Menopause typically occurs in women in their forties or fifties, with an average age for the cessation of menstruation of about 50. It can be a challenging time for both mental and physical health, and it is important for women to know that they have the support they need.
Setting aside the physical issues associated with menopause for the moment, one of the challenges that women face is that we (still) live in a society that prioritises feminine youth over wisdom and experience. Women sometimes feel, even despite themselves, that they will be seen as useless once their childbearing years are over. The idea that menopause exists because women used to die earlier is often bandied about.
In fact, while in the past the average age of death was much lower, the potential human life span has always encompassed the years of menopause. This means that menopause is not a disease or a problem per se but a normal, healthy phase in a woman’s life. Anthropologists have hypothesised that, in our tribal past, societies benefitted from the presence of women past child-bearing age who could contribute to their community’s well-being unburdened by the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childcare. So, there you have it: not only is menopause perfectly natural, but the cultural development of our species may well have depended on it. That casts a different light on things!
That said, many (but not all) women experience a range of debilitating symptoms. These can include hot flashes, changes to the texture of the skin, tiredness, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. In most cases, these symptoms can be managed, although a certain amount of trial and error may be necessary. It is a good idea to talk to your GP and, if you can manage it, to a nutritionist. Supplements, dietary changes, and sometimes a treatment such as hormone replacement therapy can all make a big difference to the quality of life of a woman going through menopause.
Women in middle age should also bear in mind that this can be a stressful time of life for other reasons, too. They are likely to have adolescent children and/or aging parents, a demanding job at the peak of their career, and a hefty mortgage to deal with—or all of the above! It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help during a time of life that can pose multiple challenges.
Many women also benefit from a form of therapy during this potentially difficult time. The type of therapy depends on the woman in question and how she is feeling. A support group or group therapy session can help, or possibly an intervention along the lines of cognitive behavioural or mindfulness therapy, to help her to manage her emotional response to her symptoms in a healthier way.
Above all, women going through menopause need to know that what they are experiencing is normal, that they are valued members of their family and of society and that this challenging period will not last forever, leaving them with many years of productive life yet to come.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.