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Aging: Menopause Interventions for "The Change"
Menopause continuing education counselor CEUs

Section 3
Track #3 - Three Tools in Reestablishing Sexuality

CEU Question 3 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Geriatric & Aging
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed three concepts of malaise in menopausal women.  These three concepts of malaise in menopausal women include:  malaise vs. depression; transitory grief; and comorbid risks.

Because of the many myths that are being spread about menopause, largely due to Hollywood, women who know they are close to menopause begin to fear losing their libido.  They believe in the stigma that with old age comes the end of sexual intercourse as they know it.  This stigma perpetuates the belief that sex is undignified for couples over fifty-five, and that any kind of libido is reserved for the young and attractive. 

On this track, we will examine three effects of fear of a decrease in sexual drive due to menopause.  These three effects of fear of a decrease in sexual drive due to menopause include:  low self-esteem; loss of sexual identity; and actual loss of sexual desire.

3 Effects of Fear of a Decrease in Sexual Drive

#1 Low Self-Esteem
The first effect of fear of a decrease in sexual drive due to menopause is low self-esteem.  Many women clients gain their self-esteem from their own sexual attractiveness.  This also relates to their physical self-esteem and their confidence in their appearance.  If a client believes that in a few years she will lose all sexual drive, she might also begin to lose interest in her physical appearance as well. 

Obviously, this ultimately leads to a great drop in self-esteem.  Many women will give up those daily activities which once provided a source of confidence and pride in their bodies.  Some clients give up exercise, makeup, salon visits, or buying new clothes.  Although these should not be the only source of self-esteem, a loss in any source can result in a steep drop in self-worth. 

Jennifer, age 49, had been an avid runner her whole life.  However, when she began to fear the onset of menopause, she gave up her hobby, believing that the vivacious period in her life was coming to a stand-still.  Jennifer stated, "Why bother?  I used to run because it increased endorphins and made me feel sexy, but if I can't feel sexy anymore, what's the point?  I'm not going to want to have sex and my husband's not going to want to have sex with me after I stop running.  I just don't see any good reason to keep my body in good shape if no one is going to see me naked anyway.  I might as well crawl under a rock, get fat, and shrivel up." 

Jennifer was under the mistaken belief that she won't feel attractive even after running due to her decrease in libido.  However, as you know, this is not always the case and Jennifer is only lessening her chances of having an active sex life by decreasing her exercise.  She will become less energetic and less energy will most likely result in less sex drive which in turn results in low self-esteem.  Think of your Jennifer.  Is she in an unending cycle of fear and low self-esteem?

#2 Loss of Sexual Identity
The second effect of fear of a decrease in sexual drive due to menopause is loss of sexual identity.  Many women believe that their desire to have sex defines their role as a woman.  Not only does it fulfill basic needs, it also provides a part to play.  While men perform one role, woman compliment them as opposites.  Without the drive to fulfill that role and subsequently compliment their male counterpart, menopausal clients believe that they will have to completely redefine their roles as women. 

Lisa, age 51, anticipated losing her libido to menopause and dreaded it.  She firmly believed that her identity as a woman was under serious attack.  Lisa stated, "What am I going to do now?  Start gardening?  Join a sewing circle?  I don't cook; I don't clean; I don't do all that Martha Stewart shit!  It's just not me!  I am a working woman, I have needs that I have to fulfill and I will not be able to adjust to this no sex thing.  I want a sexual relationship with my husband, and I don't want to become that woman who is so sexually deprived that she bakes all day." 

I explained to Lisa, "Not all women undergo a loss of sexual drive.  About one third of women don't notice a change at all, and I feel that your determination to continue your healthy sex life is so strong that you might not even experience a decrease at all."  Think of your Lisa.  Is she unnecessarily preparing herself for a change in identity?

#3 Actual Loss of Sexual Desire
In addition to low self-esteem and loss of sexual identity, the third effect of fear of a decrease in sexual drive due to menopause is an actual loss of sexual desire.  Although a change in hormones may not affect a woman's libido, the internalized belief that menopause signals the end of sex can affect a client's actual sexual desire.  In short, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Even if the client has not started menopause, she may believe herself to be at an age at which sex becomes less of an option. 

Jill, age 43, was too young to begin menopause, but still maintained that her hormones had decreased to such an extent that she no longer desired sex.  She stated, "I'm just getting to that age in life when my hormones are not as strong as they once were.  It's not my fault.  It's just a fact of life."  Although there were no other symptoms of menopause present, Jill had internalized the belief that beyond the age of forty, a woman becomes completely frigid

I explained to Jill, "Because you have so firmly accepted the belief that this is what happens to forty-year old woman, you may have also convinced yourself that sex is no longer for you.  But really, sex is an option at all ages, young or more mature.  Sexual desire does not really decrease due to hormones until your body has actually reached menopause, and even then, there are ways to stimulate sexual desire."  Think of your Jill.  Has she internalized her beliefs so firmly that she has actually experienced a change in libido?  How would you address this belief?

Technique:  Organize a Beauty Day
In order to help clients like Jennifer, Lisa, and Jill regain their self-confidence and reestablish their own sexuality, I suggested they "Organize a Beauty Day."  I asked all three of them to write out activities to do that would increase their own feelings of beauty such as a visit to the salon or a new workout regime.  This exercise is designed to help clients realize that being attractive is possible beyond the age of forty and that beauty is more of a state of mind than physicality.  Jill, who hadn't bought herself any new clothes in ten years, saved up for a shopping adventure with her best friend. 

During the shopping trip, Jill bought fitted clothing and even lingerie.  She stated, "I had so much fun that day! I felt young again and I can't wait for my husband to see my new lingerie!"  Think of your menopausal clients.  Could their fear of losing sexual drive be abated by organizing a beauty day?

On this track, we discussed three effects of fear of a decrease in sexual drive due to menopause.  These three effects of fear of a decrease in sexual drive due to menopause included:  low self-esteem; loss of sexual identity; and actual loss of sexual desire.

On the next track, we will examine three concepts related to menopausal stress.  These three menopausal stress concepts include:  adrenal exhaustion; sleep-deprived stress; and managing stress through diet and nutrients.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 3
What are three effects of fear of a decrease in sexual drive due to menopause? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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