Coping with the Symptoms of Menopause
The Black Hole
Depression is a silent villain. It sneaks in and makes everything look bleak. You feel hopeless and helpless, hating your life—yet not able to do anything about your situation. And, as time goes by, the depression gets worse, spiraling you down into a place of inertia and insomnia. You lose the ability to enjoy life.
Physicians now agree that depression can be an organic illness, one that occurs because of hormonal changes or chemical deficiencies in the brain. The messages sent from nerve cell to nerve cell are subtly altered—for the worse. (See Why Head Injuries Are So Dangerous for details on how the brain works.)
Antidepressant medications can help control the chemical imbalance, but because depression in menopause is linked closely to hormonal change, you might want to “wait it out.”
- Tell yourself this too shall pass. Keep a note pasted on the bathroom mirror. Write in a journal. “Menopause will end—and with it my depression.”
- Pump up the exercise. Vigorous exercise helps keep the blues away.
- Establish a routine. Get up at a certain hour every day and go to sleep at the same time every night. A routine helps regulate your body and gives you a sense of control.
- Be good to yourself. This doesn't mean bingeing on a bottle of booze and a double cheeseburger and fries. It does mean eating healthy foods and coping with stress in nondestructive ways. Take a bath with luxurious oils. Get a massage. Go for a manicure. Change your hair. And the noncaloric, nonalcoholic list goes on.
Some Like It Hot
We're not talking hot flashes here, we're talking sex. Unfortunately, the hormonal changes that occur in menopause can affect the libido. Suddenly, in otherwise healthy women, the sexual drive takes a drop. Add the fact of vaginal dryness and many women would just as soon curl up with a good book.
The good news is that loss of libido in menopause is only temporary. It goes away when menopause stops—and it sometimes comes back even stronger! But while you're waiting, try these suggestions for spicing up your love life:
- Increase your appetite with erotica. Try reading a poem, a novel, or whatever literature will help.
- Add spice. Try something new, be it a new technique or whatever. Use your imagination!
- Lubricate. There are many over-the counter creams on the market that can combat vaginal dryness. K-Y Jelly is one of them.
- Take your time. Don't feel pressured. Spend a sensuous hour in the bath. Plan a leisurely evening complete with candles and a wonderful meal. Let your partner help.
The Menopause Miracle: Hormone Replacement Therapy
Today, women have a choice. They don't have to “bite the bullet” and wait until menopause is over to ease its symptoms. Unlike previous generations, menopausal women now have hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which can combat the most intense problems of menopause: hot flashes, loss of libido, mood swings, and depression.
HRT must be prescribed by your physician. Only he or she can determine which is the best therapy for you. HRT is available in an estrogen only regimen and in a combination estrogen and progesterone regimen.
WARNING: Before we begin our discussion on the pros and cons of hormonal therapy, it's important to note that this is a highly controversial topic. The data physicians and scientists have gathered is inconclusive.
More on: First Aid
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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