Endometriosis Awareness Month takes place in March annually to raise awareness about this disease that affects 1 in 10 girls and women worldwide. Endometriosis is a disorder where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus starts growing outside of the uterus. It causes an inflammatory reaction that can result in inflammation, the formation of cysts in the ovaries, and scar tissue and adhesions most commonly on organs within the pelvis such as the uterus, bladder and bowel. However, in rare cases it has been found in the lungs, diaphragm and brain.
It is a chronic disease associated with severe, life-impacting pain. Pain during periods, sexual intercourse, and when having bowel movements and urination. Chronic pelvic pain can also be experienced even when you are not having your period. Other common symptoms include abdominal bloating, nausea, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and infertility. Unfortunately, there is a long delay between the onset of symptoms and receiving a diagnosis, leaving many girls and women to suffer in silence.
Several studies have shown that endometriosis can lead to impaired mental health and a decreased quality of life. The mental health impact is particularly noted in women who lack a supportive partner or an understanding support system, and women who experience chronic or severe symptoms.
How can endometriosis affect your mental health?
People with endometriosis have to deal with the impact that it has on romantic and intimate relationships, the impact on fertility due to endometriosis, the productivity impact endometriosis has in school and at work, the uncertainty of ever getting a diagnosis, and the emotional impact of cycling through medications that have side effects.
Symptoms such as pain during sex, infertility and chronic pelvic pain, may lead to a negative sense of female identity where a woman may feel that her femininity has been taken from her, which in turn, may impact a woman’s self-esteem and self-perception. Negative self-perception or low self-esteem may then contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression or emotional distress.
Individuals with endometriosis can feel exhausted from not being listened to or believed whilst also dealing with debilitating pain that affects every aspect of their daily activities.
The impact on intimate relationships is often a fear for many persons with endometriosis. There can be a fear of abandonment and rejection, frustration and anger. These relationships sometimes break down through a lack of understanding and limited sexual intimacy which can happen because of how painful sex can be for a woman with endometriosis.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms that your mental health is being affected and they are negatively impacting how you function, please do not be afraid to seek help:
Restlessness or feeling on edge
Repetitive and sudden experiences of overwhelming fear or lack of control of one’s body
Fear or avoidance or people or places
High levels of self-consciousness or fear of rejections, judgement, or embarrassment
Constant and intense feelings of sadness, emptiness, guilt, anxiety, or hopelessness
Significant and constant fatigue
Loss of interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyable
If you live with endometriosis, here are some tips for taking care of your mental health:
Find a doctor that listens to you and takes your concerns seriously.
Have a strong support system of friends and family who provide the support that you need
Participate in activities that bring you joy and/or peace.
Practice mind-soothing activities such as yoga, meditation, and journaling.
Keep open lines of communication with those closest to you.
Join a support group.
Taking care of your physical health.
Although there is no cure for endometriosis, a holistic approach to the treatment of endometriosis, including counseling (therapy) to help one cope with the mental health impact of living with endometriosis is important.
MSc Clinical and Counseling Psychology
EndowarriorFounder, She is Lotus