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If you have an overactive bladder (OAB), you’re probably very familiar with the sudden, often uncontrollable, urge to urinate.

More than likely, you find yourself running to the bathroom frequently throughout the day and sometimes even waking up in the middle of the night needing to urinate. You might also experience urinary incontinence, meaning you lose control of your bladder and leak urine.

That unpredictable “gotta go” feeling can cause plenty of stress and anxiety, especially in unfamiliar situations and environments where you don’t know where to find a bathroom.

If typical treatments like bladder training and pelvic floor muscle exercises don’t seem to help, you might begin to wonder what else you can do to improve your symptoms.

The good news: You do have other options to consider, including hypnotherapy. Emerging evidence suggests that hypnosis could help address the underlying mental aspects of the condition.

Here’s what to know about this alternative treatment, including how it works and how to try it.

OAB often happens when the detrusor muscle, which is involved in emptying the bladder, contracts more often than necessary, explains Laura Purdy, MD, a board certified family medicine physician and National Medical Director for Rise Medical.

This contraction creates the sensation of needing to urinate even when your bladder is mostly empty. You could also have an overactive bladder if the nerve signals between your brain and bladder don’t work as they should.

Experts also believe that psychological factors can play a part.

“We’re constantly learning more about the mind/body connection,” says Purdy. “The way we think and feel clearly has a correlation to how some of our organs function.

“For example, consider how your heart beats faster when you’re anxious. It’s very reasonable that someone who has certain psychological stressors might have an increased risk of OAB.”

Research backs this up: A 2015 review involving more than 80,000 participants across 43 studies found an association between OAB and depression.

A small 2016 study found that people who had both OAB and anxiety tended to report more severe symptoms than people who didn’t have anxiety. The more severe their anxiety, the more intense their OAB symptoms — and the more those symptoms affected their quality of life.

Other causes and risk factors

OAB symptoms can have a range of causes and triggers, including:

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Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, is a frequently misunderstood but legitimate therapeutic process.

During a session, a certified hypnotherapist will guide you into a trance-like, relaxed state. This “trance” doesn’t, as many people believe, allow them to control your thoughts or behaviors. But it does leave you more receptive to suggestions for positive change, which you’ll discuss with your hypnotherapist before you even get started.

Hypnosis may have benefits if you want to change unwanted habits and behaviors, like smoking. Research also suggests hypnosis can help address symptoms of a number of physical and mental conditions, including:

A 2017 study found that when people underwent guided hypnosis, areas of the brains responsible for processing and controlling what’s happening in the body showed greater activity.

At the same time, the area of the brain in charge of your actions, and awareness of those actions, went offline.

In other words, experts believe hypnosis might help with OAB because it brings your focus to internal body processes and helps you target any stress and anxiety making your symptoms worse.

Hypnosis also allows you to visualize positive changes, which can help you build up self-confidence and begin to trust your body again.

Like breathing or blinking, bladder function is a subconscious, automated process you don’t have to think about, says Celeste Labadie, LMFT, a certified clinical hypnotherapist in private practice.

“During hypnosis, you can access and reprogram the subconscious mind,” she says. “You can inform the automated part of the brain to update the way it functions.”

Certified hypnotist Eli Bliliuous, the founder of the NYC Hypnosis Center, notes that in reprogramming the subconscious mind, hypnosis can help improve sleep quality and address underlying stress, anxiety, and abdominal muscle tension related to OAB.

To date, limited research has explored the benefits of hypnotherapy for OAB, but existing evidence does point to promising results:

  • A 2018 review of 10 studies suggests hypnotherapy can improve OAB symptoms and may prove especially helpful for enhancing coping skills and reducing OAB-related anxiety. Hypnotic techniques that seemed to make the most difference focused on increasing self-efficacy, or confidence in your own abilities.
  • A small 2015 study included 20 women with OAB who received behavioral therapy: fluid management, relaxation techniques, and timed voiding. Half also received three 1-hour hypnotherapy sessions over 6–8 weeks. OAB symptoms improved for both groups by the study’s end. But the hypnotherapy group felt more strongly that their symptoms had improved and reported significant improvement in quality of life.
  • A small 2021 study examined MRI brain scans of women before and after they received eight weekly 1-hour hypnotherapy sessions. The results suggest hypnotherapy may prompt changes in brain activation and connectivity that help improve OAB symptoms.

More studies — especially with larger numbers of participants — are needed to confirm the benefits of hypnotherapy for OAB symptoms, as well as who might benefit most from this approach, Purdy emphasizes.

She goes on to say, though, that she remains optimistic future studies will support the benefits of hypnosis for OAB.

Labadie recommends finding a certified hypnotist or hypnotherapist if you’re interested in trying hypnosis for OAB.


You can start your search using the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis directory.

As noted above, one common misconception about hypnosis is that you relinquish control of your mind. In fact, Bliliuous says, you remain aware and awake the whole time.

A professional may use a combination of techniques during hypnosis, Bliliuous explains, such as:

“In hypnosis, the philosophy is ‘the body follows the mind,'” Labadie explains. “Sometimes events in your life muck up the programming in your brain and you just need to relax, release, and reset. This often means clearing a traumatic event that may somehow be affecting bladder function.”

Some people will experience results right away, according to Purdy and Labadie. On the other hand, you may need several sessions before you notice any positive effects.

While every practitioner works differently, Labadie says sessions generally last around 60 minutes — much like a session of psychotherapy.

You can also learn how to hypnotize yourself. Educational books, videos, or audio tracks can explain the process in depth.

You can also get started with our guide to self-hypnosis.

It’s always helpful to work with a certified hypnotist before trying it on your own, Labadie says. A professional can coach you through the process and then offer guidance on how to replicate the experience at home.

How to try self-hypnosis

Labadie recommends the following steps:

  • Find a quiet, private place with no distractions. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Choose one word that describes your intention, or what you want out of this practice — for example, confidence or calmness.
  • Fix your gaze on a specific object in the room.
  • Breathe in slowly and deeply — in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • While keeping your gaze fixed on that object, allow your eyelids to gently and gradually close.
  • With your eyes closed, start visualizing a place in nature that helps you feel peaceful and relaxed — somewhere you’ve visited or an imaginary place. Imagine and soak in the pleasing sounds, smells, colors, and textures of that place.
  • Now turn your focus on your bladder. Imagine the muscles around it begin to relax.
  • Begin incorporating your intention into your scene. For example, if your goal involved feeling more at peace, you might envision placing all your anxiety into a balloon and then releasing it into the sky, or sleeping peacefully through the night without having to urinate.
  • Reinforce your state by repeating a mantra several times internally or out loud, such as “My bladder is calm because I am calm,” or “I am confident, so I trust my bladder.”
  • Allow yourself several minutes to return to leave the scene. Breathe with ease as you turn your attention to how your body feels on the chair or sofa beneath you.
  • Count down from 10 and set an intention for when you awaken, such as “When I get to 1, I’ll open my eyes, calm and in control.”
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If hypnosis doesn’t work for you, or you’d like to add another approach to your treatment plan, you might consider the following treatments:

  • Kegel exercises
  • bladder retraining
  • removing or limiting bladder irritants in your diet, like alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and spicy or acidic foods and drinks

Purdy strongly recommends getting an official diagnosis from your primary care doctor before trying any of the above treatments.

“Sometimes, symptoms that appear to be overactive bladder may be due to an underlying condition such as a urinary tract infection, or interstitial cystitis,” she explains.

That’s why she recommends working with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical conditions and find the best treatment plan for your needs.

Your doctor may also recommend treating OAB with nerve stimulation, which sends electric currents to pelvic muscles, or prescription medications aimed at relaxing the bladder and reducing urination.

In severe cases where other treatments don’t work, your care team might also recommend surgery.

Overactive bladder describes a frequent urge to urinate, which may wake you up in the middle of the night or cause a leak before you can get to the bathroom.

Experts believe OAB may have a psychological component, so addressing underlying depression, stress, and anxiety can help alleviate symptoms.

Research on hypnosis for OAB remains limited, but current findings suggest it may help ease the stress and anxiety that can worsen OAB and help you cultivate skills to cope with symptoms.

Before trying hypnosis — or any other OAB treatments — it’s important to get an official diagnosis to rule out any other possible health conditions and get a tailored treatment plan.

Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance writer covering health and wellness, fitness, food, lifestyle, and beauty. Her work has also appeared in Insider, Bustle, StyleCaster, Eat This Not That, AskMen, and Elite Daily.