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Embracing Change: Navigating the journey through menopause with CBT

Embarking on the journey through menopause is a deeply personal experience and often comes with unexpected challenges. Over 7.2 million women in the UK are currently facing this transformative phase in their lives, and the demand for personalised and effective support and treatment is at an all-time high.

Surprisingly, a survey by The British Menopause Society in 2016 revealed that half of women between the ages of 45-65 lived through menopause without consulting healthcare professionals, even though 42% found their symptoms to be worse than they had anticipated. The temptation to suffer alone seems common. Does this sound all too familiar?

Understanding your journey Through menopause

Menopausal symptoms are as diverse as the women who experience them. The spectrum of symptoms encompasses far more than just night sweats and hot flushes. Menopause can impact on emotional wellbeing and undermine resilience. Recognising the interaction between physical and emotional aspects of menopause is important in providing all round support.

Physical changes

The physical changes that most commonly accompany menopause are night sweats, hot flushes, and changes in libido, but these may only be the tip of the iceberg. Each woman’s body responds uniquely to hormonal fluctuations and these physical shifts demand attention in order to manage their impact. Acknowledging the unique changes for you personally is the first step towards effective menopause management.

Emotional rollercoaster

Beyond the physical symptoms, menopause can bring an emotional rollercoaster as challenging as bodily changes. Anxiety, depression, and cognitive difficulties are not uncommon impacts during menopause. Approximately 10% of all women experience depression during this phase. Hormonal fluctuations can impact self-esteem and confidence. Moreover, disrupted sleep due to night sweats, hot flushes and other physical symptoms can exacerbate emotional dysregulation.

It’s essential to understand that your emotional experience is just as valid and significant as any physical symptoms you may be dealing with, and seeking support for emotional wellbeing just as is important.

Impact on social and intimate connections

Statistics reveal that a significant percentage of women experience disrupted social and sex lives as a result of menopause. Hot flushes can make it uncomfortable socialising in crowds. Vaginal dryness and low mood can impact on libido. Understanding that these impacts and getting support for managing them can help establish a more empowered approach to maintaining healthy connections.

Cognitive challenges

Menopause can bring about cognitive challenges, often referred to as “brain fog”. Difficulty concentrating and memory lapses can be frustrating, impacting work performance and daily tasks. Being aware of and understanding these symptoms as common, can help women feel more confident, and encourage support-seeking for help with coping strategies.

The need for comprehensive treatment during menopause

HRT (hormone replacement therapy) remains a viable option for many. For many women dealing with menopause, however, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is being recognised as an effective treatment. This is not to say your symptoms are ‘in your head’. Rather, that working to get your head around your experience of menopause can help stabilise things. CBT, renowned for addressing anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, and low self-esteem, has proven success in managing many physical health problems.

Menopause & CBT

CBT has a well-established scientific foundation. Understanding that thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are interconnected are at its core. CBT aims to help you manage your thinking and to give you the tools needed to modify behaviour so that low mood and worry can be improved. This evidence-based approach has shown remarkable success in treating various mental health issues and can equally be applied to supporting menopausal symptoms.

Alleviating symptoms of anxiety

The unpredictability of physical menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and sweats can often lead to anxiety and, in turn, social withdrawal. CBT can focus on managing fear and avoidance and has demonstrated its effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of anxiety experienced in menopause. Through personalised CBT strategies, you can gain confidence in social situations and prevent anxiety from limiting your engagement from or enjoyment of socialising.

Improving quality of sleep

Night sweats and other menopausal symptoms often disrupt sleep. This can have a significant impact on mood, anxiety, concentration, and relationships. Your quality of sleep can be improved using a focused CBT approach to insomnia. This, in turn, will help emotional regulation. Sleep expert Professor Colin Espie and insomnia sufferer Peter Hames have developed a CBT-based, clinically proven programme called Sleepio. It can treat insomnia in 6 weeks and is free on the NHS.

Tailored approach for hot flushes and night sweats

Clinical trials have shown that CBT interventions specifically adapted for managing hot flushes and night sweats are very effective. CBT helps women cope better with physical symptoms and improvements are shown to be lasting. Regardless of how long you may have menopausal symptoms, CBT’s tailored approach to your symptoms can give you strategies to cope to be used long after sessions are complete.

accessing CBT

When considering CBT to help you tackle menopause symptoms, it is important to seek guidance from qualified and experienced practitioners. At CBT Networks, our therapists Dr Sian Thrasher and Nicky Edmans both have personal and professional experience in supporting women through the complexities of menopause. They will work with you, ensuring a comprehensive and personalised approach to your unique symptoms and struggles.

Further reading on CBT for menopause

If you would like to explore additional resources about CBT for menopause, evidence-based cognitive behavioural guides like “Living Well Through the Menopause” by Myra Hunter and Melanie Smith provides invaluable insights.

Embracing change

With the right support, education, and personalised interventions, you can learn to embrace change and thrive through menopause. CBT can give you the science-backed tools needed to navigate this significant transition in your life with resilience and confidence. You can shift the narrative around menopause to one of growth, empowerment, and vitality – ready to embrace the next chapter of your life.

If menopause is impacting your life and you would like to know more about how CBT can help you, our consultant psychologist, our consultant psychologist, Dr Sian Thrasher, offers a free 15-minute telephone consultation specifically for you to discuss CBT and treatment options.

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