Menopause is a stage in a woman’s life when their body stops producing eggs. It most usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with an average age of 51. During this stage the woman can experience a variety of symptoms. The fact that the woman’s ovaries are not longer producing eggs means that they are also producing less progesterone and estrogen. It is the change in the level of hormones that create most of the symptoms associated with menopause.
* Hot flushes involve feelings of heat that are usually in the upper part of the body
* Sleep disturbances
* Night sweats can mean that the individual wakes up covered in perspiration and this is not due to environmental factors
* Vaginal itching or other discomfort such as painful sex and a feeling of dryness
* The individual may experience recurrent urine infections
* Menstrual irregularities, and the periods may have stopped altogether
* Feelings of anxiety
* Increased irritability and mood swings
* Loss of interest in sex
* Hair loss due to an estrogen deficiency
* Appearance of facial hair
* Problems with Concentration and memory
* Episodes of dizziness
* Some women experience noticeable weight gain that is most obvious around their middle rather than their hips
* Symptoms of depression
* Dry skin
These symptoms associated with menopause can last five years or even longer. The woman is said to have come to the end of this physical adjustment when they have not menstruated for one full year. Menopause symptoms can appear suddenly, but in many cases they will build up of over time.
The hormonal changes occurring during menopause may lead to uncomfortable emotions. The woman may also have many concerns and fears about what is happening to them such as:
* It is common for women to feel sad because their child bearing years are coming to an end For many women this will have been an important aspect of their identity
* Menopause is a reminder to women that they are getting older
* The woman can feel less attractive because of the things happening in their body
* They may worry that their loss of interest in sex is going to be a permanent fixture
* It is common for women to become easily irritated
* They may feel excessively nostalgic for their younger days
* Women can feel anxious because their body is doing things out of their control
* They may experience an identity crisis
Woman use different strategies to help them cope with the emotions of menopause. Unfortunately, some women may turn to negative coping strategies such as alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse refers to a situation where people are engaging in a pattern of drinking that would be considered unhealthy. The American Psychiatric Association defines alcohol abuse as any of the following:
* The individual is unable to fulfill their home, work, or school obligations because of recurrent alcohol use.
* The person continues to use alcohol despite the fact that it is causing problems in their life.
* They have consumed alcohol in situation where it was potentially dangerous – for example, drinking and driving.
* Legal problems associated with alcohol consumption.
There are a number of reasons for why women may turn to alcohol during menopause including:
* The may find that drinking before bedtime helps to cure their insomnia.
* Alcohol offers a temporary escape from worries and concerns. The woman who is going through menopause may view inebriation as their only means of escape from their discomfort.
* Alcohol can appear to help people deal with stress – at least in the short term.
* Those women who have always consumed alcohol heavily may increase their intake during this time.
* When people are dealing with symptoms of depression they can be tempted to turn to alcohol as a type of self medication – this is the worst thing they can do because this drug is a depressant.
* Women can suffer from low self esteem during this period of their life. There is a strong association between feelings of low self worth and substance abuse.
There are some real dangers associated with alcohol abuse during menopause including:
* It can lead to alcoholism. When the individual becomes physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol it completely takes over their life and destroys everything of value.
* Alcohol abuse causes the symptoms of menopause to increase in severity.
* It will increase symptoms of depression.
* Alcohol abuse is strongly associated with suicidal thinking.
* This drug can damage almost every organ in the body.
* It leads to mental health problems.
* Alcohol can help people sleep better at night, but it is not as restorative as natural sleep, and as a result the individual will not get as much benefit from it.
* It leads to hangovers the next day, and this can make it harder to function.
* It may cause problems with family and friends.
* When people are intoxicated they are more inclined to do things that they later regret. This is because alcohol lowers inhibition and the ability to make good decisions.
* It ultimately leads to increased levels of stress and anxiety.
* The individual can get caught in a vicious cycle where they drink to deal with their problems, but their alcohol intake is causing further problems which give them further justification to drink.
Alcohol is not a good coping strategy for dealing with the symptoms of menopause. A more effective approach to menopause symptoms might include:
* Techniques such as meditation are great for helping people cope with stress and anxieties. The individual only has to commit to as little as fifteen minutes per day, and they will notice an improvement in their life – it can also make it easier to sleep at night.
* Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can make a difference for people who are struggling with the symptoms of menopause.
* Night sedation may help people sleep better at night.
* Some women may need to begin taking antidepressants if their symptoms are too disruptive. They will need to speak to their physician to find out if this would be an appropriate course to take.
* Regularly exercise can improve mental and physical symptoms.
* Avoiding spicy food and hot beverages may lead to a reduced incidence of hot flashes.
* It is suggested that women keep a diary of their symptoms, and list any possible trigger events. For example, they may be able to link episodes of hot flashes to their diet.
* Moisturizers can help women deal with dry skin associated with menopause.
In order to avoid the dangers of alcohol abuse it is necessary for people to stick to safe consumption levels. This would be one drink per day for women. A drink is considered to be a standard beer, a standard glass of wine, or a shot of bar spirits. It is not a good idea for women to save their daily allowance for alcohol to consume them all on one occasion – this is referred to as binge drinking.