July 10, 2014
Science Daily/Baylor University
Men who experience hot flashes are unlikely to talk much about it, but they may find relief from their silent suffering if they are willing to try an unusual treatment, according to new research. After seven weeks of hypnotic relaxation therapy, a 69-year-old man who had uncontrolled hot flashes following prostate cancer surgery showed a drastic decrease not only in hot flashes but also an impressive improvement in sleep quality, according to the study.
The new research follows previous published studies by Elkins that found a marked decrease in hot flashes among postmenopausal women and also among breast cancer survivors who have undergone hypnotic relaxation therapy. It reduced hot flashes by as much as 80 percent, and research findings by clinically trained therapists show it also improved participants' quality of life and lessened anxiety and depression. (Quality of life included such issues as work, sexuality, social and leisure activities, mood and concentration.) "And that's all without the increased risk of breast cancer or heart disease associated with hormone treatments such as estrogen or progestin," Elkins said.
The weekly sessions of hypnosis of 187 women over a five-week period involved hypnosis by clinically trained therapists. The women also practiced self-hypnosis using audio recordings to visualize a snowy path or cool mountain creek. During the treatments, the women wore skin monitors with electrodes and kept diaries of when they had hot flashes, how often, how severe they were, and what might have triggered flashes, such as stress, spicy foods or being in a hot room.
Women also were encouraged to individualize their therapy. An example: One woman's imagery was walking to a lake from her porch to sit on lawn chairs with her family at sunset. Previous research has shown that people vary when it comes to being "hypnotizable" -- responsive to hypnosis -- but the consensus is that most people are at least moderately so. Besides having few or no side effects, hypnotic relaxation therapy is cost-saving and allows patients to be involved in their own healing.