Junko Mifune, Counsellor/Social Worker
October is World Menopause Month. One of the primary objectives of World Menopause Month is to break down the stigma and silence that have historically surrounded the topic and foster pen conversations to deepen understanding, support, and solidarity among women who are affected. Various physical and emotional symptoms can be observed in both men and women over the age of 40 collectively referred to as menopause. However, this article focuses on women’s menopause and mental health.
Menopause is a period of decreased production of female hormones as the ovaries decline in function, and is defined as the five years before and after menopause. 45 to 55 years of age is generally considered to be the period of menopause, but menopause affects not only physical changes, but also mental health.
Menopausal mental health is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is because the decrease in estrogen, a female hormone, due to menopause reduces the secretion of serotonin, which stabilizes the mind and promotes brain function. Serotonin is also a material for melatonin production, which controls sleep and can cause insomnia.
Menopausal women often experience irritability, depression, forgetfulness, worsening anxiety symptoms, and difficulty concentrating. Physical symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia may also occur.
The menopausal years also coincide with the “empty nest syndrome” that many women experience when they have reached the end of their child-rearing years. It also coincides with the stressful time of caring for aging parents or assuming a position of responsibility at work. It is also a time of great disillusionment due to anxiety about the physical changes that come with aging as a woman.
It is important to understand that these factors are part of menopause, accept that your body is changing, and try to be flexible in how you respond to the symptoms of menopause that affect your daily life.
Some of the approaches that can be taken include healthy lifestyle habits (balanced diet, moderate exercise, proper rest), stress management (deep breathing, meditation, yoga, relaxation techniques), advice from medical specialists and Chinese medicine practitioners, medication if needed, as well as psychological support (support systems, counseling).
Mental health issues during menopause vary from person to person and require a tailored approach in each case. I believe it is important to address menopausal mental health issues with a combination of psychological support, appropriate coping strategies, and therapies, as well as professional advice.