Anxiety in menopause

As a therapist specialising in women's health, one of the most common questions I encounter from women experiencing menopause is:


"Why am I feeling anxious now that I am in menopause?"

The simple answer is - hormonal shifts occurring in a woman's body. Understanding these changes is crucial in navigating this significant phase in life with grace and empowerment.

The onset of menopause marks a period of significant hormonal changes, predominantly involving fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones play a vital role not just in reproductive health, but also in the functioning of the limbic system, our brain's emotional headquarters. Unlike men, whose hormone levels remain relatively stable throughout their lives, women experience more pronounced hormonal ups and downs. This disparity can contribute to various mental health challenges, including heightened anxiety during menopause.

Oestrogen, in particular, has a protective effect on the brain. It helps regulate mood and emotional responses. As its levels fluctuate and eventually decline during menopause, many women find themselves facing mood swings, irritability and anxiety. Progesterone, often dubbed the 'calming hormone,' also decreases, further contributing to feelings of unease and stress.

It's noteworthy that women are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to men. This statistic could be partly attributed to the hormonal changes experienced during menopause. Oestrogen has neuroprotective qualities and its decline can impact cognitive functions, potentially increasing the risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

While biomedical approaches, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), can be beneficial in managing menopausal symptoms, it's vital to explore holistic strategies that encompass mental and emotional wellness.

How can counselling help?

Counselling plays a vital role in supporting women through the menopause transition, offering numerous benefits that address both the psychological and emotional aspects of this life stage. Here's how counselling can help:

Providing a safe and supportive space

Counselling offers a confidential and non-judgmental environment where women can freely express their feelings, fears and experiences related to menopause. This safe space is crucial for exploring personal emotions and challenges without fear of stigma or misunderstanding.

Enhancing self-understanding and acceptance

Through counselling, women can gain a deeper understanding of the changes they are experiencing. Counsellors help in exploring and reframing thoughts and beliefs about menopause, ageing and self-identity, fostering a more accepting and positive outlook.

Managing emotional and psychological symptoms

Menopause can trigger a range of emotional responses, including anxiety, depression, mood swings and irritability. Counselling provides strategies to manage these symptoms effectively. Techniques such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help in identifying and altering negative thought patterns, thereby improving emotional well-being.

Dealing with stress and anxiety

Counsellors can teach stress-reduction techniques and coping strategies. These can include mindfulness practices, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises, which are especially beneficial in managing menopausal anxiety and stress.

Navigating life transitions and relationships

Menopause often coincides with other significant life changes, such as children leaving home, caring for ageing parents or reevaluating career and personal goals. Counselling can assist in navigating these transitions, addressing relationship dynamics, and exploring new life purposes and directions.

Improving communication skills

Counselling can help in enhancing communication with partners, family and friends, aiding in expressing needs and concerns related to menopause. This improved communication can lead to better support systems and more fulfilling relationships.

Educational aspect

Counsellors can provide valuable information about menopause, including its physical aspects and treatment options. This education demystifies menopause, helps in making informed health decisions, and empowers women to take an active role in managing their health.

Enhancing overall quality of life

By addressing the holistic impact of menopause on a woman's life, counselling can lead to improved overall quality of life. It helps in cultivating resilience, self-care practices, and a more balanced approach to life's challenges.

Long-term coping strategies

Finally, counselling equips women with long-term strategies and skills to cope with future challenges and life changes, fostering a sense of preparedness and resilience beyond the menopause transition.

Effective stress management is crucial during menopause. The 7/11 breathing technique is a valuable tool. This involves breathing in for a count of 7 and exhaling for a count of 11. This method helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a sense of calm and reducing anxiety levels.

Mindfulness meditation, for instance, encourages a state of present-moment awareness, reducing rumination and worry. Yoga and Tai chi combine physical movement with breath control, enhancing both mental and physical well-being.

Additionally, journaling can be a therapeutic way to process emotions and reduce stress. A holistic approach to menopause includes significant lifestyle adjustments. Regular physical activity is essential; it not only improves physical health but also enhances mental well-being by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Menopause is a multifaceted life stage that demands a comprehensive approach to managing mental health. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Guildford GU5 & GU2
Guildford GU5 & GU2

Donna Morgan is a highly experienced Humanistic Mental Health Therapist with 26 years of practice. Her passion for helping individuals with their mental health has driven her to develop a compassionate and holistic approach to therapy. Donna firmly believes in treating each client as a unique individual and providing them with personalised support.

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