Menopause and Mental Health: How talking can help
Updated: Jul 17
Menopause is a natural life transition that can be accompanied by a range of physical and emotional changes. Many people experience these changes without any significant disruption to their mental health.
However for others, the hormonal changes associated with menopause can significantly impact their mental well-being.
In this post, we’ll explore how key hormones can affect mental health during menopause, how talking therapies can help, and how being part of a supportive community is, in my opinion, a vital part of looking after your mental health during menopause.
How exactly do hormones affect mental health during menopause?
Our hormones play an important role in regulating mood and emotions.
The hormonal changes associated with menopause can have a surprising impact on mental health. Let’s take a brief look at the key hormones involved in menopause and how they impact mental health.
One of the main hormones affected during menopause is oestrogen - it's the one we think about most in relation to female health.
Oestrogen levels decline – often in a non-linear fashion - during menopause, which can lead to a variety of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and irritability.
As those levels vary, we may feel that roller coaster effect of feeling fine for a while, but then experiencing changes in our overall mental health.
To compound matters, dips in oestrogen levels can also lead to problems sleeping, which in turn can make those symptoms feel much trickier to handle.
Our progesterone levels also decline during menopause, and this can lead to feeling more irritable, anxious, and depressed.
These reduced progesterone levels can also increase difficulty sleeping, which can make our mental health feel increasingly worse.
Another key hormone is testosterone.
Our testosterone levels may also decline during menopause, which in some people, can lead to decreased libido, feelings of tiredness and mood swings.
Low testosterone levels may also lead to difficulty concentrating and decreased motivation – all of which can exacerbate that feeling of being a bit flat.
There are many ways to help deal with the effects of the reduction (and dips) in hormone levels on our mental health – diet, exercise and HRT all have an important role to play.
One method of helping with mental health concerns, is to consider talking therapies.
What exactly are ‘talking therapies’ and how can they help during menopause?
Talking therapies are anything which involves talking with other people in a safe space.
I often say that the easiest and simplest of talking therapies is chatting over your problems or concerns with a friend or family member. The saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ springs to mind here!
Often, we don’t need an answer; just the opportunity to express ourselves. Our brains can often help sort out our challenges as we talk through what we are experiencing and share what's on our mind.
Likewise, conventional therapy can help if you wish to delve deep – again, as a talking therapy, you have the opportunity to talk about a variety of issues where you can explore and process emotions.
Useful talking therapies for menopause and mental health are:
Finding time to chat with a trusted friend or family member.
You don’t have to meet in person – a phone call is often enough.
The act of talking with someone who is willing to listen to you is often just what is required to lift your mood and enable you to think with positivity and clarity about what is troubling you.
If you need actual signposting for your mental health due to your menopause, speaking with a qualified workplace Menopause Champion to help you identify strategies and places to go for help.
A Menopause Champion will understand where you are coming from, and will have the knowledge and skills to help you navigate your menopause symptoms, including your mental health.
If your workplace doesn’t have a Menopause Champion, ask them to consider nominating someone to train as a Champion – send them this link here for more information.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective way of dealing with the challenges associated with menopause.
CBT is often useful when it comes to identifying and challenging negative thoughts and behaviours, learning to replace them with more useful thoughts and actions.
There are many other ways of using talking therapies to help with your mental health while going through menopause.
Art or music therapy are a wonderful way of combining creativity with conversation and are both shown to help.
Being Part of a Community is Key
It can be really helpful to connect with other people who are going through the same experience as you.
Being part of a supportive community can help to reduce the feelings of isolation that can lead us to feel lost in our menopause.
It also provides an opportunity to share experiences and gain valuable insights from others who may have a different approach to you.
There are a range of online and offline support groups available.
Finding a group, either one specifically for menopause, or one which is based around an interest of yours can be a great way to connect with other people and get the support and understanding you need. Checkout the Menopause Social Facebook group for upcoming in person and online events.
Perhaps you'd like to start your own?
Menopause can be a challenging time for many, but it doesn’t have to be.
By understanding how hormones can affect your overall health, seeking help from talking therapies, and connecting with a supportive community, it is possible to manage the mental health aspect of menopause and find a new sense of balance and wellbeing.