Menopause is a period when a woman comes to the end of her menstrual cycles. It is diagnosed after 12 months consecutive months of not having a menstrual period. It happens usually in the 40s or 50s, but it can also occur earlier or later. Although the process of menopause is biologically natural, it can be quite uncomfortable due to its symptoms such as weight gain, hot flashes, low energy and it’s effects on mental health which could result in sleep disruption. There is no need for medical intervention due to menopause but there are many effective aids available to help you adjust to the symptoms such as lifestyle adjustments.
Women experience menopause in different ways but some signs and symptoms are common to all women. These include:
- Irregularity of menstrual periods before they finally stop
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Thinning hair
- Vaginal dryness and,
- Weight gain
So, what happens during menopause? There are 3 stages of menopause:
- Perimenopause: This is the time that leads up to menopause and can begin as early as 10 years before actual menopause.
- Menopause: This is the stage where you stop your menstrual cycles.
- Postmenopause: This is the stage you enter after about one year of not having a menstrual period.
Mental Health and Menopause
Menopause is a natural process in women and is not a mental health disorder or condition but the process can be quite taxing on your mental state. Changes in your hormone levels due to menopause can result in anxiety and mood swings. Menopause can also result in already present mental health conditions getting worse.
Women with bipolar disorder may experience more episodes of manic highs and lows. Women with schizophrenia may require higher doses of their medication as their symptoms get worse.
A lack of sleep can also be a contributing factor to mood changes. Hot flashes and night sweats could result in nights and could result in insomnia which could lead to anxiety, mood swings and irritability during the day.
Due to low levels of estrogen, your mood may change sporadically from happy to sad in minutes. So, how exactly are your estrogen levels linked to your mental state? Some studies show that estrogen hormone has some effects of enhancing a person’s mood. This means that low levels of the hormone could result in feelings such as depression. A study has shown that women are about four times more likely to experience a major episode of depression during menopause than any other period in their lifetime. Changes in estrogen levels could even exacerbate any present mental health condition.
As stated earlier, women go through menopause differently so, you may or may not experience these.
Self-help measures such as getting enough sleep, eating well, taking regular exercise and practising yoga or meditation may help. You might also want to speak to your doctor about getting help. They may suggest talking therapy, medication or both.
Menopause Psychological Symptoms
As we’ve noted, changes to your hormonal levels during menopause can be quite taxing on your mental state and your physical state. Feelings of stress, depression and anxiety could overwhelm you. Some symptoms of these psychological stress you could look out for are:
- Loss of Confidence
- Brain Fog – inability to think or concentrate properly
- Menopausal depression and low mood
- Loss of sleep leading to increased irritability, lack of concentration abilty and anger.
- Mood swings
The possibility of depression doubles during this period. Women who have a past history of depression and anxiety might notice an increase or reappearance of the symptoms.
Menopause Mental Symptoms
The period of perimenopause can be a very vulnerable time that opens up women to the development of mental health conditions even they’ve had no previous problems of such. Estrogen levels reduce significantly during the perimenopause to post-menopause transition and it’s not a gradual nor is it smooth, the hormone gets in a state of wild fluctuations which could result in what would be normal habits or behaviors turning into mental health problems.
Some menopause mental symptoms that could result in psychological issues include:
- Having a history of mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety.
- Familial problems
- Caring for ageing parents or high-needs family members
- Work stress
- Having bad physical health
- Chronic pain and/or disease
- No form of exercise or physical activity
- Having no time for self-reflection
- Negative perceptions of ageing, eg. body image and sexuality
Anxiety in Menopause
Menopause can result in anxiety disorder. The symptoms that point to anxiety in menopause are:
- feelings of worry or anxiousness
- difficulty calming down
- Getting overwhelmed or frightened by sudden feelings of intense panic/anxiety
- experiencing recurring thoughts that cause anxiety, but may seem silly to others
- avoiding situations or things which cause anxiety
Menopause Mental Breakdown
Women going through menopause may experience what can be referred to as a “Menopause mental breakdown.” This term usually refers to having sudden and intense moments of emotional instability or mental distress. This emotional instability can show itself as depression, panic attacks, irritability, anxiety or even mood swings. During this period of their lives, It’s not out of the norm for women to feel stressed, and unsure about how to cope with the changes they’re undergoing.
We need to understand that mental health conditions connected with menopause are real and can severely impact a woman’s mental state and quality of life. Medication, hormonal therapy and other things can help women with some of these symptoms. Approaches like therapy, exercise, and meditation can greatly help women go through this stage of their lives.
At this stage, reaching out to friends & family or having a support group of people who understand what you are going through for help and emotional support is very important. This is especially important for women going through their menopausal phase alone, or women who do not have ready access to proper medical care. There are various support groups that provide the resources, emotional support and information you’ll to manage the emotional symptoms you’ll be experiencing during menopause.
Understanding all these signs and symptoms can be quite impactful on a woman is important.
Side Effects of Menopause
Due to the reduction in hormone levels during this period, a range of health risks need to be looked out for.
One very significant risk is the elevated possibility of cardiovascular disease like stroke or heart attack. A lowering of the estrogen levels can also elevate the possibility of osteoporosis, which could result in bone fractures and bone mass loss.
Although menopause is not cancer causing, it can lead to an elevated risk of certain kinds of cancer like ovarian, uterine and breast cancer. Women that are currently experiencing menopause may also be at an elevated risk of getting obese and diabetes.
So, It’s essential that women be aware of the health risks menopause could bring and start taking the needed steps to decrease their risk. This could be by engaging in physical activity and exercise regularly, adopting a healthy diet, reducing or completely avoiding smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and going for regular medical check-ups.
Having and working regularly with a medical professional can help make sure that you receive the care needed during this stage of your life.