While Menopause is a natural phase it is also a very significant biological event that can have a profound impact on our mental health. The hormonal changes that occur during menopause can give rise to a range of emotional and psychological challenges that often go overlooked (and dismissed). How does menopause affect women's mental health?
- Mood Swings: These hormonal fluctuations, especially in estrogen and progesterone levels, can lead to mood swings and emotional instability. Some women report finding themselves experiencing sudden bouts of sadness, irritability, or even anxiety. Understanding these mood swings can help both women and their loved one’s cope with the changes. Make sure you have someone to talk to – a friend, partner, family member.
- Depression: Women are at a higher risk of developing depression. The decline in estrogen levels can affect the brain's neurotransmitters, which regulate mood. This hormonal shift can contribute to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a decreased interest in activities we used to enjoy.
- Anxiety: Anxiety can intensify during menopause. Many women admit having heightened feelings of worry, restlessness, and even panic attacks. These feelings may be exacerbated by physical symptoms such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances.
- Sleep Disturbances: Night sweats and hot flashes are common during menopause, and they can significantly disrupt sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, cognitive difficulties, and worsened mood, making it important to address these sleep issues to support mental well-being. No sleep = the perfect storm.
- Cognitive Changes: Some women experience cognitive changes during menopause, or what we like to call ‘brain fog." You’ll know it if you have it. Signs include forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and reduced mental clarity. These cognitive changes can be distressing and frustrating. I recommend getting the ‘Clapper’ for reading glasses, car keys and your cell phone.
- Self-Esteem and Body Image: The physical changes associated with menopause, such as weight gain and changes in skin and hair, can impact our self-esteem and body image. These shifts in self-perception can make us feel insecure and lack of self-confidence.
- Relationship Challenges: The emotional and physical symptoms of menopause can strain relationships, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts. These relationships include friendships and work relationships as well. I highly recommend keeping the conversation open during this time. Support and communication are critical now.
The mental health impact of menopause is real and substantial. I encourage all women to get support from healthcare professionals, therapists, menopause practitioners, or organizations like North American Menopause Society to address their emotional and psychological needs. Lifestyle changes, like a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress-reduction techniques, can also help mitigate the effects of menopause on mental health.
Understanding the multifaceted impact of menopause on women's mental health is a crucial step towards providing the necessary support and guidance for women navigating this significant life transition. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, we can better empower women to maintain their mental and emotional well-being during this natural phase of life.
And most importantly, remember that menopause is the 100% club. We’re all going to go through it (if we’re lucky), You’re never alone. You can probably shoot a nerf gun in any direction and hit another woman in menopause.