Despite the fact that the menopause will affect every single woman, it is still a taboo topic that is not openly discussed and often misunderstood.
Whilst some women will sail through it, for others it can be a really debilitating experience impacting their personal, family and work life.
But you don’t need to struggle alone, counselling can help….
What is the menopause?
The menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing eggs and so you no longer have periods. The main hormone that reduces during the menopause is oestrogen.
When does it occur?
It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51. However, some women may go through early menopause, naturally or because of surgery, illness or treatment.
You are said to have reached the menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months.
What are the symptoms of the menopause?
When most people think about the menopause, they think about the physical symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. However, there are also many psychological symptoms, and it’s often these that many women struggle with.
For example, you may start to feel more anxious or experience panic attacks for the first time. You may find you’re more easily annoyed or upset by things that didn’t bother you before. You may go from feeling happy one minute to angry or tearful the next. Or you may find it hard to concentrate or remember things.
And all these symptoms will be made much worse by interrupted sleep and fatigue.
The table below shows the widespread of symptoms. This is due to the fact that oestrogen affects many different areas of the body, including your brain and emotions, so when it starts to decline, it can have a significant impact.
It’s important to note that these symptoms may occur even if you’re still having periods. This phase is called the perimenopause and can last for several years for some women.
Sadly many women don’t make the connection that these changes are related to their hormones, so they may think they’re ‘losing their mind’ or worry that there is something seriously wrong.
Are there any other stressors in your life?
Hormonal changes can be attributed to many of the psychological symptoms listed above, but there may be other changes going on in your life at this time, which can also impact your mental wellbeing.
This may be a time when your children are leaving home and you may be experiencing empty nest syndrome. Or you may be in the prime of your career and feeling the pressure at work. Or perhaps you’re struggling to cope with hormonal teenagers or trying to support ageing parents.
For some women, the menopause can bring on mourning the loss of their fertility. For women that have not had children, it may be the final step in the realisation that it’s no longer possible. And for those that have had children, it may bring up feelings of grief and loss around the end of that part of their lives.
Worries about getting older and noticing physical changes in your body, such as weight gain and wrinkles, may also bring up concerns about attractiveness and body image. On top of that, a loss of libido may signal a loss of a sense of femininity and put a strain on your relationship with your partner.
Midlife can also be a time when you reflect where you are in your life. For some women it is a new chapter in their lives, but for others it may feel like they haven’t achieved the things they wanted to and a sense of dread of what lies ahead. This time of reflection may also bring up unresolved issues from the past.
Therefore, this can be an emotionally challenging time for some women. And if you don’t have family and friends that understand what you’re gong through, it can be a very isolating experience.
How counselling can help with Menopause
If you are experiencing menopause symptoms, it’s important to see your GP.
In addition to this, counselling can provide support to help you deal with the emotional turmoil of the menopause, as well as other issues, which may arise at this time.
Some of the issues I can help with are:
- Managing anxiety and low mood
- Help to reduce stress
- Exploring grief around the loss of fertility and youth
- Body image issues
- Help to rebuild your self-esteem
- Empty nest syndrome
- Relationship issues
I can help you to explore your own personal transition through the menopause. When everything feels too overwhelming, I can help you to find coping skills that are right for you.
Counselling can also help you to work towards accepting what is happening to your body instead of fighting it, and focussing on self-compassion and self-care.
The menopause doesn’t have to be just about the losses. It can be an opportunity to prioritise yourself, to re-evaluate what opportunities are available to you and to embrace new challenges.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is another form of talking therapy. It focuses on the links between your physical symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It involves recognising your unhelpful thoughts and replacing them with more helpful thoughts, as well as using relaxation and breathing techniques to reduce the impact of the physical symptoms of anxiety.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines in 2015 recommends CBT to alleviate depressed mood and anxiety during the menopause.
Recent research also suggests that CBT can be used effectively to help manage hot flushes and night sweats.
Therefore, CBT can be another way to help you through the menopause.
If you are struggling and would like some counselling or CBT, please contact me.