Hypnosis: a possible treatment for hot flashes in women…and men?

July 11, 2014 10:08 AM

After successfully treating women suffering hot flashes by means of hypnotic relaxation therapy, researchers at Baylor University recently completed a study that similarly heeded relief from hot flashes for a man.

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While this non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical method should be of interest to all, it is particularly important for men who may be reluctant to seek help for the problem, knowing that it is usually treated with doses of synthetic estrogen or acupuncture, and results of the latter have been reported as being mediocre.

“Men are more reluctant to report hot flashes, and it’s not as prevalent. There are fewer ways to deal with it,” says study author Gary Elkins, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory and a professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “If a guy has hot flashes, you can’t say, ‘Well, why don’t we put you on estrogen?’ But it’s a pressing problem.”

Since testosterone levels don’t decline with age as estrogen does, men are unlikely to experience hot flashes, but it can occur due to androgen deprivation therapy used to treat problems such as prostate cancer or, in rarer cases, naturally declining testosterone levels.

Due to the rarity of the condition, and the aforementioned reluctance to confront the problem, Elkins’s study involved only one man, although it supports a 2012 study he did involving 187 women who suffered hot flashes as a result of either menopause or breast cancer treatment.

In the first study, the women followed a five-week hypnosis treatment by clinically trained therapists. Wearing skin monitors to track the occurrence of hot flashes by means of temperature readings, they kept diaries and were instructed to individualize their therapy as much as possible.

The test group saw a 75 percent reduction in hot flashes, while the control group only saw their hot flashes reduced by 17 percent.

In Elkins’s most recent study, his subject, who goes by “Mr. W.,” saw results that improved upon those of the test group in the 2012 study, for his hot flashes were reduced by nearly 95 percent. The improvement is likely to have occurred because Mr. W’s therapy sessions totaled seven weeks, rather than the five of the first study.

Until he sought therapy, Mr. W. had been suffering enormously from his hot flashes, having initially chronicled 160 per week when treatment began.

An added benefit, according to Mr. W., is that his sleep quality improved. This is in accordance with subjects’ reports of the experience being pleasurable and empowering after the 2012 study, indicating that hypnotic relaxation therapy can boast of an enjoyable quality that is absent in most pharmeceutical treatments.

The efficiency of hypnotic therapy has been debated since some research suggests not everyone is hypnotizable, although supporters like Elkins say this pertains only to a small number of people.

Elkins study was published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experemental Hypnosis.



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