Monday, November 12, 2007

Menopause: The Emotional & Psychological Impact

Menopause, which literally means the cessation of menses, represents the stage in a woman's life when her reproductive capacity has been brought to an end. There are many hormonal changes that lead to the cessation of menses. The main cause is the drop in oestrogen.

Hormonal Changes

It has been traditionally assumed that depression and other psychological problems are a direct cause of menopause. However, recent studies have revealed that this is not necessarily true. Researchers have discovered a rise in the incidents of depression in women ranging form 35 to 43 years old, which is a lot before menopause. In most cases, menopause occurs between 49 and 51, although some women may experience it before 40.

Most hormonal changes occur during the few years before menopause, which are referred to as the perimenopausal stage. These changes may increase the production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain connected to depression. This is why mood swings are not uncommon during this period. Another hormonal change during the perimenopausal stage is the decrease in the oestrogen level.

Psychological & Emotional Impact

Oestrogen, which is linked to depression, explains why there are higher depression rates in women than in men. However, as the oestrogen level decreases before menopause, the risk of depression should also decrease.

The increased depression rate encountered during menopause suggests that it is not actually the hormonal changes, but the psychological impact associated with this stage that causes the problems. For most women, the changes in status and fertility associated with menopause affect a wide range of other aspects, such as the way they view themselves and their sexuality.

Menopause is also associated with some changes in body tissues. Breast tissues become less firm, while the genital organs become smaller. Between 50% and 75% of women experiencing menopause have hot flushes, which consist of brief body temperature rises accompanied by sweating and skin flushing. These hot flushes can cause not only physical discomfort, but also occasional social discomfort and sleeping disorders.


While everyone agrees that dealing with all the physical changes that occur during menopause is not easy, most psychologists feel that depression during this stage is more a matter of attitude. The changes associated with menopause can be viewed from a different angle. During this stage, women can explore their creativity and social potential and expand their contribution to society. The fact that they are now freed from the fear of pregnancy gives them the opportunity to rejuvenate their sex life. Unfortunately, most women feel that the end of their fertility is the end of their sexuality too.

Psychologists state that women who have a positive attitude on the changes that happen in their body look healthier and are likely to have an increased interest in sex. In contrast, those who believe in the myth that menopause is the end of their womanhood, the start to lose their attractiveness and vitality and look older. Other studies have proved that negative attitudes on menopause also increase the unpleasant symptoms associated with it, such as hot flashes, fatigue, night sweats, sleeping disorders and aches.

Sue Taylor is the webmaster of a site dedicated to the impact on women of undergoing menopause. Refer to

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