November 15, 2012

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Our Minds, Our Internal Environment, Determines How We React To Physical Symptoms

A few weeks ago I indicated how hormonal changes initiated different responses to
menopause between women, for example, some women experience hot flashes but
others don’t. How different women react to the exact same severity of symptom
is the direction I am moving to. So this week we consider the ‘internal
environment’ or personal psychological makeup. How we were raised, birth order,
our life experiences, education, social status, occupation, marital status, and
many other such factors determine how we behave.

We
are all aware, by simply watching people react to events, how some individuals
may barely turn a hair while others may panic in response to exactly the same
situation. An early British researcher demonstrated how a child raised by over
concerned parents who overreacted to their child tripping over the edge of the
Chinese rug would have a totally different response to pain later in life compared
to another child who, falling down the stairs, was simply advised by her parent
to get up and get on with things.

This
internal environment will directly affect how an individual will react to the
genuine menopause-related symptoms she may experience, as well as what other
non-menopause related symptoms she may develop. The more stoic woman, or one
with issues of greater priority, will thus have less of a negative response to
vasomotor symptoms (VMS), than will the woman more internally focused on
herself and her sense of well-being.

There
are many books on menopause, even movies, and certainly websites that make
menopause seem like a horror story. Long grocery lists of all the awful things
that can happen are usually presented, mostly with the ulterior motive of
tempting women to buy unnecessary products, undergo hormone and other tests they
don’t need, or take herbs, supplements or medications they could well do
without.

Fortunately,
the host of other symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, headaches, shortness of
breath, loss of memory, depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, feeling of
inadequacy, loss of ability to concentrate, and tension that are blamed on
menopause are actually not related to the menopause. Certainly there is no
evidence to relate them to changes in hormone profiles that have been measured
in the blood.

Of
course, many women will have these symptoms, and there is a possible
explanation for this, even though most will be unrelated to the hormonal
changes at menopause. The reason is the snowball effect. Night sweats are
associated with disrupted sleep. Anyone who has worked or partied late into the
night and has to rise early to get to work knows the feeling of fatigue, loss
of mental concentration, and other symptoms that follow you around during the
day. Well, so will VMS with disrupted sleep cause a woman to wake up fatigued,
and the snowball of other symptoms can follow. Alleviation of VMS should result
in the disappearance of the snowball symptoms. Where they persist, despite the
VMS going away, may indicate the need to search for another cause.

Minor
psychiatric symptoms usually are the result of multiple factors, which need
individualized diagnosis. As mentioned earlier, the ability at a younger age to
adjust to difficulties in general will positively influence one’s personal
reaction to events in response to aging and menopause. Attitudes toward
menstruation and the role women play in certain societies are also important.

Simply
put, a more psychologically fragile woman is more likely to over react to a hot
flash than one who deals with any of life’s adversities in a more stoic manner.

I
will continue with this explanation of the variability of response to menopause
next week when we can consider the impact of the external environment –
socio-cultural factors.

I
extend my sympathies and best wishes to those impacted by the storm.

 

Wulf
Utian MD PhD DSc

Author;
CHANGE YOUR MENOPAUSE – Why one size does not fit all.
http://www.amazon.com/Change-Your-Menopause-size-does/dp/0982845723/

 

WHO IS WULF UTIAN?

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