Menopause is often referred to as the change, and if you are in the throes of menopause or perimenopause, it’s probably easy for you to understand why it has this name.
Menopause generally kicks in during your late 40s or early 50s. (1)
Not only are you confronted by the usual symptoms of menopause, there are also likely many other events going on in your life to make this a tremendous time of upheaval.
The kids might be leaving home and starting their lives; it might be time for a major career change; family members may be passing away; or perhaps it’s just the thought of getting older in general.
Combine this with all the hot flashes, night sweats, itchiness, dryness and other menopause symptoms, and it’s no surprise that many women become quite anxious during these tumultuous years.
During this period of time in a woman’s life, it can seem like the only thing that remains constant is all the changing going on.
Most Common Menopause Symptoms
Perimenopause is the period of several years leading to menopause. (2)
During these years, you will start to experience several symptoms of menopause as your body begins to transition to its next stage of life.
Some of the most common menopause symptoms are:
- Hot flashes: This is probably one of the most ubiquitous symptoms of menopause as almost all women experience it and it can be incredibly uncomfortable. Hot flashes also contribute to night sweats that in turn can result in trouble sleeping
- Vaginal dryness: As your hormones begin to fluctuate, the tissues in your vagina begin to dry out resulting in uncomfortable and sometimes painful intercourse as well as general discomfort
- Mood swings: Sleep problems experienced during menopause can cause mood swings and the changing levels of hormones can also contribute to irritability and depression
Another symptom that is far too often overlooked is anxiety from menopause.
It’s understandable that all these changes would make you feel anxious but feeling anxious can also be a menopause symptom in its own right.
If you’re experiencing anxiety as you navigate the waters of menopause, please know that you are not alone. Studies have shown that up to 23% of perimenopausal and menopausal women are experiencing symptoms just like yours. (3)
Let’s look now at how the hormone fluctuations of menopause can cause you to feel anxious.
How Your Hormones Can Cause Anxiety
Women in general are more susceptible to anxiety and associated disorders like depression.
Studies have shown that the increase in sex hormones (such as estrogen) at the onset of puberty is directly related to the chances of a girl developing anxiety. Studies have also shown that when estrogen levels drop off, as they do in menopause, women are more likely to suffer with anxiety. One study found that 34% of post-menopausal women had at least one anxiety disorder. (4) (5)
Hormones can’t be blamed entirely for the anxiety you might be feeling as you enter menopause but they definitely have a part to play. Hormones such as estrogen are directly connected to the neurotransmitters in your brain. When estrogen levels decline as they do in menopause, the neurotransmitters do not function properly. This malfunctioning can lead to anxiety. (6)
Stress hormones like cortisol also play a role in you feeling anxious, and menopause can certainly be stressful.
Other Changes That Can Cause Anxiety
As previously stated, hormones aren’t the sole culprit of anxiety from menopause. Many other things can contribute to this problem.
- Fear of the oncoming changes can cause anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety you experience during menopause is not related to hormones or stress but stems from the fear of all that is changing in your life, menopause-related and otherwise.
- Increase in menopause symptoms can also ratchet up your anxiety levels. In turn, feeling anxious can increase how prevalent your menopause symptoms are. It’s a vicious cycle.
- The changes you experience during menopause are not just emotional but may manifest in physical ways. You might begin to lose some hair or gain weight. These changes in your body can by themselves contribute to feelings of anxiety.
There are a number of things that can contribute to anxiety from menopause, but you can overcome this!
10 Ways to Control Your Anxiety
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do long before talking to your doctor about prescription options for anxiety.
Here are 10 things you can do right now to help control your anxiety from menopause.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is crucial for your hormones and your health in general.
- Exercise regularly. No need to run a marathon, but get up and get moving as often as you can.
- Do something you enjoy as often as you can do it. Walk through the garden, read a good book, bake a batch of cookies.
- Consider alternative methods of relaxation such as meditation or yoga.
- Find support from others going through the same things as you. Sometimes it can help to just talk about what you are experiencing.
- Consider counseling. Sometimes it’s not just enough to have a friend to talk with. Other things may present as bigger issues during this time of change, and it can be beneficial to talk to a counselor or therapist.
- Slash your alcohol and caffeine intake. Too many women rely on a nice glass of wine to unwind, but alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate anxiety. Caffeine can increase nervousness which will increase anxiety.
- Learn as much as you can about what you are going through. It can sometimes give you peace if you know more about your symptoms and what is happening.
- Change your diet. If you’re gaining weight and that’s causing you anxiety, it might be a good idea to switch things up on the food front.
- Talk to your doctor about medical options for treating your anxiety.
Talking to Your Doctor About Anxiety
There are many options to medically treat your anxiety, but unless you speak with your doctor about what issues you are facing, they can’t help you.
Schedule an appointment and tell your doctor about what you are dealing with. They can help determine if the anxiety you’re facing is stemming from hormone fluctuations or some other source.
They may prescribe antidepressants, or hormone replacement therapy or refer you to someone who has the skills to help you through this time in your life.
Anxiety in menopause is normal, but it’s also treatable.