Where Does Therapy Fit With Being Menopausal?
Climacteric, Perimenopause, Menopause and of course that well coined phrase “The Change”. Whether you choose to call it by one of these names or a completely different name, the fact remains that this time in someone’s life can be highly traumatic, emotionally draining, physically exhausting and at times, downright scary! In addition, there can be a knock-on effect to immediate family and friends.
So what are the high level statistics?
· A woman is considered to be in menopause once they have not had a period for 12 months
· According to the NHS website, the average age of a woman when they begin going though the menopause is 45 and that often initially presents as perimenopause, however;
o 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before the age of 40 and this is called premature menopause
· Symptoms can be experienced for years before menopause either starts or ends
· Common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
o Changes in texture of hair/ loss of hair
o Difficulty sleeping
o Difficulty with concentration
o Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse
o Dry eyes
o Hot flushes/ flashes
o Increased hirsuteness
o Itchy skin
o Joint pain
o Loss of desire
o Loss of memory
o Low mood
o Night sweats
o Vaginal dryness
For a very long time, menopause has been very much unspoken about – that which shall not be named. Women have historically gone through the menopause without support, and often with little understanding about what is going on in their own bodies, however I see a change occurring now. Today, society still inadvertently expects that women will function normally whilst going through these huge hormonal changes and that added pressure can bring about even more stress. Celebrities such as Mariella Frostrup (with her 2018 BBC programme: ‘The Truth About the Menopause’) and Davina McCall (with her recent Channel 4 programme: ‘Sex, Myths and the Menopause’) are now beginning to openly share their menopause experiences and there is encouragement for women to talk about it with friends, family and their doctors. A shift is finally coming and conversations about being menopausal are becoming normalised.
Nowadays, there are various options for how women can approach the menopause. These include; doing nothing and allowing Mother Nature to run her course, the natural route, antidepressants or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Sadly, there are still many GP’s who immediately prescribe antidepressants as the first course of treatment for menopause and that is in spite of the NICE guidelines. Whilst there are some women who find this course of treatment successful, there are many who do not. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to treating menopause. Whilst researching for this blog, I was saddened to read just how many women still have to fight to be prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – and I am not referring to those where HRT is very clearly contra-indicated due to individual medical history. I am not a doctor and am therefore absolutely no expert on pharmacology; however what I do understand through my research, is how life changing HRT can be for many, many women where it is an appropriate and suitable treatment.
So where can therapy fit in this menopause journey? Consider which presents first, the physical effects or the psychological ones? Whichever way around it is, one impacts on the other. Talking to an experienced therapist can make a world of difference - someone who will provide a safe, confidential space, who will be empathetic, who will want to understand how you feel, who will support you psychologically whilst you are going through the ups and downs of menopause. Taking that time away from daily life and expressing how you are feeling both mentally and physically can certainly go some way to helping with the emotional aspects of the hormonal changes going on in your body. Talking therapy could help reduce some of the symptoms and it will help with the mental well being of any woman going through these changes. Over the years that I have been a therapist, I have worked with the impacts of menopause and I have seen first-hand how talking therapy can have a positive impact.
That support is out there, so please do reach for it.