Does Menopause Affect Mental Health?

Transition to menopause can be extremely difficult for many women. You must have heard many stories about anxiety, increased level of stress and many other disruptions that menopause cause. Decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone are responsible for many physical changes.

Women who are approaching menopause often complain of hot flashed and sweating at night. Instead of getting emotional supports from family and friends, they feel isolated and frustrated. They fail to understand what their body and mind are going though.

Every woman experience menopause differently. Some women experience barely noticeable symptoms, while others experience significant changes.

Common Symptoms

UK-based publicly funded healthcare system, National Health Service (NHS) has listed these common symptoms most experience while approaching menopause.

  • hot flushes
  • night sweats
  • vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
  • difficulty sleeping
  • low mood or anxiety
  • reduced sex drive (libido)
  • problems with memory and concentration

According to the NHS, menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop and last around 4 years after your last period, although some women experience them for much longer.

Depression Around Menopause

According to a study published by The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) in the journal Menopause, a high number of women experience symptoms of depression during perimenopause. But these are not detected in time, and as a consequence, remain untreated.

“Given the prevalence of depressive symptoms in perimenopausal women, the recent publication of guidelines for the diagnosis and management of depression in this population, and the availability of safe and effective therapies, all health care providers should be screening their female patients for depression,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

  • According to this study, women are not screened for depression by gynecologists.
  • Risk for depression is higher during the perimenopausal period.
  • Depression during menopause can be different from normal depression. During this phase, women are more prone to mood swings. Irritability and sadness are less-common symptoms.

While many women don’t experience any psychological symptoms at all, some women’s physical and mental health are affected by menopause. Huge physiological changes are caused primarily due to the depletion of the hormone estrogen in the body. Since your gynecologist doesn’t bother to screen you for depression, you should look for these symptoms:

  • Do you always feel lower than your usual self?
  • Have you lost interest in your favorite activities?
  • Do you feel difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep?
  • Do you feel weighed down by guilt?
  • Have you noticed changes in your body’s energy level?
What to Do?

According to the NHS, menopausal symptoms can last for around four years after a woman has her last period, although some experience symptoms for even longer.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a solution many women turn to. But  NHS suggests it only in extreme cases. It is true HRT help relieve severe kind of symptoms as it replaces oestrogen in the form of tablets, skin patches, gels and implants. But, it is also associated with many side effects. Hence, you have to consult your doctor whether you really need it.

Another treatment, suggested by the NHS, is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of talking therapy that can help with low mood and stress, exercise and yoga which can help boost mood and also making changes to your diet can benefit you.

You should also follow a healthy lifestyle to relieve menopausal symptoms. You will benefit from eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

In extreme cases, you should see a menopausal specialist for further guidance.

 

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