Psychological and sexual aspects of the menopause and HRT
Pearce MJ., Hawton K.
Despite the clinical impressions that there are considerable psychological benefits from HRT, there is only clear evidence for amelioration of psychological symptoms (including improvement in cognitive function) in women who have undergone a surgical menopause. Otherwise in the natural menopause it remains unclear which, if any, non-sexual psychological symptoms respond directly to oestrogen except as a secondary response to reduction in physical symptoms. Overall, it has to be said that there is little scientific backing for hormonal treatment of psychological problems on their own around the time of the natural menopause. In most cases psychological treatment or counselling will be more appropriate than HRT. It must be remembered that the prevalence of psychological symptoms in the menopause and gynaecology clinic is high just as it is in all hospital settings. The task is to identify which women: 1. Have a predominance of psychological symptoms and might have psychiatric disorders. They may have presented in the clinic because they also happen to be menopausal, but it may well be that the psychiatric disorder has a quite independent aetiology. They will benefit from specific treatment for that disorder. 2. Have, and complain of, low moods or other non-specific psychological symptoms and have presented in the clinic because they are menopausal. They might benefit from practical, supportive help with current and ongoing stresses and strains. 3. Present appropriate menopausal complaints and only on enquiry reveal their psychological problems. In particular, disorders such as depressive illness, anxiety states and alcohol abuse can present with physical symptoms including ones which mimic vasomotor ones. This group may well be non-responders to HRT.