Menopause: Coping with Hot Flashes and Mood Swings

Many women dread the onset of menopause because they feel that going through the “change” makes them less of a woman. Losing the ability to bear children is just one of the side effects of menopause, and in addition to the emotional baggage added during this life experience, there are also many physical symptoms that women must suffer as well.

There are no guarantees when it comes to physical symptoms of menopause, as each woman is different and may experience these symptoms in varying degrees. Some women experience no adverse physical symptoms of menopause, while others become unable to get through the day without lying down. Whatever the case, it is important to remember that these symptoms are normal, and that you should do whatever is necessary to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Hot Flashes

This is the most universally known symptom of menopause, though it occurs in only 48% of menopausal women. Only 25% of women experience them for more than five years, and they can begin as early as age 41. A hot flash is a brief, sudden sensation of warmth that most commonly begins as pressure in the head and progresses throughout the body. It is usually the most intense in the face, neck and chest, though women also experience heat in other parts of their bodies.

Hot flashes typically last around five minutes, though some menopausal women experience them for as long as ten minutes at a time. They come unexpectedly, sometimes as often as twice an hour, every hour, though usually more sporadically. Often, they are most intense at night, and may cause women to sweat profusely, which can be embarrassing for menopausal women. It will also cause disruptions in sleep patterns. This, in turn, may cause depression and anxiety, though from sleep deprivation and not from menopause itself.

Unfortunately, hot flashes cannot be eliminated without the administration of extensive drug therapy, which is not recommended for menopausal women. Instead, women have found other ways to cope with hot flashes.

1. Wear layers in cold weather. When hot flashes flair up, you can easily remove as many layers as you need to feel comfortable.
2. Avoid turtle necks or high-collared sweaters. The neck is a very sensitive area during hot flashes, and turtle necks can make you feel smothered.
3. Wear cotton or cotton blend sweaters rather than wool. Cotton provides better ventilation.
4. Have a plan. If you are worried about experiencing a hot flash in the middle of a public place, have a plan of action for when one occurs. For instance, you might want to visit the ladies room until the flash passes.

It is estimated that only two out of every ten women experience hot flashes so debilitating that they must interrupt their daily activities. If this applies to you, and you feel that you cannot handle the hot flashes for an extended period of time, you can consult your doctor about hormone therapy. This is the only proven treatment for hot flashes, and although it is only recommended for serious cases, it can stop them from happening. It involves taking estrogen supplements to replace the hormones lost or misplaced during menopause.

Mood Swings

It is an urban legend of sorts that menopausal women become unbearable to live with during menopause. It is also a myth that the likelihood for depression rises during menopause; in fact, it is much less common during middle-aged women. However, there are certain emotional issues that arise during menopause, and some women are more susceptible than others.

Symptoms of mood swings may include the following:

– Crying without reason
– Becoming angry one minute, and sad the next
– Snapping at friends or family without provocation
– Sleeping more often than usual
– Changed sexual patterns, or lack of a desire to have sex
– Headaches
– Insomnia
– Irritability
– Joint and muscle pain

Since there is no clinical basis for eliminating these symptoms, they are almost always psychosomatic. This means that a woman’s outlook on the changes she is experiencing has a direct affect on her emotional state.

Women should be educated on the menopause process and understand what their bodies are going through. This will help to adjust to what is happening. It helps to take brief “time outs” when emotions begin to flair, both to avoid confrontations with others and to gain perspective on the situation. Keep books and magazines handy to read in order to calm yourself and take long walks. Exercise is a proven way to eliminate stress and to calm the mind.

The upside of mood swings is that often, postmenopausal women go through a period of intense elation. After menopause is over, many women feel an acute sense of individuality and excitement for the days ahead. Depression during menopause could very well lead to positivity afterward.

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