Increasing evidence is amassing in support of using hypnosis for hot flashes. In October, Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society reported on a new study from the Mind-Body Research Laboratory at Baylor University suggesting the effectiveness of hypnosis for hot flashes (also found at PubMed). The research findings support an earlier Baylor study from 2008, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (and here at PubMed), also showing impressive results among breast cancer survivors using hypnosis for hot flashes.
Prior to that, a small pilot study published in the March 2003 issue of Women’s Health Issues concluded that “hypnosis appears to be a feasible and promising intervention for hot flashes.” This was followed by a 2007 pilot study published in Psycho-Oncology – Journal of the Psychological, Social and Behavioral Dimensions of Cancer that found “clinical hypnosis may be an effective non-hormonal and non-pharmacological treatment for hot flashes.”
The recent Baylor research involved 187 women, 93 of whom received five weekly hypnosis sessions featuring guided visualizations and suggestions for mental images of coolness, a safe place or relaxation, depending on each subject’s preference. These women also received an audio hypnosis recording for daily practice and reinforcement. The 94 women in the control group received talk therapy and recordings with information about hot flashes but no hypnotic induction.
The Menopause report indicates at a 12 week follow-up the women who had received the hypnosis sessions reported 74% fewer hot flashes while women in a control group had a 17% reduction. Frequency and severity of the hot flashes also dropped by 80% in the hypnosis group compared to a 15% decrease in the control group.
Research in this area has been spurred by a 2003 study from the Women’s Health Initiative that found long-term hormone therapy used for hot flashes is associated with increased health risks, including breast cancer and heart disease. Gary Elkins, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and director of the Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the new study is “Good news for several reasons,” including offering women a choice of treatments. “And it’s safe,” he added. “It doesn’t result in health care risks, and it has side benefits such as improved sleep.”
News of the study has been widely reported (see Google), including articles at WebMD, the Los Angeles Times, and U.S. News and World Report. An article at Science Daily reported this quote from Elkins: “This is the first study in which we compared both self-reporting and physiological monitoring – not just a change in tolerance or ability to cope, but the hot flashes themselves decreased.” Indeed, participants wore sensors on their skin which showed a 57% reduction in hot flashes among the hypnosis group, and a 10% reduction in the non-hypnosis group.
Now, just a few weeks after Menopause published the latest Baylor study, this Huffington Post article mentioned it as an after-thought while describing a similar approach taken in a new Swedish study using group “relaxation therapy” to produce similar results reducing hot flashes. Menopause has also published the Swedish study this month, which concludes “Applied relaxation can be used to treat vasomotor symptoms in healthy postmenopausal women.”
This explanation of applied relaxation is incredibly similar to the use of progressive muscle relaxation as a hypnotic induction, right down to the importance of what hypnotists call the “pre-talk,” a conversation prior to formally inducing hypnosis where questions and misconceptions are addressed while specifically building the subject’s expectations for the effects of the hypnotic relaxation suggestions that will follow. Such setting and management of expectations is crucial in all clinical and medical hypnosis and goes a long way in explaining why many physical problems not necessarily caused in the mind may still be resolved there.
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UPDATE 1/15/13 6pm: This article has also been published in the January/February 2013 Isis Scrolls Magazine, available free throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon.
UPDATE 2/10/13 11pm: This article has also been published on page 8 of the Winter 2013 Newsletter of the North Coast Association of Mental Health Professionals (.pdf).
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Dave Berman, C.Ht. practices Clinical and Medical Hypnosis, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Life Coaching. He is certified by the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association and an associate member of the North Coast Association of Mental Health Professionals. Dave offers private and confidential sessions on a sliding scale in his Arcata, CA office and remotely via Skype. Referrals and inquiries are welcome. Learn more at www.ManifestPositivity.com or call (707) 845-3749 for a free consultation. Subscribe to future articles from Manifest Positivity:
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