For women, there can be a lot of fear surrounding menopause and the changes that come with it. Donna Begg from YourTango shares how your mental health and menopause are intertwined and what self-care measures you can take.
Women are more than twice as likely to become depressed.
Many women worry that reaching menopause will tip their emotional well-being.
Doctors typically blame estrogen, because estrogen levels drop in the years leading up to menopause — the perimenopause — and lower levels of estrogen can lead to hot flashes, poor sleep, night sweats and more frequent urination.
All of these things can keep a woman up at night or at least disturb her sleep. And tired people are at more risk of being cranky and depressed. But midlife itself is also a time that may many people are at risk for depression, mood swings, and irritability.
If your menopause seems to be affecting your mental health, talk openly about it with your doctor. Women are more than twice as likely to become depressed. Research shows that they're also more likely to suffer from anxiety. More develop phobias.
It's the same ratio for agoraphobia: nearly 8 percent of women become agoraphobic, compared to only 3 percent of men. More succumb to post-traumatic stress syndrome. Seventy percent of those with social phobia are women.
Sufficient levels of estrogen must be present in the brain if psychic stability is to be maintained. Estrogen's importance to cognitive processing and memory is not a slight matter. It's been discovered that actually buffers the brain's neurons against degeneration.
By the end of the '90s, mounting evidence had begun to show a unique and persistent hormone connection to almost all mental illness in women, such as menopause and depression.
For example, bingeing and purging behaviors in bulimics worsened during the premenstruum, when estrogen levels go down. So did panic attacks in women with panic disorder.
Impulse disorders, too, seemed to get worse during that week or ten days before the period begins.
Kleptomaniacs went on more stealing escapades, trichotillomaniacs pulled more hair, and skin cutters cut more skin.
All of these illnesses are related to serotonin dysfunction, and, as we've seen, serotonin and estrogen are inextricably linked.
There are some significant changes that take place in a woman's life. One of them is menopause. This marks the end of her ability to conceive a child. There will be no more menstrual cycles once the woman is in complete menopause.
Yet, it can take years to go from the start of menopause to completely finishing it. Most women start the process around 45 and finish around 60. It can be sooner or later, since each woman is different.
There is a common misconception that women who have gone through menopause no longer have any sexual desire. They may continue to engage in the activity to keep their partner happy, but they don't get any pleasure out of it. This is certainly not the truth.
Many women over the age of 60 are involved in very fulfilling sexual relationships. They love not having to worry about their period. They also don't have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy very late in life. This new found freedom for them means they are able to fully focus on the act of sexual activity and not the various repercussions of it.
Some women do experience a drop in their sexual desire though after menopause. Many women experience problems with the vagina being dry after menopause.
This can make it hard for them to get pleasure out of sexual activity.
There are some great products on the market that will allow you to moisturize the vagina without any negative side effects.
It is a good idea for a woman with such issues to see a gynecologist for a complete evaluation though. They may be able to help come up with a natural remedy that can prevent ongoing issues having to be addressed with it.
For many women, dealing with vaginal dryness can cause a mental block with sexual intercourse.
They may connect it with being undesirable now that they are in their 60s. This low self-confidence can cause women to shy away from sexual intercourse as well.
Being able to really enjoy your body and your sexual desires when you are over 60 is very important. It will encourage you to do what you can to be able to bring back a high level of sexual desire to your life.
Sometimes, something over the counter isn't enough for a woman to get back the sexual desire she once had. Your doctor may offer you supplements of hormones in the form of estrogen. Since the level of it in the body drops dramatically due to menopause, replacing it definitely can be helpful.
Some women report mood swings, irritability, tearfulness, anxiety, and feelings of despair in the years leading up to menopause.
But the reason for these emotional problems isn't always clear. Research shows that menopausal symptoms such as sleep problems, hot flashes, night sweats, and fatigue can affect mood and well-being.
The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause might also affect mood. Or it could be a combination of hormone changes and menopausal symptoms.
But changes in mood also can have causes that are unrelated to menopause. If you are having emotional problems that are interfering with your quality of life, it is important to discuss them with your doctor.
Talk openly with your doctor about the other things going on in your life that might be adding to your feelings. Other things that could cause feelings of depression and/or anxiety during menopause include:
- Having depression before menopause
- Feeling negative about menopause and getting older
- Increased stress
- Having severe menopausal symptoms
- Not being physically active
- Not being happy in your relationship or not being in a relationship
- Not having a job
- Not having enough money
- Having low self-esteem (how you feel about yourself)
- Not having the social support you need
- Feeling disappointed that you can't have children anymore
Menopause doesn't have to hinder your sex life though for women over 60 years of age. If you enjoy sex and you want to continue doing so, there are remedies out there that can help.
Don't be embarrassed to discuss the issue with your doctor either. They deal with such issues all the time. They will know how to help you get back to where you want to be sexual.
For many older couples, menopause can throw a wrench into what was once a very enjoyable part of their intimate relationship. It is important to discuss what has taken place.
A woman doesn't want her partner to assume the lack of sexual responsiveness has anything to do with them not being attractive anymore.
Donna Begg is an expert editor, a mentor, an analyst, and a researcher.
Check out more great stories from YourTango:
- The 1 Thing That Really Makes Menopause Unbearable (and How to Stop It)
- 4 Women in Their 60s and 70s That Prove You Can Look Good Naked at Any Age
- How to Have a Truly Incredible Sex Life After Menopause