Thursday, May 28th

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Hypnosis for Hot Flashes?

Are you one of the women who suffer so much from hot flashes that you're willing to try just about anything to feel normal again? Your new normal—pouring sweat from the chest up accompanied by a rapid heartbeat—impedes the activities of daily life, is embarrassing, and wreaks havoc on your wardrobe, not to mention your makeup.

HFN 014 HypnosisHF 1 24633582You can find reports in both the medical and popular literature on whether or not hypnosis, a mind-body therapy, is effective for hot flashes. The best way for the medical community to conclude if any treatment works is to see the results of well-designed clinical studies; in a typical trial, this means at least one group of patients receives the treatment in question and the other, the control group, receives a placebo. The study should be double blinded; meaning that neither the patients nor the investigators know to which treatment any individual patient is assigned. This might be difficult with a treatment such as hypnosis.

Does It Work?
It is not uncommon for breast cancer patients to suffer from hot flashes and night sweats, mostly caused by the treatment, not the cancer. One small study of breast cancer survivors who experienced up to 14 hot flashes a week for at least a month showed promise for hypnosis as a treatment for hot flashes. The study, conducted by Baylor University in Texas, found a 68% decrease (a combination of severity and frequency) in hot flashes in the group of women who received hypnotherapy. The control group received no treatment at all, which is not the same as receiving a placebo treatment, hence limiting the impressiveness of the results.

These results, however, encouraged investigators to do a larger ongoing study in which 180 postmenopausal women are being randomly assigned to one of two groups: women in one group receive five sessions of hypnosis to deal with their hot flashes, while the other group receives "structured attention" without hypnosis for five weeks. Each participant will be followed for 12 weeks while wearing a 24-hour monitor. The trial is measuring outcomes in hot flashes, anxiety, depression, sexual functioning, and sleep quality. Not surprisingly, investigators are finding that women prefer to use "cool" images, especially those involving water, to help them navigate the throes of a hot flash.

When assessing results from studies measuring symptoms as subjective as the intensity of a hot flash, the issue here may not be an actual decrease in hot flashes, but rather a difference in their perceived severity as a result of the participants' training to invoke cool images as soon as they feel a hot flash coming on. Perception is no small thing, however, so if you think you might want to try hypnosis to alleviate your hot flashes, find a competent practitioner and give it a try.

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