Should I speak to a mental health professional about my struggles with menopause and hot flashes?
Menopause is different for every woman. Some experience it as a minor inconvenience, while others can struggle with severe symptoms for years.
For some, the mental and emotional challenges of menopause and hot flashes can become more difficult to manage than the physical changes. If this sounds familiar, the women’s health specialists and wellness professionals at Orange County Health Psychologists can provide insight and solutions to help you reclaim your quality of life – beginning with an understanding of what menopause does to your mental state.
How Menopause & Hot Flashes Impact Your Mental Health
The physical effects of menopause and hot flashes can have a serious impact on the quality of your mental health and emotional well-being.
Many women, for example, have difficulty sleeping during menopause or wake up drenched in sweat due to a hot flash. Poor sleep quality can negatively impact your mood, increase irritability, and make you more susceptible to depression.
Weight gain, which is also common during menopause due to hormonal fluctuations, can also be exacerbated by a lack of sleep. Your body naturally increases leptin levels during sleep to help you feel full and energized when you wake up. When your sleep quality is poor, leptin levels decline, which can decrease energy levels and increase your appetite.
These changes also tie into the self-worth and self-image challenges that women may face during menopause. Losing the ability to conceive can create an existential crisis for women who are “wired” by genetic forces to think of childbearing as their identity or purpose in life.
All of these mental wellness concerns, in addition to the physical symptoms, can make menopause an extremely challenging and destabilizing time.
A Holistic Approach to Treatment
Women dealing with hot flashes or other menopause symptoms can benefit from a holistic approach to treatment that addresses mental and emotional care in addition to physical relief.
In many cases, for example, stress and hot flashes go hand-in-hand. When your stress levels are high, hot flashes are more frequent, and a crisis moment can trigger a hot flash as part of your body’s ‘fight-flight-or-freeze’ response.
If you raise these concerns with a mental health professional, she can help you become aware of your stress triggers and provide ways to navigate and reduce those feelings.
Also, a professional can help you recognize the difference between challenges brought on by menopause and other conditions like anxiety, depression, or relational abuse.
Treatment for Mental Health Challenges During Menopause & Hot Flashes
A therapist or counselor can help you form a multi-pronged approach to menopause and hot flash-related challenges.
Sometimes simple lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise or drinking more water, can have a significant impact. Mindfulness meditation, along with other self-soothing and de-escalation techniques, can also mitigate the stress response and increase mental clarity.
A therapist can also refer you to a general practitioner for medical treatment, which may include hormone replacement therapy or a low-dose antidepressant to address your symptoms.
Most importantly, a therapist or counselor can provide information, understanding, and support without stigma during this difficult time.
Normalizing Your Experiences with Menopause & Hot Flashes
One of the most valuable and under appreciated benefits of connecting with a mental health professional who specializes in women-specific challenges like menopause is that it helps to normalize the experience and provide context for the challenges you’re facing.
In simple terms, it’s very common for women to feel like they’re losing their minds during menopause. A therapist or counselor can help you understand and manage those feelings.
“It’s important for women to know that they aren’t alone during menopause. It’s also okay for them to admit when they aren’t feeling okay. We who are moms are especially horrible at self-care. Althoughputting our own needs first can feel counter-intuitive, it’s important for us to understand that our suffering is valid. If you need to see someone for help, you deserve it.”
– Debbie Alexander, PsyD; Women’s Health Specialist
Finally, it can be helpful to reframe menopause and hot flashes as stressors themselves, and your reactions to them as a natural response. Listening to and accepting your body can help you regain self-confidence and restore feelings of normalcy during an abnormal time.