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[Podcast] Menopause and your mental health

Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP
10 November 2020
Next review due November 2023

The menopause doesn’t just cause physical symptoms, it can impact your mental health as well. It is often these emotional symptoms that bother women the most. In this article, I look at how the menopause can affect the way you feel and some things you can do to help yourself to feel better. You can also hear me speak with two women, Elaine and Amanda, about their menopause experiences in the podcast below.

How can the menopause affect mental health?

Everybody experiences the menopause differently and for some people, it can affect their mental wellbeing. You might experience:

  • feeling low
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • low energy and motivation
  • panic attacks
  • new fears and phobias
  • low self-esteem

You might be feeling this way because of the hormonal changes that are happening in your body. But you might also find that living with other symptoms of the menopause is affecting your mental health.

Dealing with symptoms like weight gain, joint pain and hot flushes can be difficult to cope with and may affect your mood. You might also have difficulty sleeping, night sweats and bladder problems that stop you from getting enough rest. These can also contribute to feeling low and stressed.

You might also feel low, anxious or sad for other reasons. Around the time of the menopause, many people find themselves going through changes in their work life, family life and dealing with bereavement. You might also feel sad about no longer being able to have children or feel worried about getting older.

Can the menopause cause depression?

The risk of depression does seem to increase as you approach the menopause. Depression is different to sometimes feeling sad or low. Everybody has times when they feel down or have depressing feelings. But depression is a mental health condition where you might feel very low all the time, or that you don’t enjoy life. If you have depression, these feelings don’t tend to come and go, they stay around for a long time. You might also:

  • feel tired
  • have low self-esteem or low self-confidence
  • have trouble sleeping or sleep more than normal
  • feel restless or agitated
  • find it hard to concentrate and have difficulty making decisions
  • have changes in your appetite
  • have changes in your weight
  • have thoughts about death or suicide

There’s some evidence that people who’ve had premenstrual and/or postnatal depression have a higher risk of depression during their menopause.

What help is available?

If the menopause is affecting your mental health, speak to your GP. This is especially important if you feel very low for two weeks or more, as you might be experiencing depression. There are different treatments they might offer you such as:

It’s important to know that antidepressants should only be used if you have depression. If you’re only experiencing a low mood occasionally your GP should offer you other treatments instead.

You might also see herbal remedies for sale in shops or on the internet which claim to help with menopause symptoms. But these products are not regulated and so there is no way to know how safe, strong or effective they are. Some of these products can also interfere with other medicines, so always speak to your GP if you are thinking of taking them.

What can I do to look after my mental health?

There are also some things you can do to try and keep yourself mentally healthy when you’re experiencing the menopause.

  • Eat regular, healthy, balanced meals and snacks to help keep your blood sugar stable.
  • Get some exercise if you can, as it will lift your mood. Try activities like yoga, Pilates or walking to help you to de-stress.
  • Try to get into a regular sleep schedule if you can.
  • Make sure you aren’t drinking too much alcohol.
  • Avoid caffeine if you find it makes you anxious, affects your sleep or triggers your hot flushes.
  • Try to do things that you find relaxing, like reading, going for a walk or practising mindfulness.
  • Talk to your friends and family about the menopause, if you feel able to, to help them understand what you’re going through.

You can also seek support from mental health organisations if you want to speak to somebody else about how you’re feeling, or to get more information.

If you’re struggling with menopause symptoms, or want to support someone who is, we’re here to help. There’s lots of information, expert advice and signposting on the menopause pages within our Women’s Health Hub, and you don’t need to be a Bupa customer to access any of it.

Samantha Wild
Dr Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP

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