Young women see reminders all around that menopause is traditionally associated with ageing. It can therefore be difficult for women experiencing premature/early menopause to remember that many changes they see in older women, are largely due to ageing and not just hormones. Women who experience earlier menopause are more at risk of developing negative body image, depression and low self-esteem.
It’s no secret young women are one of the harshest critics when it comes to their own body’s imperfections. So for a young women diagnosed with premature/early menopause the news can be devastating. Society’s has largely stereotyped menopause as being an older woman’s transition; a time when you lose your femininity, sexuality and youthfulness. The diagnosis of premature/early menopause, particularly when it’s unexpected can mean a significant change on how women view their body. The sudden drop in hormones caused by surgery or chemotherapy for example, can make women feel as if their body is out of your control. They may feel they are not able trust their body and so begin to see it in a negative way – not feeling as attractive or desirable. A woman’s self-esteem, confidence and identity may become negatively impacted.
Do I like who I see staring back at me?
The author of this study, Nülüfer Erbil sought answers to a universal female problem. Erbil examined the relationships between women’s body image, menopausal attitudes, and depressive symptoms. The data was collected from a small sample of Turkish women via three psychometric tools that measured menopausal attitude, body image and depression. The findings in this study can potentially have a wider application to all women regardless of ethnicity or age of menopausal transition. There are copious volumes of literature which have examined the psychological ramifications menopause can have on women’s self-perception, esteem & body image.
In this study women (aged from 37 -75), completed several questionnaires about; body image, attitude toward menopause, and depressive symptoms. A follow up interview also formed part of the data collection and the cause of menopause noted, either naturally occurring or surgical.
Negative attitude towards menopause
The findings revealed that over half the women had a negative attitude towards menopause transition. Erbil analysed the data to determine what correlations could be made with the negative attitudes toward menopause. She attempted to form a link between demographic factors such as age, occupation, education level, social security, income perception along with other factors and attitudes toward menopause. In contrast Erbil found that attitudes toward menopause were related to whether a woman had transitioned into menopause naturally vs those who had a surgical transition. In other words the study found women who entered menopause naturally had more positive attitudes.
Erbil also noted that physiological symptoms such as hot flushes may affect women’s body image, which can in turn bring about depressive symptoms. Also, women who had a negative attitude toward menopause are more likely to suffer more from physical symptoms than women with a positive attitude. In other words, the physical symptoms are generally present, but your attitude toward the symptoms can affect the severity of the symptoms.
In other words, the physical symptoms are generally present, but your attitude toward the symptoms can affect the severity of the symptoms.
Regarding depression, Erbil notes that the possible causes of depression might be related to hormonal changes during the transition. These physical changes can be exacerbated by the physical symptoms that accompany menopause; such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, weight gain, in addition to other life stressors. She found women who report more menopausal symptoms are also more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The author concludes that women who have a more optimistic outlook regarding menopause appear to have a more positive body image and lower depression levels.
Symptoms of menopause can be frustrating, annoying, confusing and distressing so little wonder you might start to think differently about your body. Hot flushes, dry skin, weight gain, mood swings, a dry vagina and increased health risks are all significant changes to have to experience, so please be kind and loving towards yourself and seek support to help you manage the transition.
♥An optimistic attitude towards menopause is important thus influencing and nurturing a positive body image
♥Health professionals can play a vital role when it comes to helping women develop a healthy attitude toward menopause by providing accurate and positive information on the topic and throughout their experience
♥The fluctuation of hormones may cause mood swings so if you have a history of depressive symptoms, speak up and have your doctor monitor your mental health to prevent depression
♥If you are thinking more negatively about your body and it is distressing, please consult with your doctor to discuss your feelings and possibly a referral to a psychologist
♥Also engage in lots of positive activities during this time with friends and family, it can influence a better overall attitude toward the menopausal transition