With any woman experiencing menopause, the effects of huge hormonal change can bring physical and mental symptoms that can be confusing, challenging, and stressful. Many women can be unprepared for this change, making it a difficult transition even in the best of circumstances. But coping with the many symptoms of menopause can also have an impact on your mental health.
What is menopause?
While the average age of menopause is 51, many women experience menopausal change between the ages of 45 and 55. It’s a natural process in every woman’s body where hormones change and periods become less frequent before stopping completely meaning they can’t get pregnant naturally.
There’s also a period of time leading up to menopause, called perimenopause. This is when changes are most noticeable and can include irregular and heavy periods as well as many menopausal symptoms. After menopause, women can experience post-menopause – when periods have stopped for 12 months in succession – but can still suffer from menopausal symptoms.
But for some women, menopause can happen at a much younger age, in their 30s or possibly even younger, and is known as premature menopause. This can affect around 1 in every 100 women and, alongside the main symptoms, can have the additional mental distress of becoming infertile at an early age.
As a result, during any stage of menopause, women can be affected by a wide range of different physical and mental health symptoms.
Symptoms of menopause
It’s natural for the majority of women to experience many of the symptoms associated with menopause to a greater or lesser degree. Some can be mild while others can be severe and have a big impact on your everyday life. Common symptoms can include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats and sleeping problems
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful or uncomfortable sex or loss of sex drive
- Inconsistent periods
- Mood swings and irritability
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration problems
- Stress, anxiety, and/or depression
Every woman’s experience is different. But many of the hormonal changes and symptoms can start months, or even years before your periods stop and overall symptoms can last for five years or more, sometimes even longer.
How does menopause affect your mental health?
Many of the physical symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, sleeping problems, or vaginal dryness can lead to a real feeling of distress and unhappiness. But there are many mental symptoms that can affect you as well, including mood swings, memory, focus, and concentration issues, and lack of motivation which place a heavy strain on your emotional state.
But the time when menopause usually begins can also be a time that brings lifestyle change and the potential for many life events happening at the same time, including divorce or separation, children leaving home, or changes in career or job roles.
While any physical and mental symptoms of menopause will differ greatly for every woman, the lack of naturally produced oestrogen and the imbalance of other hormones can impact your mental health. Though not scientifically proven, it could result in increased stress levels, depression, or anxiety while, potentially, intensifying any pre-existing conditions.
Menopause and depression
Many women going through perimenopause and menopause can often experience feelings of depression. The big shift in hormonal imbalance can increase or bring on new symptoms of depression, and if you’re suffering from other menopause symptoms like low mood or mood swings, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Menopause and anxiety
Anxiety and panic attacks or panic disorder are also common during menopause. Anxiety is based on fear of the unknown and a lack of control over certain situations and menopausal anxiety could be intensified by the worry of potential symptoms occurring during or while transitioning to any of the three stages.
Menopause and stress
For many, going through any stage of menopause can feel stressful in itself. It’s a life-changing experience and ever-changing hormone levels can change how you respond to stress. But the worry of menopause, plus those mid-life factors we mentioned, and coping with general, everyday life can all add up.
Treatments for menopause
Luckily, treatments for menopause and their pre or post stages are widely available if certain or several symptoms are affecting your day to day life and your mental health. Prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) from your Doctor can help to increase or replace low hormones while also helping relieve more general or common symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.
To complement HRT, talking therapies and counselling can help treat deeper symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. A healthy and balanced diet with plenty of exercise can also help to reduce stress while improving mood and other menopausal symptoms.
There are also additional medications and treatments available for more specific or acute menopause symptoms such as unwanted hair growth, hair loss or thinning, or mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. There may be risks with menopause HRT and any additional medications, so always speak to your GP first to get the medication that’s right for you.
Menopause and women at work
With all the symptoms that can be associated with menopause, it can be difficult to forget that many women will still be in full-time employment during any perimenopausal and menopausal, and often post-menopausal, transitions.
According to the CIPD’s ‘The Menopause At Work’ report, women over 50 “are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce”. And according to research from Nuffield Health “Almost half (47%) of women with symptoms said they feel depressed, while more than a third (37%) said they suffer from anxiety”.
It goes on: “72% of female workers suffering symptoms said they feel unsupported at work, even though one in five (19%) say their symptoms have a detrimental effect on their work. One in ten women said they have even considered quitting their job.”
This is obviously an area where much more work needs to be done by employers to give their female staff the help and support they need to cope and manage their symptoms effectively.
Mental health training by Clearfocus
At Clearfocus Training, we’re committed to delivering mental health and communications training for both managers and employees to help tackle the issues that affect everyone in the workplace. And that includes removing the stigma surrounding mental health for women living with menopause symptoms while encouraging an open and mental health-positive workplace with a proactive support network.
For more information and to book either your Mental Health Training For Managers or Mental Health Training For Employees course for yourself or your team – both of which can be tailored to your needs and delivered online or in-person at a time and venue of your choice – call us on 07831 119 941 or email us at email@example.com today.