A small study into the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy on menopause showed that it may reduce hot flashes, depression, and sleep disorders.
Menopause marks the end of a person's menstrual cycles. During and after this process, they will no longer be able to conceive naturally.
Menopause typically occurs when a person is in their late 40s to early 50s. In the United States, the average age is 51.
Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disorders, and depression.
Hormone therapy, or estrogen therapy, is the most common treatment for these symptoms.
Hormone therapy can also help reduce women's risk of bone loss and fracture postmenopause, but it may also have side effects, including bloating, breast tenderness, nausea, and mood changes.
Studies show that the risks of hormone therapy vary depending on age.
Estrogen may lower the risk of heart disease if the therapy starts before the age of 60 or within 10 years of menopause. However, those who begin hormone therapy more than 10 or 20 years after menopause or at age 60 or older may be at risk of heart disease and cancer.
Other treatment options include vaginal estrogen to reduce vaginal dryness, low-dose antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (which can reduce hot flashes), and medications that can help reduce bone loss and fractures.
Applying CBT to menopause
Over recent years, researchers have been looking for alternative therapies to treat the symptoms of menopause. In previous studies, scientists used cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat menopause symptoms, and it was effective in reducing hot flashes and night sweats.
CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying negative thought patterns and behaviors. This type of therapy encourages people to become aware of their negative thinking and respond to challenging situations in more effective ways.
CBT showed positive effects in the treatment of several mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. In regards to menopause, previous studies showed positive results, but they only focused on hot flashes.
A new study that included 71 women found that cognitive therapy may be effective in managing other symptoms of menopause, such as depression, sleep disorders, and sexual concerns.
The results appear in the journal Menopause.
Future research on alternative therapies
People may wish to discuss the best option to treat menopause symptoms with their healthcare provider. They may commonly prescribe hormone therapy, but controversies regarding its side effects have prompted more and more women to seek alternative therapies.
This recent study found that CBT may be beneficial. The results showed that in addition to reducing hot flashes, it also improved sleeping disorders, depression, and sexual function.
This form of therapy, however, did not show the same level of improvement in menopause-related anxiety.
The researchers found that the improvements lasted for at least 3 months after the treatment. Even though the study involved only a small number of participants, it is a crucial step in the search for effective alternative therapies to treat the symptoms of menopause.
"This small study is in line with other studies of menopausal women showing a benefit of [CBT] in improving hot flashes. It additionally demonstrated an improvement in depression, sleep, and sexual function."
Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society
Future studies that compare CBT with other treatments and forms of therapy will allow researchers to better understand the effects of CBT, as well as how it can help millions of women with menopause symptoms.