Clinical hypnosis results in significant reductions in hot flashes compared with structured-attention control in postmenopausal women, researchers report.
Gary Elkins (Baylor University, Texas, USA) and colleagues found that postmenopausal women randomly allocated to receive clinical hypnosis experienced a mean reduction of 55.82 (74.16%) hot flashes over a 12-week period compared with a reduction of 12.89 (17.13%) hot flashes in women who were randomly allocated to structured-attention control.
Hot flash score (defined as a combination of frequency and severity of hot flashes) was also reduced, by a mean of 18.83 points (80.32%) for women receiving clinical hypnosis compared with a reduction of 3.53 (15.38%) points in those in the control group.
After the 12-week follow-up period, the mean reduction in physiologically measured hot flashes was 5.92 (56.86%) for clinical hypnosis and 0.88 (9.94%) for controls.
Hot flash-related daily interference, sleep quality, and treatment satisfaction also improved significantly in patients receiving clinical hypnosis compared with controls.
The randomized controlled trial, which appears in Menopause, involved 187 postmenopausal women who reported a minimum of seven hot flashes a day or at least 50 hot flashes a week at baseline between 2008 and 2012.
"I think this is a very important study," remarked Margery Gass, Executive Director of the North American Menopause Society. "It's very well designed with good results."
"I cannot predict how widely it will be used. The challenge is that it does require some training and often people are not very patient about having to do special training to get a benefit. It is often more convenient for people to just take a pill."
She added: "But there are women who cannot or do not want to use products like hormone therapy for a variety of reasons, and they have been looking for effective alternatives. So I think for that group of people, this is a very nice option."
Women who underwent hypnosis had five weekly sessions in which they received suggestions for mental images of coolness, relaxation, or a safe place. They also received an audio recording of a hypnotic induction and practiced it daily.
The control group had five sessions in which a clinician discussed their symptoms, attentive listening, interpersonal exchange monitoring, measurement, and encouragement, and avoided negative suggestions. The control group also received an audio recording to listen to daily; however, theirs contained information about hot flashes.
Gass pointed out that the study design was particularly strong because the researchers used the same criteria that the US Food and Drug Administration requires to demonstrate efficacy. In addition, she said that the control group had "very little response" during the study, compared with the substantial placebo effect seen in most drug trials.
She explained: "Often we see a 25% or 30% response in the placebo group for hot flushes. So this made the results look all the more impressive because the placebo group response was so little."
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