Talking therapies could help women through menopause, study finds

Talking therapies could help women through menopause, study finds

Research suggests that talking therapies could significantly benefit women experiencing menopause, alleviating symptoms such as depression and anxiety while enhancing their overall quality of life. The menopausal transition, which marks the cessation of menstruation and can span several years, often brings about a myriad of symptoms attributed to hormonal fluctuations, including hot flushes, night sweats, memory issues, and psychological challenges like depression and anxiety.

Prof Aimee Spector from University College London (UCL) highlights the intricate connection between physical and psychological symptoms during menopause, citing hot flushes as a prime example. She explains that individuals experiencing hot flushes often become anxious, triggering a cycle where anxiety exacerbates the frequency of hot flushes. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) offer tools to counter negative thought patterns associated with such symptoms, addressing concerns about social perceptions and personal anxieties.

Pooling data from 22 robust studies, Spector and colleagues found that interventions like CBT and Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI) yielded positive outcomes. These therapies exhibited medium to large effects on quality of life and a modest but favorable impact on anxiety and depression. Notably, CBT showed small effects on depression and anxiety, while MBI demonstrated medium to large effects on anxiety. However, the team notes that this discrepancy may be influenced by the longer duration of MBI interventions compared to CBT.

While the research underscores the potential benefits of talking therapies, uncertainties remain regarding the duration of therapeutic effects, optimal timing of intervention during menopause, and individual variability in treatment response. Additionally, further investigation is warranted to explore the efficacy of CBT in addressing cognitive symptoms like “brain fog” associated with menopause.

The proposal of using talking therapies alongside or as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has sparked debates, yet Spector emphasizes that the research does not diminish the importance of HRT but offers an additional avenue for symptom management. Dr. Paula Briggs from the British Menopause Society emphasizes that HRT may not fully resolve all menopausal symptoms, and alternative treatments can provide valuable support.

Prof Kamila Hawthorne from the Royal College of GPs underscores the importance of exploring alternative treatments, particularly for individuals for whom HRT may not be suitable. She stresses the need for integrating research findings into clinical guidelines to ensure comprehensive care for women navigating the challenges of menopause. Overall, the study suggests that talking therapies could complement existing treatment options, offering a holistic approach to addressing menopausal symptoms and enhancing the well-being of affected individuals.