We don’t like to talk about “the change.” In fact, it seems like “the change” is shameful and should only be discussed secretly. What is this change we’re talking about? Menopause! The National Institute on Aging states that one million women experience menopause each year. This means we need to talk about it more often and openly! Our hope in this article is to discuss how therapy can benefit women experiencing menopause.
Menopause & Physical Health
While menopause can be a shared experience, everyone’s experience is different. According to the National Institute of Health, the experience of menopause occurs over time for women who experience a menstrual period and begins twelve months after a woman’s last period. The process of menopause can last anywhere from 7-14 years. It can be attributed to a variety of factors such as:
- No Longer Producing Eggs: A woman’s body begins to produce eggs when she is born. As a woman ages, the number of eggs produced decreases. The most common cause of menopause is the body no longer producing eggs, and this usually begins around the age of 40 but can vary from person to person.
- Uterus & Ovaries Being Removed: When women undergo a hysterectomy and have their uterus and ovaries removed, this can start the menopause experience.
- Chemotherapy & Radiation Treatment: In some cases, cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation (when directed at the ovaries) contribute to menopause beginning.
The menopause experience brings about many physical symptoms. These include:
- Changes in the Menstrual Cycle: Dr. Esther Eisenberg says, “A change in your periods is often the first sign of perimenopause, but there are other signs to look out for.” She goes on to say that a woman’s symptoms must persist for at least 12 months for it to be considered menopause. Additionally, all other causes of changes in the menstrual cycle must be ruled out for menopause to be considered.
- Hot Flashes: While hot flashes can signify anxiety, they are also associated with menopause. The intensity of menopause related hot flashes can vary, but the Mayo Clinic states that most women experience them daily.
- Sleep Interruptions: Women experiencing menopause may notice sleep interruptions, often caused by hot flashes. These interruptions can begin during the perimenopause phase and continue through menopause.
- Bladder Control Concerns: During menopause, women may experience incontinence such as the bladder leaking when exercising, sneezing, or laughing.
- Changes in Vaginal Health and/or Sexuality: Menopause can cause the vaginal area to become dry, as well as the vaginal tissue thinning and being easily irritated. Healthline says these changes are due to the body no longer producing natural lubrication.
If you believe you are experiencing physical changes related to menopause, we encourage you to reach out to your OB/Gyn or Primary Care Physician.
How Can Therapy Help Women Experiencing Menopause?
Menopause can affect women emotionally and mentally. Mood changes and aggressiveness are common emotional experiences, while women may also experience anger, irritability, forgetfulness, and decreased self-esteem, among other concerns. Therapy can provide many benefits to those experiencing these symptoms. These benefits include:
- Providing Safe, Supportive Space: One may not always be comfortable discussing the mental and emotional changes they are experiencing with loved ones. Working with a therapist can provide a safe, supportive space to explore and process feelings and experiences.
- Learning Coping Strategies & Techniques: Navigating menopause can require a level of adjusting and coping. Therapy can help assist with learning coping strategies and techniques to manage physical and emotional symptoms.
- Processing Mental Health Concerns: Some struggle with anxiety and depression due to menopause, a counselor can help address these concerns.
- Addressing Life Transitions: Going through menopause can cause a variety of life transitions. For example, a decreased sexual libido might impact intimate relationships. Therapy can help work through challenges associated with this and other transitions. Licensed Professional Counselor and Sex Therapist Leah Simmons says, “Menopause does not have to be the end of intimacy. Therapy can help process the emotional and physical changes and help create plans for a pleasurable future with confidence and support.” She recommends the book Sex and Love at Midlife by Bernie Zilbergeld PhD.
Therapy can also be a helpful resource for individuals who are gender diverse, transgender, or asexual and experiencing menopause, as well as those who are struggling with their identity, feeling isolated, or feeling misunderstood. A therapist can help individuals cope with challenges or changes that emerge due to menopause, including fluctuations in hormone levels or changes in body image. They can also provide support, guidance, and resources for those navigating their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Resources For Those Navigating Menopause
If you are currently experiencing menopause, you may be looking for additional resources to help you navigate your experience. Our team recommends the following:
- What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You by Heather Corinna: Perimenopause and menopause experiences are as unique as the individuals of the world. Heather Corinna has a comical, cheeky, and honest account of practical information related to menopause. Her book is the most inclusive book on the topic and has been long needed as it supports queer, transgender, and non-binary readers, as well as those with disabilities. Her clear passion and adoration for the cooling pillow is not only well deserved but also an example of the practical advice she provides. What Fresh Hell Is This? is certainly worth the read (or listen).
- MiddlesexMD: This blog by Dr. Barb DePree, a gynecologist who has specialized in women’s health for over 30 years, explores topics including menopause and sexuality.
- Red Hot Mamas®: Red Hot Mamas was created by Karen Gilbin with the goal to provide women with resources, facts, and tips for navigating menopause.
- Say More Cards (by Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause): Say More cards by Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause are an excellent and beautiful resource. This card deck is filled with journaling prompt cards and beautiful imagery. Their website says the goal of this card deck is to “deepen your relationship with people in, preparing for, or supporting loved ones through menopause and aging.”
- Black Girls Guide to Menopause: Black Girls Guide to Menopause has a variety of creative initiatives to support women. Their podcast is worth adding to your list!
Could Therapy Benefit You?
Therapy can be a valuable resource for individuals experiencing menopause, especially when struggling with the physical, mental, or emotional changes that accompany this stage of life. Garrett Counseling serves central and east Alabama with offices in Boaz, Huntsville, Jacksonville, Jasper, and online. Our team provides a safe space for all individuals and is here to help you or your loved one. Contact us today to learn more or schedule an appointment.
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