Perimenopause / Menopause

What is the perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the transitional phase leading up to menopause, during which a woman’s body undergoes various hormonal changes that signal the end of her reproductive years. This phase can begin several years before menopause and typically starts in a woman’s 40s but can begin as early as the mid-30s or as late as the early 50s.

What is the menopause?

Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It is defined as the point in time when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can happen earlier or later. It is a normal part of aging and is associated with various physical and hormonal changes.

Am I perimenopausal? Am I going through menopause?

Symptoms of the perimenopause are like those of the menopause. You may be perimenopausal or going through the menopause if several of the below symptoms resonate:

Symptoms of Perimenopause/ Symptoms of Menopause

  • Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: Sudden feelings of heat and sweating, often accompanied by a rapid heartbeat.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling or staying asleep, often related to night sweats or other discomforts.
  • Mood Changes: Increased irritability, anxiety, or depression due to hormonal shifts.
  • Vaginal Dryness: Reduced oestrogen levels can lead to thinning and drying of vaginal tissues, causing discomfort during intercourse.
  • Decreased Libido: Changes in hormone levels can affect sexual desire.
  • Cognitive Changes: Some women experience difficulties with concentration and memory, often referred to as “brain fog.”
  • Weight Gain: Changes in metabolism can lead to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.
  • Breast Tenderness: Similar to premenstrual symptoms, some women experience increased breast tenderness.
  • Urinary Issues: Increased frequency of urination or urinary incontinence
  • Irregular Periods: Changes in the menstrual cycle, including missed periods or periods that are lighter or heavier than usual.
  • Mood Changes: Increased irritability, anxiety, or depression due to hormonal fluctuations.
  • Thinning Hair and Dry Skin: Hormonal changes can affect skin and hair health

How does the perimenopause impact mental health? How does the menopause impact mental health?

  1. Hormonal Fluctuations:
  • Oestrogen Decline: The decrease in oestrogen levels can affect neurotransmitter function, leading to changes in mood and emotional well-being. Oestrogen influences the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
  • Progesterone Changes: Fluctuations in progesterone can contribute to anxiety and mood swings.
  1. Mood Swings:
  • Irritability and Anger: Hormonal changes can cause sudden mood swings, leading to feelings of irritability and anger.
  • Sadness and Depression: Some women may experience depressive symptoms, including persistent sadness, lack of interest in activities, and fatigue.
  1. Anxiety:
  • Increased Anxiety: Hormonal changes can heighten feelings of anxiety, causing worry, tension, and panic attacks.
  • Health Anxiety: Concerns about menopause-related health changes, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular risks, can also contribute to anxiety.
  1. Sleep Disturbances:
  • Insomnia: Night sweats and hot flashes can disrupt sleep, leading to insomnia or poor-quality sleep.
  • Fatigue: Chronic sleep disturbances can result in fatigue, which can exacerbate mood swings, irritability, and cognitive difficulties.
  1. Cognitive Changes:
  • Memory Problems: Some women report difficulties with memory and concentration, often referred to as “brain fog.”
  • Attention Deficit: Reduced ability to focus and pay attention can affect daily functioning and work performance.
  1. Body Image and Self-Esteem:
  • Weight Gain: Changes in metabolism and body composition can lead to weight gain, affecting self-esteem and body image.
  • Aging: Physical signs of aging, such as skin changes and hair thinning, can impact self-perception and confidence.
  1. Social and Relationship Challenges:
  • Isolation: Mood swings and fatigue can lead to social withdrawal and feelings of isolation.
  • Relationship Strain: Emotional changes can strain relationships with partners, family, and friends.
  1. Increased Risk of Mental Health Disorders:
  • Depression: Women with a history of depression may be at higher risk of experiencing depressive episodes during menopause.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Pre-existing anxiety disorders may be exacerbated by menopausal change

Strategies for Managing Mental Health During Menopause:

  1. Seek Professional Help:
    • Consult with a healthcare provider or mental health professional to discuss symptoms and explore treatment options.
    • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and other forms of counselling can be effective in managing mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
  2. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):
    • HRT can help alleviate some of the emotional and cognitive symptoms associated with menopause.
    • Discuss the benefits and risks with a healthcare provider.
  3. Lifestyle Modifications:
    • Exercise: Regular physical activity can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and promote better sleep.
    • Diet: A balanced diet rich in nutrients can support overall health and well-being.
    • Sleep Hygiene: Establishing a regular sleep routine and creating a comfortable sleep environment can help improve sleep quality.
  4. Stress Reduction Techniques:
    • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices that promote relaxation and mindfulness can reduce stress and improve emotional regulation.
    • Yoga and Breathing Exercises: These can help manage stress and anxiety.
  5. Social Support:
    • Support Groups: Joining a menopause support group can provide a sense of community and understanding.
    • Communication: Openly discussing feelings with family and friends can strengthen relationships and reduce feelings of isolation.
  6. Alternative Therapies:
    • Acupuncture and Herbal Supplements: Some women find relief from symptoms through alternative treatments, though it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new therapy.

Online support for perimenopause and the menopause

Understanding and addressing the mental health impacts of menopause can help you navigate this transition more smoothly and maintain their overall well-being. Our qualified psychologists, therapists and counsellors here at Counselling Psychology Online provide bespoke therapy online for those going through the perimenopause and menopause. To arrange an assessment session with one of our online psychologists or therapists, contact us here. Answers to the most frequently asked questions about our therapies, fees and online therapy can be found on our FAQ page.