example, students perform much better on tests when they are relaxed.”

This is similar to the effect of truth serum – sodium pentathol. It brings about a relaxed state, and when someone is relaxed that person can remember things tension might prevent.

Gloria Presson, a communication disorders major from Nelson County, Ky., said both she and her best friend underwent hypnosis the night of her junior prom.

“It went from bad to worse,” she said. “Luckily it was short-just like the date.”

Presson said her date’s father was a hypnotist and attempted to put them under with his calm voice and a miniature disco ball.

“We were complaining about how our dresses fit and he said he could help us lose a few pounds. The only thing it did was make me sleepy, and it definitely didn’t work; I ballooned my senior year,” Presson said.

Experts do not all agree on what happens when a person is hypnotized.

“There is a controversy in science about hypnotism,” Beal said. “The first theory is that it involves an altered state, and the second is that is merely a process where people receive suggestions.”

Legitimate hypnosis can benefit some, but mainly as a technique for relaxation. As far as weight loss, putting down the fork and picking up some weights might bear more results than staring at a disco ball on prom night.

“Eating carefully and exercise, Those are particularly effective,” Beal said.