The overlooked connection between menopause and mental health

The link between menopause and mental health has long been a subject of debate and discussion among healthcare professionals. Recently, a UK health watchdog has called for a review of this connection after an inquiry into women's suicide found a lack of training among staff to identify the risks associated with menopause. 

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The inquiry conducted by the health watchdog identified several key issues. One of the most pressing concerns was the inadequate training of mental health professionals to recognise the potential risks of menopause. As a result, the unique needs of women experiencing menopause are often overlooked or misdiagnosed, potentially leading to inadequate care.

Another significant finding was the frequent prescription of antidepressants to women experiencing menopausal symptoms when HRT may be more suitable. While antidepressants can be effective in treating some mental health conditions, they may not address the underlying hormonal imbalances that contribute to menopause-related mood disturbances. This highlights the need for increased awareness and understanding of menopause as a contributing factor to low mood and other mental health issues.


The role of menopause in mental health

Menopause, the natural biological process marking the end of a woman's reproductive years, is associated with a variety of physical and emotional symptoms. The hormonal changes that occur during menopause can significantly impact a woman's mental health, potentially leading to anxiety, depression and mood swings. It is essential to recognise the role that menopause can play in mental health issues and to provide appropriate support and care for women navigating this life transition.

The need for change

To ensure that women receive the care they need during menopause, it is crucial to improve training and awareness among mental health professionals. By increasing their understanding of the relationship between menopause and mental health, healthcare providers can better identify and address the unique needs of women experiencing menopause. This includes considering HRT as a potential treatment option for menopause-related mood disturbances rather than relying solely on antidepressants.

In addition to improved training, there is a need for greater public awareness of the link between menopause and mental health. By raising awareness, we can help to break down the stigma associated with menopause and empower women to seek the support they need during this challenging time.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) report further warned that too many people are taking their own lives while being deemed as at low or moderate risk of suicide.

“Clinicians told the investigation that risk categorisation is often used as a justification for not providing care.”

The HSIB made a series of safety recommendations, including calling on Nice to evaluate the available research “relating to the risks associated with menopause on mental health and if appropriate, updates existing guidance.”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists should also form a working group to identify ways in which menopause can be considered during mental health assessments.

The call for a review of the link between menopause and mental health by the UK health watchdog highlights a significant gap in the understanding and treatment of women experiencing menopause. By increasing awareness and improving training for mental health professionals, we can ensure that women receive appropriate care and support during this critical life transition. It is time to recognise menopause as a potential contributing factor to mental health issues and to provide the care and compassion that women deserve.


The importance of therapy to help navigate the menopause

Emotional support

Menopause can be an emotionally challenging time for many women. Therapy offers a safe and supportive space to discuss and process feelings of anxiety, depression or stress related to this significant life transition. A therapist can provide guidance, empathy and validation to help women better understand and cope with their emotional experiences.

Cognitive behavioural techniques

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and modifying negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to emotional distress. A therapist can teach women techniques to reframe negative thoughts, develop healthy coping strategies and improve stress management, which can be particularly beneficial in managing menopause-related mood swings and anxiety.

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Menopause can cause a range of physical symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia. Therapists can teach relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness practices, to help women manage these symptoms and improve their overall well-being.

Education and empowerment

Therapy can provide valuable information about menopause, its symptoms, and potential treatments. This education can empower women to make informed decisions about their care and take an active role in managing their symptoms. Additionally, therapists can provide guidance on developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep habits, which can help alleviate menopause-related symptoms.

Relationship support

Menopause can impact interpersonal relationships, as women may experience mood swings, changes in libido, or communication challenges. Couples therapy or family therapy can help women and their partners or family members understand the emotional and physical changes associated with menopause and develop strategies to maintain healthy, supportive relationships during this time.

Support groups

In addition to individual therapy, support groups can offer a valuable resource for women going through menopause. Sharing experiences and coping strategies with others who are facing similar challenges can provide a sense of camaraderie and reduce feelings of isolation.

By combining therapy with biomedical approaches, women can receive comprehensive care that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of menopause. This integrated approach can help women manage their symptoms more effectively and improve their overall quality of life during this transitional period.

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
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Written by Donna Morgan, SNR MNCS Accred ANXIETY, WOMENS HEALTH, CYPT TEENS, CBT EMDR
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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