Menopause is a time of great hormonal fluctuations. When doctors measure hormone levels in perimenopause, the years just before the periods finally stop; they find that the levels can change markedly from day to day. This can lead to emotional upheaval that can last for several years.
This is a time when women are transitioning from being young and fertile to being middle-aged and infertile. This loss of fertility can be emotionally taxing over and above the hormonal changes menopausal women are experiencing.
During menopause and in the perimenopausal years, the estrogen levels gradually decrease and the ovaries put out less progesterone. This results in a rise in FSH and LH, which can be measured as part of the diagnosis of menopause although “menopause” is a clinical diagnosis, meaning that it is declared “menopause” when a woman has not had a period for more than a year. The cause of menopause is primary ovarian failure. The ovaries simply run out of eggs and do not produce the same amount of gonadal hormones as were made during the fertile years.
Emotional Impact Of Time Gone By
For some women, the emotional impact of menopause stems from the simple fact of getting older and all that it may entail. Some women have real issues with age, and menopause is a landmark time that typically marks the end of middle age.
Emotional Impact Related To Womanhood
For some women, menopause may trigger feelings of depression and sadness because a lot of their personal identity in womanhood is tied up in being able to bear children. There are also those women who may have not had a chance yet to bear children or as many as they wanted to or planned to which lends itself to feelings of sadness, anger, grief and loss.
Emotional Impact From Hormonal Fluctuations
Menopause can be associated with an emotional impact even when the woman looks forward to not having periods anymore or being fertile. This is because the fluctuations in hormones directly affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. Low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, for example, can be found in menopausal women. These low levels contribute to feelings of depression and irritability. Women are more likely to suffer from an episode of major depression during these years and often need selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are medications that have been found to biochemically lift depressive symptoms.
A Time Of Loss
Menopause is also a time of loss. It is during this time when many women are having personal upheavals in their lives, such as the loss of children who have grown and have moved away from home, the changing face of relationships, and the coming of older age. These things can cause anxiety, irritability, agitation, and depression in women who otherwise would be able to handle these life changes.
Health Problems That Effect Emotions
The menopausal years are also peak times for women to suffer from health problems that can affect their emotions. Hypothyroidism can occur during these years and many women deal with things like breast cancer and other health crises.
Improving The Emotional Outlook
In order to cope with these emotional changes—both biochemical and environmental—women need to improve the quality of their lives in other ways. It means eating healthier foods such as whole fruits, vegetables, and completely grains along with lean meats and dairy products to prevent bone loss. It also means developing hobbies that include exercise.
These middle-aged years are not too old for developing a walking program or doing things like yoga or aerobic swimming classes. Riding a bike for half an hour a day can bring about a better mood and improved outlook on life.
Just adding a hobby can improve the outlook and depressive symptoms of menopausal women. Women who have social hobbies tend to feel better than those who have isolative hobbies but actually, having any kind of hobby will improve mood and increase wellbeing. Exercise especially can improve the sleep disturbances seen in women in menopause.
Because women are at higher risk for heart disease and bone loss after menopause, this is the time when exercise, watching one’s weight and lowering cholesterol can help, too. Emotional improvement can be seen with exercise as much as physical improvement.
Staying social helps women of menopausal age cope with the changing of emotions. This means finding and having friendships with other women and keeping up a healthy relationship with one’s loved ones. Simply keeping a good social calendar can combat feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and depression so often seen at this time of a woman’s life.
For those with deep seeded depression and sadness, professional therapy is always a good option, especially when depression begins to affect quality of life and persists into a long term situation.