March 12, 2012 / 1:25 AM / 7 years ago

Behavioral therapy may help hot flashes:study

(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 of 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 generally failed to meet the test of clinical trials.

“These results suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy delivered in group or self-help format is an effective 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.”

Hunger recruited 140 women who had been having hot flashes and night sweats at least 10 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 therapy 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 meaningful drop in how problematic their hot-flash symptoms were. The same was true of 73 percent of women in the self-help group. That compared with 21 percent of women who had had no treatment.

The benefit was still apparent after six months, though by then one-third of the untreated group had also improved.

Women in the therapy groups said they were having fewer hot flashes — but women who had received no treatment reported a similar drop, the study said. Instead, the benefit seemed to come from changes in how women perceived their symptoms.

"Women say that they might still have hot flashes but not notice them, and then they feel more confident about coping with them," Hunter said. SOURCE: bit.ly/yyB3cz

Reporting from New York by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies and Ron Popeski

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