(Reuters) — A few sessions of behavioral therapy, even a “self-help” version, may help some women find relief from menopausal hot flashes, according to a British study.
Researchers writing in the journal Menopause said that after six weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, more than two-thirds of the women who underwent, through group sessions or self-help, had a “clinically significant” drop in problems related to hot flashes and night sweats.
Hormone replacement therapy is considered the most effective treatment for hot flashes, but since hormones have been linked to increased risks of heart disease, blood clots, and breast cancer, many women want alternative remedies.
Some antidepressants have been found to cool hot flashes, but “natural products” — such as black cohosh, soy, and flaxseed — have failed to meet the test of clinical trials.
“These results suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy delivered in group or self-help format is a useful treatment option for women during the menopause transition and postmenopause with problematic hot flashes/night sweats,” wrote senior researcher Myra Hunter, at King’s College London.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment option for problems ranging from depression to sleep problems to digestive disorders. It aims to change the unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviors that can feed mental or physical symptoms.
Hunter said the therapy “involves developing helpful, accepting approaches to hot flashes and also using breathing exercises to focus attention away from the flashes and negative thoughts.”
Hunter recruited 140 women who had been having hot flashes and night sweats at least ten times a week for a month or more, randomly assigning them to either group-based therapy, a self-help version or no treatment.
Group therapy sessions took place four times a month. Self-help treatment involved one meeting and a phone call with a psychologist, but otherwise, they used a book and CD.
After six weeks, 65 percent of women who underwent group therapy reported a significant drop in how problematic their hot-flash symptoms were. The same was true of 73 percent of women in the self-help group. In comparison, only 21 percent of women experienced a drop in hot flashes without any treatment.
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