According to a new study, hypnotherapy is giving cool relief for menopausal hot flushes
Like many women going through the menopause, marketing director Amanda Jones often suffered hot flushes at the worst possible moment.
At one crucial business meeting last year, she felt so hot and sweaty that she had to nip to the loo and dry her hair with paper towels.
Shortly afterwards, she acted on a friend’s advice to try hypnotherapy.
“It was fantastic,” said the 55-year-old, who lives near Leicester. “Within four months, the hot flushes had gone. It’s very difficult to say categorically that it was the hypnotherapy, but it was very powerful and cathartic and I do believe it helped.”
Many women might be sceptical about being hypnotised out of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats, which are caused by a change in the balance of the body’s sex hormones. But a new report published this week suggests that of all the alternative treatments offered to women – from herbal supplements such as black cohosh, evening primrose oil and ginseng to yoga and acupuncture – hypnosis is almost uniquely effective in alleviating symptoms of the menopause.
Having reviewed the results of rigorous clinical studies on the topic, a panel of experts commissioned by the North American Menopause Society concluded there was solid evidence that both clinical hypnosis (hypnotherapy) and cognitive behavioural therapy were beneficial. One study showed that women who had hypnotherapy five times a week had a dramatic reduction in the number and severity of hot flushes.
By contrast, there was little evidence that exercise, vitamins or herbal remedies gave any relief at all.
Amanda was nervous about being hypnotised but took the plunge when her friend recommended a local clinical hypnotherapist.
“The first session was about getting to know me and clearing out my ’emotional baggage’,” said Amanda, who is married with two grown-up sons. “I sat in an armchair and they got me to imagine walking down steps, each step taking me to a deeper level of relaxation. I wasn’t asleep, but I was very comfortable and relaxed. Then I imagined walking into a barn in the middle of a field, and in there were all the things I wanted to get rid of.
“Things I thought I’d forgotten, such as bad experiences at work from 20 years before popped back into my head. I packed them all into a ‘suitcase’ and got rid of them.”
In subsequent sessions, Amanda was asked to imagine a cool sea or breeze and was then coached in self-hypnosis to visualise that same cooling sensation when hot flushes struck her.
“Consciously, you may say to yourself: ‘I really don’t want to panic when I have a hot flush.’ But then the hot flush hits and your unconscious kicks in, making you worry that people will see you’re sweating or red in the face,” says Turner, who runs three clinics in north and central London specialising in hormone balance and weight loss. “Hypnotherapy is like a massage for your mind.”
In the run-up to the menopause, oestrogen levels decrease, causing the ovaries to stop producing an egg every month. As well as embarrassing hot flashes, this can disturb sleep and cause mood swings, vaginal dryness and loss of libido. However, fewer than one in 10 women seek medical advice.
Dr Janet Carpenter, who led the expert panel for the North American Menopause Society, said: “Many women try one thing after another. This information will be critical before they stumble on something that truly works.”