Can Hypnosis Help Menopausal Hot Flashes?

A recent study found that women could reduce menopausal hot flashes by up to 74 percent with hypnosis therapy. The controlled, randomized study results were published in the online edition of the journal Menopause.

The researchers from the Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory at Baylor University, Waco, TX; the school of Nursing at Indiana University in Indianapolis, IN; and the College of Education at the University of Texas, Austin, worked together on this study. They randomly assigned postmenopausal women either to hypnosis or the control groups. The hypnosis group had five weekly sessions that imprinted mental thoughts of coolness, being in a safe place, and relaxation, depending on the person’s preference. The women who underwent hypnosis also received an audio recording of the hypnotic induction and were asked to complete it daily.

The control group participated in five weekly sessions of structured attention. This involved discussion about the hot flash symptoms with professionals, listening attentively, having interpersonal exchanges, monitoring, and measuring. The structured attention offered encouragement but avoided any negative suggestions. The control group was also sent home with an audio recording with information about hot flashes. They were told to listen to it daily. All the participants were told to keep a diary record of their hot flashes to monitor the frequency and severity of the events. The study lasted for 12 weeks.

The results showed that women who participated in hypnosis had reported 74 percent fewer hot flashes compared to a 13 percent reduction in the control group. The hot flash score, which involved a combined measure of frequency and severity, was reduced by 80 percent in the hypnosis group compared with 15 percent in the control group. Skin conductance testing showed a 57 percent reduction in hot flashes from the hypnosis group compared to 10 percent in the control group. The hypnosis group reported fewer interruptions from hot flashes and had better sleep than the control group did. The hypnosis group also had a high level of satisfaction. The researchers suggest that hypnosis may work because it could help improve the way the parasympathetic nervous system functions.