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Your Menopause Matters; Therapy can help.

Updated: May 18

The menopause: different for everyone, relevant to everyone, impacts on everyone, more than just physical, much maligned and often little understood, still taboo, natural part of ageing, AND one of many impacting issues in a life phase .


Menopause: Physical & Mental Changes. Therapy helps.
CBT Therapy for Menopause Provided By Accredited CBT Therapist, Edinburgh

Menopause Matters - Hasn’t it Always Mattered?

Recent collaboration with Kate Blakemore would suggest otherwise. A Women & Girls Mental Health Ambassador & Counsellor, Kate works closely with the NHS, making sure the voice of mensturating females at all stages of life, is heard. During my particpation in her recent training course, Menopause & Mental Health, Kate explained how psychotherapy, or talking therapy can help, not only with the physical and mental symptoms of the menopause, but also with coming to terms with other life issues impacting at this time of life.


In this article I aim to raise awareness of the bigger picture struggles faced by many women from the peri menopause onwards, including those other life events in the mix. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in particular, is an evidenced based talking therapy, shown to be effective in treating monopausal symptoms (Hunter,1921). I will also explain how CBT is proven effective in bringing about balance during what for many of us, menopause apart, can be a challenging time of life.


The Years Before The Menopause Mattered

As a menstruating woman growing up, the menopause was nowhere on my radar. No one talked about it. It wasn’t referred to in the media and although it may have been an issue for my mother that time, it was never talked about at home. I was taught that, just as periods started, one day they would stop. And that’s it.


I have a flash memory of an aunt whose face periodically broke out into beads of sweat on even the coldest days and a brief explanation that it was ‘the menopause’, given in a hushed voice, through pursed lips. From this I deduced that the menopause was a somewhat uncomfortable and secretive process, something that happens to older ladies. While it clearly mattered to those going through it, it seemed to be something of a taboo topic; a matter of little relevance to those who were not of a certain age. Almost something to be ridiculed in a way.


Menopause Facts – Body & Mind

Our bodies go through various transition points as we move through life. Fluctuating hormones impact in a range of ways on both body and mind, at each point. This is widely known, accepted and observable in adolescents. As hormones are secreted to mature our childhood bodies, we commonly experience extreme mood swings and anxiety.


The British Menopause Society (BMS) is the specialist authority for menopause and post reproductive health in the UK. They state that the same is often true, but in the reverse, for menopausal woman. Hormones may begin to decline at around the age of 40 as women enter the peri menopause phase. As our oestrogen levels fluctuates, we can experience a wide range of physical and mental symptoms, and for some women these symptoms can last into our 70s! (The British Menopause Society,1989). Symptoms include:


General Problems

Day or night sweats & flushes

Difficulty sleeping

Headaches

Tiredness

Loss of energy

General aches & pains

Changes in hair


Mood & Personality Changes

Feeling tearful /emotional / low

Feeling tense

Attacks of anxiety or panic

Loss of interest in most things

Feeling irritable


Genital & urinary symptoms:

Alteration in bladder function

Vaginal dryness/soreness

Loss of libido


Functioning issues:

Loss of memory

Loss of concentration

Inability to cope


Alteration in periods:

Periods much lighter

Periods much heavier

Irregular bleeding


When Can a Woman Be Described as Being Menopausal?

Women are classed as being menopausal 12 months after their last period. As a rule of thumb, we will often follow the same trajectory as our mother, but while genetics play a big part, lifestyle and general health are also contributing factors (BMS, 1989).


The Changing Face of the Menopause

Fast forward 35 years and the subject is less taboo. This is as it should be since barely a person goes unaffected. If you are not a menstruating woman, chances are you live with one, work with one, employ one or socialise with one.


Celebs are championing the plight of the menopausal woman as they, themselves, navigate this process. There are documentaries, podcasts, and books on the topic. Employers are beginning to implement policies to support menopausal women in the workplace. The Menopause Matters campaign has done much to ensure that women feel more supported in this process.


Menopause Cafe is a charity working to raise awareness of the menopause. Their pop-up cafés give opportunities for women to talk about their struggles and learn from each other. To find a Menopause Café or host your own click here.


Treatment options are plentiful. If you do decide that symptoms are getting in the way of daily life, you have options. While talking to other people can be a preparatory step, it is important to do your own research. There are many useful websites listed at the end of this article. You may also wish to consider referring to The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) for Menopause: Diagnosis and Management.


The Power of Knowledge

The real benefit of all this new support is that women can now do their own research, mapping their symptoms and working out what fits them best before they approach their GP, or other health professional. Our Symptoms Checker can help with your preparation, as can the websites listed at the end of this article.

Being able to make an informed choice is vital, as no two women are the same. GP surgeries often have a menopause nurse to provide advice, medication, alternative therapies, or signpost to other resources like wellbeing apps, leaflets, websites, Fitness coaches, mental health therapists, nutritionists and life coaches.


A word of warning though, you are your own expert. You know your own body and only you can know your symptoms, their severity and how much they impact on daily life. It is easy to get carried away with what works for other people. However, you choose to deal with your menopause, whether you decide on HRT/other medication, lifestyle, nutrition changes, therapy or other alternative approaches, or a combination of them all, it is important that your decision is based on your own individual needs and in line with your values (Menopause Matters, 1989).


Menopausal Symptoms & Other Important Life Issues

While there is no doubt that for many women, menopausal symptoms make daily life challenging, the overall picture is much more complex. As we battle with changes in our bodies and minds there are typically other life issues playing out currently. For me it’s the combined impact of all these things that can make life so difficult (Resilience, Life Events, and Well-Being During Midlife, 2018)


· More responsibility in the workplace

· Caring for elderly parents or partners at the same time as children

· Empty Nest Syndrome

· Difficulties or changes in relationships with partners

· Divorce

· Poorer sex life

· Feeling socially more isolated

· Reduced social circle or withdrawal socially.

· Changing financial circumstances


Therapy Can Help You Cope With Your Menopause

Evidence shows that therapy can help explore, explain and gain an overview of your physical and emotional symptoms. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in particular, is helpful and effective in easing menopausal symptoms, particularly in the way women relate to them (Hunter,1921). However, for me the role of therapy is much more holistic. In the space therapy provides, we can work out how we feel about all these different life issues, which are the most impactful, who we are now, who we would like to become, our goals and values.


A one to one discussion about your current situation can lead to insights and effective treatment. Knowledge about what to ask for from health care professionals and how to ask for what you need can be empowering. This opportunity doesn’t come in a bottle, exercise routine, or special diet and this non-judgemental space, where you truly feel listened to, is hard to find in daily life, despite having positive relationships in our lives.


In short, the menopause impacts on us all, in every area of our lives, whoever we are and whatever stage we are at. It is a natural part of ageing and as such, should be talked about, accepted, and embraced. At Edinburgh CBT, we are menopause aware, trained to help you reflect on your Menopause, relieve your mental and physical sysmtpoms and sort out how you feel about those other life issues. To book an appointment or find out more, we invite you to visit our website:


Support and advice are also available are also available at the following websites:


Menopause Support


Menopause Matters


The Menopause Charity

Balance Menopause Website & App


Menopause Mandate

https://www.menopausemandate.com/who-are-we


Pausitive Pause


Positivity


References


British Menopause Society, published online, 1989, What is the Menopause, Symptoms and Treatment https://thebms.org.uk


Edinburgh CBT & Integrative Therapies, published online, July 2022, Symptoms Checker, https://www.edinburghcbt.com


Hunter MS. Cognitive behavioural therapy for menopausal symptoms. Climacteric. 2021 Feb;24(1):51-56. doi: 10.1080/13697137.2020.1777965. Epub 2020 Jul 6. PMID: 32627593.


Kate Blakey, Published online, 2023,

Women and Girls’ Mental Health Advocate, Celebrating Women, https://kateblakemore.com,

Menopause Café, published online, 2023, We Want the Whole World Talking About the Menopause,


Nutritionist Resource, published online 2023, How to Get a One-to-One Nutritionist,


The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence,2022, Menopause: Diagnosis and Management.

British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, Published online, 2023, The CBT Register, https://babcp.com/CBTRegister/Search


Resilience, Life Events, and Well-Being During Midlife: Examining Resilience Subgroups, Journal of Adult Development, 2018; 25(3): 198–221.




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