So I know my readers are of varying genders and ages, but I do believe quite a few are women of a certain age, so I hope this blog will be of interest! The good thing about being a health psychologist is that you can use some of your research skills to “sort out the wheat from the chaff” when looking up articles on the internet.
There are four main triggers for the onset of the menopause:
- The onset of your periods as a teenager – but it only works one way i.e. if you start early it doesn’t mean you reach menopause early (the average age of women in the UK reaching the menopause is still 51, despite girls reaching puberty at an age earlier than before – mainly due to childhood obesity). However if you start your periods later e.g. as late as 18 then it does mean you will probably be older when becoming menopausal.
- Genetics i.e. you will reach the menopause at approximately the same age as your mother did, but there are also mutations on genes that sometimes cause premature menopause.
- Chemotherapy and/or ovarian surgery.
- Smoking can cause women to reach an earlier menopause.
And there are just three physical symptoms of the menopause:
- Periods becoming less regular and then stopping.
- Hot flushes/ night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness.
Some women can be prone to loss of bone density (which can then cause osteoporosis) but this can be improved with regular exercise. All the other symptoms are psychological and can therefore be treated with CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). So for example if middle aged women become anxious or depressed, it is more likely to do with any of the following (or a combination) and not hormonal changes: bereavement / divorce / empty nest syndrome/ caring for elderly parents/ unemployment. Sleep disturbances can be caused by the anxiety/depression or by the night sweats; and then lack of sleep can make women more likely to cry and/or be angry/ irritable. So if you find yourself flying into a rage for “no reason” it may be time to get professional help in the form of therapy, because otherwise you might end up a crabby old woman – and we all know one of those don’t we?!