Why Menopause Needs to be Talked About NOW and How Psychotherapy is Going to Start the Dialogue
October is World Menopause Month. According to websites across the world, this month is meant to raise “awareness about an important life transition that affects many around the world” (https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/maple-leaf/defence/2023/10/world-menopause-month.html).
Do you feel like you are more aware of menopause and the symptoms, struggles and options for care and treatment?
I don’t, and here’s why: while it affects approximately 50% of the population, menopause is rarely discussed and is shrouded in stigma and stereotypes. A simple google search will prove my point. Yes, there are some amazing supports out there, but there aren’t enough, nor are they as easily accessible as they should be. You can find lots of information and lists of professionals who treat perinatal mental health, which is great, as women having babies need support. It is one of the toughest things most women will ever do. It changes you and your life forever. But what about when that stage of life is all but over? We aren’t any less important in our 50s than in our 30s.
As a psychotherapist, I am marking World Menopause Month by reminding everyone why we need to make the dialogue not only open, but frequent, and loud. I am passionate about talking about the symptoms of menopause and not just tolerating mid-life women struggling in silence or being the brunt of jokes about midlife crisis, hot flashes and the worst: being told that they are ”being hormonal”. Enough already.
Psychotherapy plays a crucial role in helping women cope and thrive during this time. Let’s talk about normalizing what is going on and how finding a therapist who is a specialist— who gets it, is committed to listening and will not dismiss your feelings—is crucial for women to feel better AND increasing awareness.
Here is how psychotherapy can help women who are facing perimenopause and menopause to start to feel better and define how they want to live the second half of their lives:
Understanding the Transition
Perimenopause can start anywhere from a woman’s late 30s to late 40s.It is the stage leading up to menopause, which officially occurs when a woman has gone 12 months without a period. Hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause can lead to a variety of symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Menopause, on the other hand, represents the end of the reproductive years and marks the cessation of menstruation. Simple, right? No! The transition through what can be years of irregular periods and the stress of managing periods that “surprise” you at the worst times is a monumental task that results in anxiety, low mood and overwhelm. Psychotherapy can help women feel understood as they struggle to understand their own bodies.
The Emotional Rollercoaster
Mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression are not uncommon during this period, and labeling women as “hormonal” doesn’t help. Many women are experiencing waves of emotions that they themselves can’t always define or understand, let alone explain to anyone else. Psychotherapy offers a safe space for women to explore and express their feelings, helping them better understand and manage these emotions that will often surface out of nowhere.
Coping with Physical Changes
In a society that promotes image above all else, women in perimenopause and menopause often feel “less than”. Physical symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, and changes in sexual desire impact self-esteem and body image. Looking in the mirror every day and not recognizing the woman looking back is terrifying. Trying to do everything that is “recommended” to counter belly fat, wrinkles, hair loss…and not seeing results is disheartening. Psychotherapy gives women a place to share this pain and feel less alone in the struggle.
Navigating Relationship Challenges
The emotional ups and downs can also strain relationships with partners, family and friends. Again, not knowing how to put words to the waves of emotion is a challenge, and not feeling supported makes it worse. Psychotherapy teaches women self-advocacy skills, boundary setting and communication techniques to help them navigate this transition and ask for what they need.
Self-Exploration and Reinvention
Many women feel set aside, unimportant and irrelevant during this stage of life. Finding the energy and headspace to engage in “self-discovery and reinvention” isn’t always easy. Many women long to experience the renewed sense of purpose and the desire to pursue new interests and goals that are talked about online and in magazine articles. Psychotherapy can help women take a pause from the pressure to re-invent and re-define, safely explore needs and wants and then clarify their aspirations on the journey to regain their confidence and sense of self.
Yet another menopausal system that is the brunt of jokes. It is serious! While not a medical intervention, psychotherapy can provide women with support in examining the frequency and circumstances around their hot flashes and teach emotional regulation techniques to ride the waves while minimizing the embarrassment, overwhelm and anxiety that can accompany them.
Perimenopause and menopause are profound transitions in a woman’s life, marked by both physical and emotional changes that are often endured for months and years. It is time to open up the dialogue, and stop hiding behind jokes that minimize the symptoms and result in women feeling alone, embarrassed and unsupported. Our society owes more to the women who are experienced, intelligent, wise and competent, who still have a lot to offer and deserve better.
Psychotherapy gives women in perimenopause and menopause a voice. It equips women with coping skills to navigate the uncertainties and challenges in a safe, non-judgmental space where they are free to be angry, to cry, to unload the overwhelm and be heard. It encourages resilience, adaptability, and personal growth during this transformative phase with the help of a professional who gets it. If you are struggling with the changes at this time of your life, please reach out. We are here to help.Learn More