Men who experience hot flashes may suffer in silence, but a new study finds that hypnotic relaxation therapy could provide some relief.
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 a study from Baylor University.
“Men are more reluctant to report hot flashes, and it’s not as prevalent. There are fewer ways to deal with it,” said study author Gary Elkins, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory and a professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.
“If a guy has hot flashes, you can’t say, ‘Well, why don’t we put you on estrogen?’ But it’s a pressing problem.”
Elkins noted that hot flashes occur in men with a history of prostate cancer — the second most common malignancy in men — or another disorder causing a testosterone deficiency.
Up to 80 percent of prostate cancer survivors experience hot flashes, with about 50 percent of them experiencing hot flashes so severe that they need treatment. Elkins adds that hot flashes due to prostate cancer tend to be more frequent, more severe, and more prolonged than those women experience.
Elkins has conducted previous research showing that hypnotic relaxation therapy benefits postmenopausal women and breast cancer survivors who suffer from hot flashes.
The outcomes for current treatments for men, such as hormone therapy and acupuncture, are mixed, the researcher noted.
The man in the Baylor study — referred to as “Mr. W” — was a married African-American who suffered nightly hot flashes beginning in 1999 because of androgen deficiency.
He found some relief through testosterone injections, but in 2010, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and forced to discontinue hormone therapy. Shortly after his prostate was surgically removed, he again began suffering hot flashes.
“He underwent seven weeks of hypnotic relaxation therapy involving clinically trained therapists and self-hypnosis, with results measured in self-reporting and physiological testing done through wearing skin monitors with electrodes,” Elkins said.
By the end of the treatment period, he experienced a 94 percent reduction in hot flashes, the researcher reports.
His sleep quality improved by 87 percent, measured by a standardized test, and although the sleep quality had dropped at a 12-week follow-up, it remained in the “good quality of sleep” range, according to the researcher.
Mr. W also kept a diary, which showed that at the beginning of the treatment period he was experiencing up to 160 hot flashes a week. Over the course of the treatment, that dropped to about 15 a week, he reported.
Besides being guided through steps by a therapist, he took part through self-hypnosis, visualizing fishing at his favorite Texas lake. He donned imaginary rubber boots, waded into the water and enjoyed a cool breeze as he cast a line and fish began to nibble.
The new study 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 quality of life and lessened anxiety and depression.
“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.
Weekly sessions over a five-week period involved hypnosis of 187 women 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.
Besides having few or no side effects, hypnotic relaxation therapy is cost-saving and allows patients to be involved in their own healing, Elkins noted.
“There’s no ‘One size fits all,’ ” he said. “But hypnotic relaxation therapy has been shown to be the most effective drug-free option — as well as having few or no side effects.”
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
Source: Baylor University