Updated: Sep 21
For many women, the menopause is a time in their life when they are beset with physical and emotional problems. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is commonly prescribed to women to help with menopausal symptoms, but many women prefer not to take HRT, and it is not suitable for everyone. There is also a small but relevant associated risk of HRT causing cancer.
In recent years, there has been a surge of research into alternative methods of supporting women through menopause, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), yoga, diet and hypnotherapy. Randomised, controlled trials of clinical hypnotherapy compared to a “structured attention” therapy approach demonstrated that hypnotherapy is significantly effective in helping women with frequent hot flushes and more effective than acupuncture, herbal supplements and yoga.
Hypnotherapy has been scientifically proven to help reduce symptoms, with hypnotherapy being found to be 74% as effective as HRT for reducing hot flushes and night sweats – without any side effects; and there is a great deal of support for the use of hypnotherapy for menopause. The British Medical Journal has reported that hypnosis and CBT are the ‘only two alternative treatments that work in the reduction of menopause symptoms’. Hypnotherapy is recommended by the North American Menopause Society for the management of menopause symptoms. And West Midlands Police have brought in a hypnotherapist to work with female staff who are going through menopause.
What is the menopause?
The menopause transition most commonly starts in women in their mid-to-late 40s and can last several years, although some women start much earlier. Menopause symptoms can be triggered by treatment for breast cancer. This transition period can have a huge effect on all areas of women’s lives. Women report hot flushes, lowered mood, anxiety and sleep disturbances, weight gain, aching joints, decreased energy swollen breasts, lowered libido, and heavy bleeding. The menopause has a heavy impact on the workforce, with recent research finding 50% of menopausal women are not applying for promotion, or are taking early retirement. 20% choose to leave the workforce entirely because they find their symptoms unmanageable.
The most commonly reported symptoms of menopause are hot flushes, and night sweats. A hot flush is a sudden feeling of warmth in the upper body, which is usually most intense over the face, neck and chest. The skin might redden, similar to blushing. A hot flush can also cause intense sweating. Losing too much body heat can result in feeling chilled afterward. Most research suggests that hot flushes occur when decreased oestrogen levels cause the hypothalamus, which is the body's thermostat, to become more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature. If the hypothalamus thinks the body is too warm, it starts a chain of events — a hot flush — to cool it down. As well as the physical discomfort, some women may experience feelings of embarrassment or loss of control.
Many women find hot flushes interfere with their quality of sleep: research by the Centre for Disease Control in the United States has shown that a third of menopausal women sleep an average of seven hours a night or less, and nearly half wake up without feeling rested at least four days a week.
How does Hypnotherapy help?
Hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective in reducing many of the symptoms of menopause including hot flushes, brain fog, and fatigue. By giving back a sense of control, it provides women with a sense of agency in the whole transition process.
Research has shown that focusing on cooling imagery whilst in a state of hypnosis allows for greater control over hot flushes and can help prevent them altogether. Several studies have been carried out, and the conclusions in all show that clinical hypnosis was significantly better at reducing the frequency and severity of hot flushes, and improving mood and sleep, than no treatment. Hypnotherapy was demonstrated to reduce hot flushes by as much as 74%, proving it to be as effective as HRT in managing these symptoms.
Sleep disturbances are a pervasive problem among peri-menopausal women, with an estimated 40 to 64% reporting poor sleep. Hypnotherapy is showing to be an effective intervention for sleep disturbances, offering clinically meaningful sleep improvement.
These medical studies all point to the power the mind has in influencing the body’s reactions. Teaching the mind to regulate breathing, for instance, regulates hot flushes, stress, and anxiety by slowing the process and allowing women to regain control. Hypnotherapy helps calm the body's stress response — actively reversing the raised heart rate, rush of blood, and sweating.
What happens in a hypnotherapy session for menopause?
Hypnotherapy is a safe, and relaxing treatment, and the client is in control throughout the session. Typically, a hypnotherapist will begin by supporting the client into a state of calm, focussed relaxation, so that she finds it easy to ignore outside disturbances and intrusive thoughts. Her attention will be focussed on the ideas and suggestions from the therapist, who will encourage her to visualise cooling imagery. This might be sipping an ice-cold drink on a hot day, or feeling the sensation of an ice-cube in her mouth. She may be guided to imagine stepping into a cool sea or feeling a cool breeze. In this deeply relaxed state, these images may feel very real.
The purpose of this cool imagery is to encourage the brain to regain control of its temperature-control mechanisms. The hypnotherapist may then give suggestions for managing hot flushes in day-to-day life, such as, “Your hot flushes will bother you less and less, you will gain control over your hot flushes.” These suggestions are designed to give a sense of control over symptoms, whilst also providing a sense of calm. The client will then be coached in self-hypnosis so that she can learn to visualise that same body-cooling sensation when hot flushes strike in everyday life, leading to actual relief of symptoms.
Hypnotherapy has also been shown to improve many other aspects of life during menopause. Many studies have shown that hypnotherapy is effective in improving sleep, reducing stress and anxiety, improving mood and increasing confidence, and supporting weight loss.
If you'd like to try hypnosis for menopause, we have created this self-hypnosis audio session specifically designed to reduce hot flushes and night sweats.
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