Endometriosis is a complex condition that can impact many areas of our lives - and these can all have a knock on effect on our mental wellbeing.
- The pain caused by endometriosis can affect our relationships, our self confidence and our work
- The impact of endometriosis on our mental health should not be underestimated
- If you have the condition and are struggling with your mental health - you are not alone
- There are some simple self care and communication practices that can help you navigate these challenges
Why does Endo Impact our mental health?
There are many ways in which endometriosis can affect your mental wellbeing - and if any of the below resonate with you, be sure you are not the only one experiencing these challenges!
Of course, one of the biggest symptoms of endometriosis is pain. Often wrongly thought of as simply ‘a painful, heavy period’, Endometriosis can cause extreme discomfort every day of your cycle.
The nature of endometriosis means that tissues similar to the lining of the womb can grow practically anywhere in the body, although it’s often centralised around the pelvic area. Wherever this tissue grows, there is a chance that painful scar tissue (known as adhesions) will develop.
You can learn more about endometriosis here.
Whilst it’s true that at certain points of your menstrual cycle the tissue is more likely to become inflamed, this doesn’t mean that the rest of the time things are plain, pain-free sailing. It’s also important to remember that endometriosis is linked to other secondary conditions, like problems with digestion, which also have debilitating pain associated with them.
Living in constant pain, or fear of pain, has a huge impact on our mental wellbeing. It can stop us doing the things we love, limit our opportunities to do things that enrich our mental health (like exercise) and drain us of our energy and our optimism.
Endo Mental Health Tip: Finding products that help ease your pain whilst also allowing you to enjoy a better quality of life is key. The Myoovi kit
Issues with work and finances
Someone with endometriosis will miss an average of 10 hours of work every week, due to pain, lack of energy or other associated health problems. This can make it very difficult to pursue career goals or even hold down a steady job. The growing culture of remote working has definitely made it easier for people with endometriosis. But many endo warriors have to give up jobs they love, especially if they are particularly physical or require travelling to a workplace with little flexibility.
For many people, their profession is both their passion and their identity! So having to give that up can have a massive impact on their mental health. Couple that with the potential for financial instability and it’s understandable that people with endo have increased stress levels when it comes to work.
Endo Mental Health Tip: It can be scary to be honest with your boss about your situation, but transparency will often help you find a solution - be that working from home or reducing hours during a flare up.
Opening up will also relieve some of the stress that comes from trying to pretend you’re fine when you’re struggling. You can find more tips on managing painful periods at work here.
Sex and Relationships
Relationships are another cornerstone of our overall mental health and sometimes endometriosis can make things difficult. Now, in our opinion, if someone can’t handle you at your endo flare up, they don’t deserve you the rest of the time, but it’s still important to recognise that the condition can have an impact on your love life. If you feel like this, you are not alone.
Aside from lacking the energy to go on dates, or feeling like you’re missing out on quality time with your partner, endometriosis can also affect your sex life.
Painful sex is a fairly common symptom of endometriosis, particularly if it’s penetrative. A difficult sex life can plummet your self esteem and can also impact your bond with your partner.
Endo Mental Health Tip: All relationships are built on effective communication, so talk to your partner about how you’re feeling and suggest dates that also help you manage your symptoms - like a gentle walk or a cosy night in.
There are also many ways to enjoy a healthy sex life that don’t involve penetration, so have fun experimenting together and find something that works for you both!
Whilst many people with endometriosis can conceive naturally, around 30%-50% of endo warriors suffer with fertility issues. This can be for a variety of reasons, including endometrial tissue growing on your ovaries or impaired implantation of a pregnancy.
A tough fertility journey is heartbreaking and can definitely take its toll on your mental health. It can make you feel frustrated with your body, put a strain on your relationship and leave you feeling disconnected from your sense of self.
Endo Mental Health Tip: Try to take time away from trying to conceive to do something just for you, like a relaxing yoga class.
There are also lots of communities you can join full of people who know exactly what you’re going through - and that empathy and connection can be game changing for your mental health.
Medical gaslighting is a term that people with endometriosis will likely be familiar with.
The term refers to occasions where a patient feels dismissed or disbelieved by doctors or other people in the medical profession. This is particularly prevalent amongst women and also seems to occur more often in cases connected to reproductive health.
When our pain and experience is invalidated by people in positions of power, we can feel trapped and alone. The very people you hoped would help you are telling you that it’s all in your head or that you’re overreacting. This situation can be extremely traumatic and our mental health can take a hit.
Endo Mental Health Tip: Finding a supportive community who understand what you’re going through will help you feel validated and understood.
Journaling can also be a really helpful way to support your mental health as well as helping you advocate for yourself in a medical situation. Writing down how your endometriosis makes you feel can be cathartic - but it will also be a handy symptom tracker to share with your doctor!
Finding the positives
We wanted to create this list to show you that the impact of endometriosis is very real. If you have the condition and are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone and the issues you are facing are not insignificant. However, we want you to know that you can still lead a happy, full life with endometriosis and there is a huge community out there who can support you!
Check out our friends at The Endometriosis Foundation for support and meetups.