For most women, menopause is not a particularly enjoyable process to go through. The body’s changing hormone distribution causes several uncomfortably physical symptoms throughout the process. But those hormones can also impact how we feel. We’re not conscious of it as such, but we’re used to going through daily life with certain chemical and hormonal responses to what we encounter. Changes can be hard to adjust to: it’s part of why adolescence is so rocky (among other things), and it can make menopause a time of difficult transition as well.
A typical list of emotional symptoms accompanying menopause will include irritability, sadness, loss of energy, excessive sleep, crying, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, and no longer enjoying things that had before been pleasurable. That sounds a lot like depression, doesn’t it? And new research has found that women who experience primary ovarian insufficiency, a type of early menopause, are also particularly prone to depression while they’re going through the process.
So what can be done about this? If the depression is directly linked to hormonal changes, one might think that therapists can’t help: after all, they’re unlikely to uncover a secret emotional cause of the depression. And to some extent, the hormones do need to take their course. Women have gone through this for years, and will continue to do so. But counseling and therapy don’t exist simply to help people discover the “why” of their problems: they exist to help people understand what they’re going through, learn how to respond to their symptoms, and to take control of their lives. It also happens that menopause comes at a time in life that is often transitional as well: kids are becoming adults, and adults are starting to feel a little older. Menopause’s depressive symptoms may start with hormones, but they can coincide with, and exacerbate, other feelings that a therapist or counselor can help women explore. If you’re feeling down, there’s no reason not to get some help and guidance, to ensure it doesn’t get worse.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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