Mental Health Therapist Weighs In On Menopause Hormone Changes

Women over 40 know about "the change." Perhaps their periods become shorter and irregular. Some women might have problems sleeping. They might also see a drop in their sex drive or have vaginal dryness. About 75% of women have hot flashes during perimenopause and menopause, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. These symptoms of menopause occur because estrogen levels begin to drop.

If the physical symptoms don't scare you enough, menopause can also bring on mental health issues. Helen Bennett, MBACP, is known as The Menopause Therapist, and in a Health Digest exclusive, she says women going through menopause could experience anxiety, paranoia, brain fog, and low mood. Menopause could also manifest feelings of shame.

"They may feel old, damaged or defective, less attractive or less feminine, and be grieving their loss of fertility," Bennett said. "In social groups, friends and family often don't admit to experiencing menopause symptoms because they perceive menopause as a sign of aging or weakness, so anyone experiencing a challenging menopause can feel isolated and struggle to know where to turn for support." Bennett adds that these feelings of isolation and shame could be exacerbated in LGBTQIA+ communities or in people experiencing medical, chemical, or early menopause.

How to manage your mental health during menopause

Bennett says that every person experiences menopause differently. She suggests learning as much as possible about how your symptoms might be related to hormone changes. "Menopause affects half the population, yet many medical professionals haven't received adequate training about menopause, so they may minimize or misdiagnose symptoms," she said. "Mental health symptoms of menopause such as brain fog, short-term memory [problems], or uncharacteristic anger can frighten people who don't realize why it is happening."

She says it's important to establish specific self-care strategies to manage your well-being, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of sleep. Talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hormone replacement therapy, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also help manage the physical and mental health symptoms of menopause.

Bennett adds that your relationships can provide some emotional support. "If your loved one is experiencing a challenging menopause, allow them space to talk about their symptoms and experience, understand what is happening, support them to seek medical help, and work out the best way to find the right support for them," she said.