At the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, Women in the City is supporting the City of London Lord Mayor’s Green Ribbon Campaign by speaking out about a subject that is all too often considered to be “taboo” – the menopause – and its effect on the mental (emotional and cognitive) well-being of menopausal women, their colleagues, friends and partners.
Feels like losing your mind
Malapropisms are not confined to Miss Malaprop (a women of a “certain age”) in Sheridan’s 18th century play, The Rivals. In her book, “Menopause and the Mind”, Claire Warga PhD, a neuropsychologist, highlights how the memory loss, foggy thinking, verbal slips, and other cognitive effects of perimenopause and menopause have caused many successful and high-powered business women to give up work either because they simply couldn’t cope any more or believed themselves to be “losing their mind”.
In a recent interview, the broadcaster Kirsty Wark said that women are still “shockingly ill-informed” about what the menopause actually is and how to deal with it whilst the actress, Gillian Anderson, has talked openly about a sense of life falling apart when she experienced perimenopause.
All of a sudden, I felt like I could handle nothing. I felt completely overwhelmed,” Anderson said. “When I talked to the specialist, she said she often gets phone calls from female CEOs screaming, ‘I need help now! I’m losing my mind!’ I felt like somebody else had taken over my brain.
Dr Louise Newson is a GP with a particular interest in the menopause and has spent many years helping women with perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. She told Women in the City,
It was not until I experienced symptoms myself that I appreciated the full extent of how symptoms can have a detrimental impact on ability to work. I found I was struggling to remember patients’ names, I was constantly rechecking prescriptions to ensure I had not made any mistakes and I felt permanently tired and was often irritable with some of my colleagues. Fortunately, these symptoms only lasted a couple of months and since taking HRT I have felt a different person.
What is the menopause?
The menopause is defined as a year after a woman’s last period. However, many women experience perimenopausal symptoms for years before their periods actually stop. Although a few women are fortunate as they experience hardly any or no symptoms, the vast majority of women will experience perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms that have a negative effect on their lives.
What are the symptoms?
Many women associate the menopause with the classical symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats. However, the symptoms of loss of self-confidence, low self-esteem, irritability, fatigue, anxiety and depressive symptoms are the ones that often affect women the most at work. In addition, poor concentration and memory problems can also commonly occur.
Dr Newson, who runs a private menopause clinic at the Parkway Hospital added:
I see numerous women in my clinic who tell me they have reduced their hours, changed their roles at work or even given up work all together as they have been making mistakes, struggling with learning new tasks and generally feeling too tired.
Help is at hand
To improve knowledge about the menopause, Dr Newson has developed a series of pamphlets designed to help women themselves as well as their employers learn more about the menopause and potential ways to help.
I am hoping they will contribute to a more productive workforce for organisations and also to an improved quality of life in women!” she said.
Read more about Dr Newson and the menopause on Menopause Doctor
Download Dr Newson’s leaflets
If you’d like a printed copy, please email Dr Louise Newson