Have you ever considered the relationship between your mental health and menopause? It’s an area often overlooked in the sphere of women’s health, with hormone fluctuations and their impacts on mental wellbeing frequently underrepresented in discussions around mental health. In reality, these biological factors can significantly influence your psychological wellness during menopause. In this article, we will delve into the importance of a holistic approach, considering the interplay between menopause, biochemical changes, and your mental health.
Understanding Menopause and Its Effect on The Brain
Let’s start with the basics: Menopause, a natural biological process, signifies the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. It’s a time of significant hormonal changes, with declining levels of estrogen and progesterone; two hormones critical for various functions in the body, including the regulation of mood.
If you’re a woman currently going through menopause, you’ll already know the significant impacts it can have on your mood, your mind, and your body. Unfortunately though, many women don’t have menopause’s impacts on the brain properly explained to them by their doctors or therapists. As we all know, knowledge is power. And knowing more about how menopause is affecting your brain can help you to realise you’re not alone, you’re not ‘going nuts’, and although some of the things you’re experiencing aren’t a whole lot of fun, they’re completely normal.
How exactly does menopause affect the brain? Here’s the science:
- Neurotransmitter production: Hormones such as estrogen play a crucial role in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, often referred to as ‘happy hormones’. Reduction in estrogen levels during menopause can lead to decreased production of these neurotransmitters, which can influence mood and cognitive function.
- Cognitive function: Some women experience ‘brain fog’ or memory lapses during menopause, commonly attributed to fluctuating hormone levels.
- Sleep disruption: Menopause often brings about changes in sleep patterns, with many women experiencing insomnia or disturbed sleep. Adequate sleep is essential for optimal brain function and mental health.
How Menopause Influences Mental Health
“One in three women will experience significant depression during menopause but often do not respond to standard antidepressant treatments,” according to a leading Australian psychologist.
The hormonal shifts you experience during menopause not only influences your physical health but also bear significant effects on mental health. Here are some of the key ways menopause can affect mental health:
- Depression and anxiety: The fluctuating hormone levels can lead to mood swings and an increased risk of depression and anxiety. The uncertainty and physical discomfort accompanying menopause can further exacerbate these conditions. That’s why it’s so important for women to know more about it!
- Stress and irritability: Hormonal changes can lead to heightened feelings of stress and irritability. The additional physical symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes or night sweats, can also add to this stress.
- Self-esteem and body image: Changes in the body and its functions can affect a woman’s self-esteem and body image, potentially leading to mental health concerns like depression or anxiety.
If you’re lucky, none of these mental health issues become a concern for you during menopause. But for all too many women, one or more of these factors will become a part of their lives.
Women in mid-life have a “particular form of depression”, says professor Kulkarni, director of women’s mental health institute HER Centre Australia. “It’s not just a tearful, sad, low mood, but there can be a lot of anger, rage and hostility. I see women all the time who have lost their quality of life in many ways, with problems at work, problems in their relationships, difficulties with parenting and just not enjoying life.”
As Kulkarni explains, menopause can last for a decade in some women. So, a ‘wait and see, and things might get better’ approach just isn’t going to work for a lot of people. Instead, a holistic approach that considers mental, physical, and biochemical factors is needed. If you’re going through menopause and not feeling like yourself, it’s time to reach out for help.
The Holistic Approach: Mental Health and Menopause
“Menopause is not a ‘pause’ at all; it is an entirely new phase of life, filled with opportunities for growth, self-discovery, and empowerment.” – Unknown
A holistic approach to mental and physical health during menopause can make an immediate and significant difference, as it appreciates the interconnectedness of physical and mental wellness. Here’s why it’s crucial:
- Addressing root causes: A holistic approach aims to identify and treat the root causes, not just the symptoms. In terms of menopause, this could mean addressing hormonal imbalances alongside emotional and psychological distress.
- Incorporating lifestyle changes: A holistic approach values the importance of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, all of which can influence hormonal balance and mental health.
- Empowering self-care: It encourages women to take charge of their health, empowering them with the knowledge and tools to navigate menopause successfully.
At Integrated Health Specialists, we understand the complexities of mental health and menopause. We know that menopause isn’t just about hot flushes and hormonal changes; it’s about how these changes affect every aspect of a woman’s life, including her mental health.
As experts in this field, we apply a holistic approach to counselling and psychology for women going through menopause, recognising and addressing the effects that menopause can have on women’s mental health. If you’re navigating menopause and are struggling with mental health challenges, you’re not alone. We’re here to help guide you through this stage of life, focusing on your individual needs and helping you find balance.
By understanding the connection between mental health and menopause, you can better manage the changes you’re experiencing and ensure your mental wellbeing remains a priority during this time of transition. To book a session and begin your holistic journey to wellness, contact us today.