Psychotherapy and Menopause
Weisim Ho is a psychotherapist and counsellor. In this article she discusses the potential psychological impact of menopause and how to deal with the symptoms that we may experience. I think her approach is compassionate and soothing to those who are finding life challenging.
The psychological impact of menopause
As a woman approaches the age of menopause, experiencing her first hot flush can be a watershed. It is a sign of the beginning of the menopause, and with it, there can be a sense of huge loss – of youth, attractiveness, femininity, and for some an existential crisis where the woman may consciously or unconsciously assess where she is in her life and the future. This may be with a sense of renewal of the beginning of a new chapter or a sense of failure and dread and fear of what lies ahead. For a woman who has not had children, it is the final step in the realisation that motherhood is no longer possible. Even for others who have had children, there may be grief and loss around the end of that part of their lives – the ability to bear and bring life into the world.
Menopause can have a significant impact on relationships within the family too. A loss of libido may signal a loss of a sense of femininity and desirability, and put a certain amount of pressure on the relationship with her partner. She may be between dealing with hormonal teenagers and aging parents, and this may be extremely demanding. She may be anxious within herself and low in energy. Having a growing daughter who is becoming a beautiful woman can be difficult if we feel that our own attractiveness is declining.
How psychotherapy and counselling can help
When a woman experiences menopause symptoms, it is important that she sees her GP to investigate this and to address it from a physical and medical perspective. In tandem with this, it is important that she also address what is going on from an emotional and mental health perspective so that she has adequate support as she goes through this process.
At this time, psychotherapy and counselling can be very useful. Menopause can manifest in difficult symptoms such as anxiety, depression, difficulties with anger, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed and relationship issues. It can also be a time when previous trauma or childhood issues can come to the fore.
By listening and really understanding what is going on for that woman, a psychotherapist or counsellor can help her to explore the issues she is struggling with, and may help her to reframe her view of what is going on in her life. This helps her to get more space and relief around those issues, and to explore different options in responding. Psychotherapy and counselling can help to find more resources ,within herself and to find support from others around her at times when she is feeling low and having difficulties coping. She may feel less overwhelmed and anxious, and may be able to find coping skills that are right for her.
Finally, psychotherapy may help a woman to have more perspective around the impact of menopause on her life. A woman who is menopausal is going through immense changes, physically, emotionally and spiritually. No matter how hard she tries to resist the menopause, it cannot be stopped. It is important that the immensity of such changes are recognised by her as well as those around her. She has to face the death of her fertility, the loss of her youth and accept she is no longer able to attract the attention she once did. However, if she is able to come to terms with these changes she may be able to face the future with more acceptance and calm and perhaps even view this as a transition into another chapter of her life, one that could bring greater personal freedom and rewards in its own way.