Hypnosis can minimize hot flashes, which affect around 80% of women during menopause, by as much as 74%, according to a new trial published in the journal Menopause.

The randomized, controlled study was the first to look at hypnosis as a method of helping control hot flashes.

Controlled, randomized human trials compare an active ingredient to a dummy drug (placebo); similar investigations with mind-body techniques are very hard to carry out, because finding a placebo is virtually impossible.

To solve this problem, the experts, from the school of Nursing at Indiana University, the College of Education at the University of Texas, Austin, and the Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory at Baylor University, assigned the women to either hypnotherapy or “structured attention”, which was utilized as the control intervention with very little effect.

Those who experienced hypnosis were involved in 5 weekly sessions involving experts offering recommendations for mental images of coolness, relaxation, a safe haven, or whatever the women preferred.

The women involved in the study also received a recording of a hypnotic orientation and were told by the researchers to practice it every day. On the other hand, the control group was given 5 sessions which involved talking about the patients’ symptoms, interpersonal exchange, monitoring, measurement, attentive listening, and stayed away from negative advice. The control group was also given a recording to listen to every day, however, their recording contained information about hot flashes.

The study participants were asked to keep journals in order to monitor how often, and how bad their hot flashes were. In addition, the women wore skin conductance monitors so that their hot flashes could be recorded.

Twelve weeks later, the hypnosis group was found to have had 75% fewer hot flashes, while the control group only reported 13% fewer. The hypnosis group also reported an 80% decrease in frequency and severity of the hot flashes, while the control group only reported a 15% decrease.

The skin conductance monitors found a 57% lower rate of hot flashes among the hypnosis group, compared with a 10% reduction for the control group. The hypnosis group was also found to sleep better and have less disruption in their lives compared with the control group. The hypnosis group reported being happy with the method of treatment.

How hypnosis helps hot flashes is still not certain, but the researchers explained that it may be due to the fact that hypnosis can boost the function of the parasympathetic nerve system, which plays a part in hot flashes.

Written by Christine Kearney