Menopause is a physiological event that occurs in every woman’s life. It denotes the end of the reproductive phase. While 12 months of no menstruation defines menopause, the phase of peri, pre and post menopause can range for 2-10 years. This is collectively called the Menopause transition years. This phase is characterized by the gradual depletion of the hormones Estrogen and Progesterone.
This decrease in the hormones is not necessarily steady and can have an erratic pattern, giving rise to many symptoms mentally, emotionally and physically. Numerous studies have shown that the Menopause transition years can be a phase making women more susceptible to Psychiatric illness. especially if they have a history of mood disorders. This may be attributed to the decline in hormones themselves, the presence of somatic complaints, or the natural stage of life where a woman is sandwiched between taking care of the elders and handling an empty nest. Some of the most common symptoms of metal health seen during menopause transition are:
Mood disorders – Moods at this phase can vacillate from anger to sadness. Depression is one of the most important mental health disorders creeping up at this time. It may be as mild as melancholia or just a sad mood on some days which is acceptable. However, it can also be a complete loss of interest, long lasting fatigue & persistent sad moods lasting for weeks. Most often the woman doesn’t recognize it herself and is busy somehow trying to cope with looking after her family and house. It is actually very easy for family and friends to notice a change in her behavior and establish communication. However, often, it is sheerly the lack of awareness that makes this Depression go unnoticed. Timely intervention can turn things around.
Insomnia – An important symptom that occurs during the menopausal transition phase is disorders of sleep. This can be either difficulty in falling asleep, or maintaining sleep or waking too early. Often this is associated with hot flushes and night sweat. More often than not, it is the hot flushes that can cause sleep disturbances. Nevertheless, lack of sleep can trigger many other illnesses, both mentally and physically. It can reduce the capacity to cope, reduce concentration, trigger palpitations, reduce confidence and create anxiety. Sleep patterns can give a guideline to other disorders. Eg., Difficulty falling asleep is seen more with anxiety, unrestorative sleep is more associated with depression. Of high importance in today’s world is the complete loss of sleep hygiene. It is important to stress on the fact that gadgets of any kind disturb the secretion of melatonin and thereby dysregulate the normal sleep cycle.
Anxiety & Irritability - Anxiety is a heightened sense of anticipation or fear and can occur during menopause due to various physical and psychological changes and also due to changes in the environment. Low levels of estrogen are thought to deplete the body’s coping mechanisms and thus a woman may face a lot of irritability and intolerance to things she normally tolerated fairly well. The decrease in the coping mechanism, can also induce feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. Anxiety, palpitations, weeping, anger are all often seen through this phase. It is important for a woman to recognize these and pay attention to them, else these can move into more severe forms like panic attacks and obsessions.
Cognitive decline and memory decline – The brain has multiple estrogen receptors and these tend to slow down as estrogen gets depleted. Thus begins the decline in alertness, memory recall, capacity to focus and capacity to grasp. Absentmindedness is seen frequently here. Dementia is a debilitating disorder affecting memory and cognition and can impact quality of life very heavily. Dementia is common but not an inevitable consequence of aging.
Few pillars of support to good hormone health and mental health are healthy nutrition, timely meals and sleep, adequate sleep, good aerobic exercises and strength training. Identification and management of stress factors, sunlight and above all good communication with family and friends are also important. While most of the above can be implemented, sometimes the mental health symptoms first need to be addressed as the woman is incapable of implementing the corrective measures under the burden of the mental health issues.
Homoeopathy and Mental Health
Mental health issues are often seen in most Complementary and Alternative medicine clinics. The very nature of homoeopathy is to understand the nuances of symptoms. Emphasis on mental symptoms for any complaint has been a focus in homoeopathy from its inception. No two individuals are alike and the most effective way of differentiating and customizing their treatment is through understanding their mind, their disposition and paying attention to the nuance of each symptom. Thus, it is especially useful in menopausal years as Menopause transition is a different experience for each woman.
Mental health issues are widely prevalent during the menopausal transition. Good communication and awareness helps identifying a problem and facilitates early intervention. Homoeopathy emphasizes on mental health for most conditions and thus helps women transit through menopause with ease.