Guided imagery

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What is it?

Guided imagery is the use of directed thoughts and visualizations to improve health.

Guided imagery is most commonly used for reducing stress. It is also used for anxiety, pain, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

It is effective?
Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Possibly Effective for …

  • Stress. Guided imagery in combination with relaxation training seems to reduce psychological distress, improve relaxation, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve quality of life in people undergoing stressful situations such as cancer treatment or hospitalization.

Insufficient Evidence to Make a Determination for …

  • Stomach pain. Early research shows that guided imagery might reduce stomach pain in children when added to standard treatment or relaxation exercises.
  • Tiredness in people treated with cancer drugs. Early research shows that guided imagery with muscle relaxation exercises might reduce feelings of tiredness in people treated with cancer drugs.
  • Nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research shows that guided imagery might reduce distress in people experiencing nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drug treatment.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is some evidence that guided imagery can improve blood oxygen levels in people with COPD. But it doesn’t seem to improve breathing in other ways.
  • Diabetes.Guided imagery does not seem to improve blood sugar control in people with type 1 diabetes.
  • Fibromyalgia. Guided imagery might improve function in people with fibromyalgia. There is conflicting evidence about its effect on pain and depression.
  • Osteoarthritis. Guided imagery in combination with relaxation seems to improve pain, movement, and quality of life in people with osteoarthritis.
  • Recovery from surgery. Guided imagery doesn’t improve recovery from surgery of the colon. However, it might improve pain and anxiety after joint replacement surgery.
  • A type of anxiety that often develops after a terrifying event (post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD). Guided imagery with healing touch seems to improve symptoms such as depression and anxiety compared to usual treatment alone in people with PTSD.
  • Anxiety before surgery. Guided imagery does not seem to reduce anxiety or pain before surgery. Guided imagery with relaxation also does not seem to improve pain and anxiety in children before procedures involving needles.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy. Guided imagery might slightly reduce blood pressure in pregnant women with high blood pressure.
  • Feelings of well-being. Guided imagery and deep breathing seem to improve anxiety and depression in people receiving hemodialysis.
  • Smoking cessation. Some early research shows that 26% of people using guided imagery to help them stop smoking did not smoke for at least 2 years.
  • Tension headache. Guided imagery might improve pain in people with frequent headaches.
  • Anxiety.
  • Cancer.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Pain.
  • Relaxation.
  • Social anxiety.
  • Weight loss.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of guided imagery for these uses.

How does it work?
Guided imagery is the use of guided or directed thoughts and visualizations to deepen relaxation and to visualize solutions to problems or disease fighting processes, resulting in positive outcomes. For example, cancer patients might envision the body’s defense systems fighting and destroying cancer cells.

The visualization process can be guided by an instructor or prerecorded tapes.

Guided imagery is often used with other techniques such as relaxation therapy to help reduce stress in stressful situations. Guided imagery is thought to improve relaxation and help people feel in control of their situation, often resulting in improved emotions and attitudes.

Is there concern for the safety of its use?
Guided imagery is LIKELY SAFE when used properly. There are no known safety concerns.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of guided imagery during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, there is no known reason to suspect it might be harmful.

Are there any drug interactions?
There are no known interactions with medications. Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Are there any interactions with herbs and supplements?
There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there any interactions with food?
There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?
The appropriate or safe use of guided imagery depends on several factors such as the condition being treated or the person administering the treatment. Be sure to seek and follow relevant directions from your physician or other healthcare professional before using this treatment.

By what other names is the product known?
Guided Health Imagery, Guided Visualization, Imagerie Guidée, Imagery, Imaginación Guiada, Visualisation, Visualisation Guidée, Visualization, Visualization Therapy, VT.

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