Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause, affecting one in four women in Britain. This extreme feeling of hotness can make a woman’s life miserable in so many ways. There are conventional treatments however such as HRT that can fight these debilitating menopausal symptoms. But the long-term consequences of these medical procedures often worry a lot of women.
Psychological treatments to aid in treating hot flushes
In a study carried out by the researchers from King’s University College in London, scientists suggested that menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes can be addressed using psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The study involved 140 menopausal women who were having night sweats and hot flushes. The participants were divided into two groups – one group undergone CBT while the other group received no treatment. After four sessions of therapy, 65% of the respondents reported that they experienced lower levels of hot flushes and night sweats while only 12% of the control group had reduced symptoms. In a follow-up research, it was revealed that women experienced continuous reduction of symptoms within 6 months of therapy.
Another study which was published in The Lancet last week showed that women who have menopausal symptoms as a result of breast cancer also benefit from CBT.
CBT replaces negative thoughts with more positive ones.
During the trial, women were helped to replace their thoughts about menopause with more positive views. For instance, they would be asked to think that hot flushes are ordinary symptoms which will go away in time and that other women are suffering the same too.
Hot flushes could be all in the mind
Hot flushes are among the physical symptoms of menopause which is characterised by a sudden rise of the body’s temperature. It is believed that this symptom arises when the level of oestrogen falls down, which causes the thermo neutral zone to narrow down, causing the imbalance of body heat. The thermo neutral zone is the part of the brain which regulates the body’s temperature.
Myra Hunter, a psychology professor at the clinical health psychology at King’s said that women’s perception of menopause affects how they experience the symptoms. Many women think of menopause as a very stressful condition that by simply hearing the word ‘hot flush’, they would get stressed about it. Basically, what we think affects how we feel. A person who is so alarmed about his or her condition is twice more likely to experience severe pain or discomfort as the case may be. Professor Hunter believes that even though hot flushes are physical symptoms, the extent of the discomfort they bring is affected by how women think about it. She cited a study conducted in 2010 which showed that women in the West experience more menopausal symptoms than women in China and Japan. This boils down, according to Professor Hunter to the negative perceptions of people in the West about menopausal.
Psychotherapies such as CBT are all about changing your negative perception about certain things. They are meant to help individuals (men and women alike) cope with physical and emotional conditions by instilling to their minds the sense of optimism.