I drank 3 bottles of wine a day to cope with agonising anxiety and insomnia – I had no idea of the true cause | The Sun
WOMEN are spending an average of £2,600 a year on alcohol as they struggle to manage menopause symptoms, a new survey has found.
It revealed that one in three women drink more booze after becoming perimenopausal or menopausal.
And one in eight regularly exceed the recommended weekly intake of 14 units to alleviate symptoms.
Lindsey Beveridge, 55, a nutritional therapist from Manchester who runs recovery-nutrition.co.uk, was drinking three bottles of wine a day to cope with her menopause symptoms.
She says alcohol numbed her severe anxiety and insomnia – but she had no idea these were caused by menopause at the time.
The survey of 1,200 women was conducted by Newson Health Group to mark World Menopause Day (October 18) and shows the menopause could be a hidden factor in spiralling household costs across the country.
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Around 70 per cent of the women polled said they drank to cope with anxiety, stress and depression linked to menopause, and several women said alcohol provided 'an escape'.
Dr Louise Newson, GP, menopause specialist and founder of the Balance app who appeared on Davina McCall's 'Sex, Myths and the Menopause' documentary, said: "The changes experienced in the perimenopause and menopause can cause women a lot of discomfort and stress.
"They have a lot of symptoms including memory problems, fatigue low mood and anxiety, which can be really crippling.
"They experience quite catastrophic worrying and they feel out of control.
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"They are desperate for help and as a result, they may turn to painkillers or alcohol to relieve these symptoms. It provides an escape."
The survey found that nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of women spend up to £50 a year on over-the-counter remedies.
One in eight (15 per cent) shell out £100 a year on pain relief, eye drops and herbal remedies to help them cope.
Dr Newson said only 16 per cent of menopausal women are taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy).
She said: "The truth is these women would find greater relief for menopause symptoms and less disruption to their lives were they to have better access to appropriate treatment, including HRT.
"We must do more to make menopause treatment more accessible and to stop women turning to harmful substances in desperation.
"Only a minority are taking it but HRT is just hormones.
"We've had this fear for too long that we should only be on a low dose or we should only be using it for certain severe symptoms. That is rubbish.
"Women should be on the dose that is right for them. They are turning to drugs and alcohol because they can't get help. They don't know how else to lift their mood."
Five per cent said they had gambled more as a coping mechanism and three in ten said they were wrongly prescribed antidepressants.
Dr Judith Mohring, a consulting psychiatrist, said: "A lot of women find themselves depressed, anxious and with variable symptoms that are often misdiagnosed as anything other than menopause.
"Couple with the demands of mid-life, numerous women I see end up turning to alcohol as a way of coping.
"Many find that they might be less tolerant to drink than they used to be, and it worsens their symptoms – but it can also be a way of managing what otherwise feels unmanageable."
'I'd never heard of perimenopause'
Lindsey says: "I'd always been a heavy drinker but when I hit my mid-40s I started suffering from severe anxiety and insomnia.
"I'd never even heard of perimenopause and had no clue what was happening to me.
"I started drinking a lot more booze to cope with how I was feeling. I had no idea it was making my symptoms worse.
"I drank and drank. It got to the point where I'd need a drink in the morning just to function.
"I was getting through three bottles of wine every day.
"The survey found women are spending £3,000 a year to cope with menopause symptoms.
"For me, I was spending way more than that, probably closer to £6,000.
"When you are going through perimenopause, you start to get all these feelings and emotions.
"Alcohol just numbs all of that and in the short-term at least, it was making me feel better.
"But drinking at that rate, I started to get very ill. I knew I had to quit or it would kill me.
"I gradually tapered off before quitting altogether. I had some psychotherapy and began working in nutrition, all of which helped me become sober.
"Once I stopped drinking, all of my menopause symptoms disappeared.
"I wish I'd known earlier that alcohol actually made anxiety worse.
"I had no idea it was disrupting my hormones even more as well as driving up my cortisol levels and making me feel stressed.
"The brain fog went away, my anxiety disappeared. I did take HRT for a little while but found my symptoms disappeared and I didn't really need it.
"Anyone in this position now should not be too hard on themselves.
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"Understand why you are feeling this way and why you are doing it.
"But you should also recognise it is only making your symptoms worse and rather than turning to the bottle, speak to someone who can offer help."
What can help menopause symptoms?
If your menopausal symptoms are causing you discomfort or occur before the age of 45, your GP may be able to help.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment which uses oestrogen and progesterone to relieve menopausal symptoms.
It's considered the most effective remedy, helping with symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive.
If HRT doesn’t seem like the right option for you, there are alternative treatments available.
Your GP may offer…
- Vaginal creams or lubricants for vaginal dryness
- Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which can help with anxiety
- Tibolone is another medication that’s similar to combined HRT, but this will only work for women who had their last period more than a year ago
- Clonidine is sometimes prescribed to reduce hot flushes and night sweats, although the benefits are limited
- Your GP may also advise you to make changes to your lifestyle – including regular exercise, eating healthily and cutting back on coffee, alcohol and smoking
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