The Impact of Menopause on Women's Mental Health
On the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we find it important to shed a light on the impact of menopause on women’s mental health, and how we can support our loved ones going through this transition.
While menopause is a natural transition that all women go through, and is even looked forward to by some, the associated hormonal and neurological changes can have a significant impact on women’s mental health. It is therefore important to explore how these changes occur and how we can support women and their mental health during this transition.
During menopause, women experience neurological changes, the most significant being a drop in the production of estrogen. Estrogen is a central regulator of the central nervous system, more specifically it helps to maintain healthy levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Along with being essential regulators of sleep and appetite, these hormones are the major “feel good” hormones, which makes them essential for maintaining a positive mood and mindset.
When experiencing a lack of these due to menopause, women can experience a variety of symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, stress and low mood. If experienced for a prolonged time period, this can lead to anxiety and depression.
In some cases, the lack of estrogen can also affect the hippocampus which is a key part of the brain for memory and learning. This can cause forgetfulness and difficulty with concentration and decision-making. Many women also experience “brain fog” as a result of this. This can be especially disheartening for women in the workplace, leading to low self-esteem and motivation.
Along with neurological changes, women also experience hormonal changes, mainly a decrease in the production of progesterone and testosterone.
Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain and plays an important role in reducing stress. Abnormally low levels have been associated with anxiety disorder. Thus, when its levels are suddenly lowered during menopause, women may experience increased worrying, irritability, sadness and anger.
Reduced testosterone levels contribute to the physical symptoms of menopause. Although it is characteristically a male hormone, it is equally present in females at low levels, and has an effect on many physiological and mental functions. When these levels are reduced, it can cause low energy levels and fatigue, a decreased libido and sleep disturbances. Although these symptoms are not directly associated to mental health, when experienced often, they lower quality of life, and subsequently can impact the mood and relationships of the person experiencing them.
How to help
As menopause is a natural process and is experienced by all women, often the importance of providing support for those going through it can be overlooked. Additionally, as it often manifests as irritability and withdrawal, it can be difficult to know how to offer support in a healthy way. We have therefore provided some tips on how you offer your help and encouragement to a loved one going through this stage in life.
Listen to them
Communication is key. Often, simply asking them what they are going through can be enough to allow them to open up about their feelings, as they may not know how to bring it up.
This will also let them know that you are there for them, which is essential in making them feel supported and well-surrounded if they are going through a difficult time.
Remember not to make assumptions about what they are going through, as this is a complex and unique experience which will manifest itself differently in everyone.
As they may be experiencing a low mood or low self-esteem, they may not feel like doing the things that they usually do. Encourage them by providing words of empowerment, and invite them to engage with people and activities, which can be an excellent opportunity to make them feel better about themselves while experiencing symptoms.
Help with their symptoms
Some of the symptoms of menopause can be significantly reduced through a healthy and active lifestyle.
Encourage and invite them to participate in healthy activities together. For example you can ask them to take a walk or go to a yoga class with you.
Try to refrain from inviting them to engage in less healthy activities, such as drinking or smoking a lot, because this will worsen their symptoms.
Often, women going through this transition may need some extra support, and therapy is usually the best option.
Encourage them by reminding them that there is no shame in seeking out external help and that anyone can benefit from talking about their feelings with a professional. Furthermore, with recent developments in the field of psychology, treatment is becoming more personalized and accurate. GenMind™, for instance, is a tool that will allow users to assess their day-to-day symptoms, allowing their healthcare providers to better assess their situation and create a more efficient and personalized treatment plan.
We wish all women a Happy International Women’s day!
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