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.
  • Pain in people with cancer. Early research shows that guided imagery slightly reduces pain in adults with cancer.
  • Tiredness in people treated with cancer drugs. Early research shows that guided imagery with or without 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.
  • A lung disease that makes it harder to breathe (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or 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.
  • Cocaine use disorder. Early research in adults with a history of crack-cocaine use shows that guided imagery can reduce cravings for cocaine.
  • 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.
  • Impaired movement of food through the intestines after surgery. Guided imagery does not improve slowed intestinal movement of food after colorectal surgery.
  • Nausea and vomiting after surgery. Early research in adults undergoing an elective surgery shows that guided imagery does not reduce nausea or vomiting after the procedure.
  • Pain after surgery. Early research shows that guided imagery may moderately reduce pain after surgery, but it may not work for all types of surgeries.
  • Recovery from surgery. Guided imagery doesn’t seem to improve recovery from surgery of the colon. But it might improve sleep quality for the first few days after a surgery.
  • Anxiety before surgery. Guided imagery does not seem to reduce anxiety before colorectal surgery. But early research shows that it may reduce anxiety before other surgeries. Guided imagery with relaxation does not seem to improve pain and anxiety in children before procedures involving needles.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy. Guided imagery might slightly reduce high blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Feelings of well-being. Guided imagery and deep breathing seem to improve anxiety and depression in people receiving hemodialysis.
  • Quitting smoking. Some early research shows that guided imagery might increase the number of people who do not smoke for at least 2 years.
  • Tension headache. Guided imagery might improve pain in people with frequent headaches.
  • A type of anxiety that often develops after a terrifying event (post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD).
  • A type of anxiety marked by fear in some or all social settings (social anxiety disorder).
  • Anxiety.
  • Cancer.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Nerve pain.
  • Relaxation.
  • 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: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if guided imagery is safe to use when pregnant or 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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