The Menopause and Mental Health

Monday October 18, 2021

As it’s the week in which the Menopause is recognised globally with its own official day, it seems fitting to discuss its impact on mental health.  From a medical perspective, fluctuating progesterone, estrogen and testosterone levels can be responsible for many psychological symptoms around menopause, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Feeling tense or nervous
  • Feeling unhappy or depressed
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Plummeting self-esteem

Many women are simply not prepared for the variety and intensity of those symptoms and they increasingly can have an impact on their quality of life around menopause. Ultimately what happens is that these mental health symptoms are put down to other causes.  This leaves a woman to suffer in silence. Not a great place to be.

There are routine blood tests that can ascertain the stages of the menopause a women may be in but unfortunately, many women are being inaccurately diagnosed with depression and anxiety, along with a number of other health problems.  This is often done without their changing hormone levels being addressed. I have spoken to many women over the years who have been to their GP and assumptions have been made based on the fact they are of a certain age and their regular monthly cycle has been interrupted.

Women can be incorrectly prescribed antidepressants such as Citalopram and sertraline which have no effect on the underlying hormonal changes that are causing the problems in the first place. Identifying what is a menopausal symptom and what are ‘true’ mood changes, depression or anxiety can be confusing.

The mental health of a woman in the throws of the menopause can be directly affected by the physical symptoms of menopause.  For example, a common complaint such as broken sleep can affect concentration levels and deplete vital sources of energy which only adds to the stress experienced.  Of course, there are the more intimate symptoms including vaginal dryness which ultimately can have a direct impact on intimate relationships.

There has been significant research carried out between the link to menopause and depression but this research is lacking when it comes to anxiety. There is some evidence that women are more likely to experience panic attacks during and after the menopausal transition.  These can include bouts of extreme anxiety, accompanied by symptoms such as sweating, trembling and even shortness of breath.

Menopause and prior traumatic events

Emotional health around the menopause is also more likely to be influenced by previous experiences of prior traumatic events; for example, past abuse. Women often seek counselling at some stage of their menopause journey and might want to work through traumas they have previously experienced. This time of life seems to allow things to come to the surface.

What can you do to protect your mental health as you go through menopause?

  • Increase your exercise routine or even start one
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Monitor the aspects of your life that exasperate your stress levels
  • Reach out and talk – you are not alone
  • Know that it is temporary
  • Seek professional help if symptoms become severe and impact daily life

Managing the psychological symptoms of menopause

If you are troubled by strong emotions then there are a series of questions you can ask yourself:

  • What is the real cause of my feelings?
  • What is the real feeling?
  • Am I masking a feeling that I feel uncomfortable expressing?
  • When it comes to stress, try to identify and challenge the thoughts or inner voice that makes you feel stressed
  • Rate stressful situations out of 10

I will be exploring the menopause in future blogs and if you have something you want to share about your experience then get in touch.  It will be great to hear from you. For further information contact me direct:  sally@ukcounsellingnetwork.co.uk

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