While some women sail through menopause with ease, most others experience side effects that range from mildy disruptive to life-changing.
If you’re struggling with mental and emotional issues due to menopause, you’re not alone. The North American Menopause Society reports that 23% of peri- and postmenopausal women experience mood changes.
As experts in women’s health, Dr. Denise Furlong and our team here at Chicago Center for Women’s Health fully understand the wide net that menopause can cast over your quality of life.
Here, we take a closer look at how menopause can affect your mental and emotional heath and what we can do to help.
Menopause — why the changes?
At its core, the transition through menopause signals the end of your reproductive years. Underlying this transition is the shutting down of your ovaries, which means they no longer release eggs.
Your ovaries are also the primary producers of your reproductive hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone, and it’s this sudden drop in hormones that leads to the side effects of menopause.
While these hormones are largely responsible for regulating your reproductive system, they influence a number of different areas of your physical and mental health.
For example, women who pass through menopause often experience vaginal dryness, as estrogen once ensured that vaginal tissues were healthy and lubricated enough to encourage intercourse and ease delivery.
While we can directly explain vaginal dryness, the cause-and-effect relationships among other menopause symptoms are less clear, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
A complicated connection
When it comes to menopause and your mental and emotional health, the relationship is a complex one. While there’s ample evidence that some women can experience mood changes as they transition through menopause, it’s less clear whether the drop in hormone levels is directly responsible or the side effects that this drop causes.
For example, let’s go back to vaginal dryness, which affects more than half of women between the ages of 51 and 60. The effects of vaginal dryness can be large as intercourse becomes uncomfortable, which can greatly affect your sex life. The emotional distress of such a loss can take its toll on your mental health and lead to depression and anxiety.
As another example, many women who go through menopause experience night sweats, which can affect how well you sleep. Without good restorative sleep each night, you can be left irritable, tired, and tense.
The point we’re trying to make is that mental health issues and emotional distress may be a byproduct of your menopause symptoms and not the menopause itself.
That said, these byproducts are very real, and we feel that your mental and emotional well-being should be considered as seriously as your physical well-being
Getting help for your overall well-being
If you’re struggling mentally or emotionally during and/or after menopause, there are several ways in which we can help. First, we want to assure you that there are solutions for some of the side effects of menopause.
For starters, hormone replacement therapy can go a long way toward alleviating hot flashes and restoring vaginal health. For some women, the physical restoration of their quality of life is enough to remedy the emotional and mental distress.
We can also recommend some lifestyle changes that help with the side effects of menopause. Relaxation techniques, exercise, and good nutrition have all been shown to provide some relief for the symptoms of menopause.
But if we find that your mood issues run deeper than that, we can point you in the right direction for getting the mental health care you need.
If you have questions or concerns about the changes you’re experiencing during and after menopause, please contact one of our three Chicago area offices in Bedford, Oak Lawn, or Naperville, Illinois, to set up an appointment.