Can Menopause Cause Anxiety & Mood Swings?
The term 'menopause' refers to the cessation of menstruation and most often occurs around 45-55 years of age. The time before menopause is referred to as 'peri-menopause' and the time after as 'post-menopause'. The perimenopause transition is a natural and essential life event and the changes in hormones can directly and indirectly lead to debilitating symptoms including anxiety, mood swings, and depression.
The latest research in menopause of over 1,000 women shows half of women going through menopause suffer mild depression, two thirds experience a loss in confidence, while 1 in 10 experience severe depression and suicidal thoughts. With 75% of women will experience brain fog, fatigue, poor sleep, night sweats and anxiety through menopause, the mental health impact of menopause is just as marked.
Menopause and Mood Swings
Few studies have systematically investigated the relationship between menopause and mood swings, even though research shows persistent mood swings increase during menopause and are one of the most common symptoms, independently of depressive symptoms. Learn more in '12 most common symptoms of menopause'.
These symptoms are caused by the fluctuations in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone during menopause, the differing speeds and levels at which they fluctuate, and the subsequent imbalances created between them.
Research of over 1,000 women going through menopause showed 76% of suffer mood swings and anxiety, 80% suffer brain fog, and more than 4 in 10 women experiencing feelings of worthlessness, avoiding friends and not wanting to go out, feeling inadequate, and not wanting to work. Read more about the research in 'Mental health effects of menopause'.
Another study found that 51% of menopausal women aged 40-55 reported tension, nervousness or irritability, with 25% reporting frequent irritability or nervousness. The same study also showed that peri-menopausal women have a greater risk for symptoms of anxiety when compared to pre-menopausal women.
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All studies show that the menopausal transition is a “window of vulnerability” for many women, and you hear women talking about their experience in highlights of our 'Menopause Roundtable', hosted by Sarah Parish.
Symptoms of Menopausal Anxiety
Menopause can be a vicious circle of different symptoms, each creating or increasing other symptoms. Research shows that feelings of sadness, loneliness and irritability are exacerbated by a lack of confidence, not wanting to go out, not wanting to be with family or friends, which in turn lead to anxiety, stress. 1 in 10 women will experience more severe symptoms including panic attacks, mild or severe depression and even suicidal thoughts during menopause.
What Causes Menopause Anxiety?
According to the NAMs North American Menopause Society, hormone fluctuations, lifestyle stresses, sleep troubled by night sweats, and concerns about body image, infertility, and ageing all contribute to emotional distress that can lead to menopause mood swings, anxiety or, in more severe cases, depression.
Social perceptions of menopause
The social-cultural views and perspectives of menopause can contribute to an individual’s reaction. Unfortunately, modern culture heavily focuses on youth, which can affirm the taboo and negativity associated with menopause.
Interestingly, in some cultures where menopause is embraced as a sign of wisdom and elevated status, some women appear to have fewer menopausal symptoms. In one study which involved rural Mayan Indians, researchers attributed the lack of symptoms during the menopausal transition to the women’s attitude to menopause rather than a difference in endocrinology.
They found the Mayan women in the study were also oestrogen deprived and experienced the same age-related bone de-mineralization as their American counterparts but did not experience menopausal symptoms. Perhaps the adoption of a different social-cultural view can help to promote a better menopausal transition.
The alteration in endogenous oestrogen leads to multiple hormonal changes in the body. This includes changes to the central nervous system, serotonergic and noradrenergic systems (neurotransmission systems in your brain).
Sub-optimal sleep quality associated with menopause can also result in higher stress vulnerabilities. In the long run, this can contribute to decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and reduce tolerance to psychological stress. Psychosocial factors and lifestyle events can also contribute to the overwhelming feelings associated with menopausal anxiety during this period.
Menopause Anxiety Relief
A diet rich in whole foods, focusing on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts and healthy fats should always be advocated. Studies have shown that foods such as soy and flax can have a positive effect on menopause symptoms.
Preliminary evidence suggests that younger postmenopausal women may derive some cognitive benefits from soy isoflavones within the initial years of menopause and a small study also showed that the consumption of 2 tablespoons of flaxseed twice a day reduced the number of hot flashes in 6 weeks as well as the intensity of the hot flashes by 57%. Learn more about flaxseeds in our article Top six foods every vegan should eat and why.
Exercise is known to not only improve overall health but also mood and wellbeing. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times a week with a daily walk can profoundly affect emotional wellbeing.
During this time, it’s essential to be aware of your emotions and to seek professional support when needed. Talking to others who are experiencing the same feelings as you can also help.
Implement and recognise things in your life that recharge you and use tools to nurture yourself, like deep breathing exercises, being out in nature and even prayer. Some studies have found prayer has been found to have a positive effect on stress levels, cortisol output and wellbeing.
The menopause can make you uncomfortable day and night. To help manage hot flushes and night sweats and make you feel more comfortable check out Become Clothing. Their menopause clothing and nightwear is clinically proven to help keep you cooler and drier during night sweats and hot flushes through cooling the skin, wicking away moisture and regulating body heat.
Supplements for Menopause Anxiety
MenoFriend is the acclaimed supplements for relieving symptoms of menopause including anxiety, brain fog, mood swings, hot flushes, night sweats, and joint aches. MenoFriend is the #1 natural alternative to HRT, but can also be taken alongside HRT to relieve symptoms of menopause where HRT doesn't.
Always ensure that your medical practitioner is aware of any supplements you are taking to ensure no contraindications with your current medications or health conditions.
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Finally, it’s important to remember that menopause can be a time of empowerment and wonderful developments in your life. Consider and take note of any negative views that you may have and try to embrace your new state of being.
Jeneve Clarke LLB LPC GCILEx DipNT MBANT CNHC
Registered Nutritional Therapist. https://www.naturesphysiciannutrition.com/
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