What You Need To Know About Mental Health And Menopause

What You Need To Know About Mental Health And Menopause

There’s natural stress or anxiety that comes with getting older. Reaching the middle age threshold for women also brings about physical changes as a result of menopause. The decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone can lead to night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, other disruptions. Some of these disruptions include severe changes to emotional and mental health. 

Several studies found a common thread between various groups of women during their menopausal transition. Stress levels are very high and the physical changes invite overwhelming emotions, often contributing to intense mood shifts. It’s quite common for mood shifts to occur during perimenopause and menopause, and experts attribute them to fluctuating hormones. For instance, a 2019 study linked an increase in depression symptoms at perimenopause with progesterone and estradiol fluctuation. 

Most women who develop significant mood issues during perimenopause or menopause have had them in the past. It’s very uncommon for someone with no history of depression or anxiety to suddenly experience these symptoms in a severe way during menopause. Other factors, not just menopause, can also contribute to mood shifts. Menopause occurs during midlife, when a women typically faces a series of stressors. Dealing with aging, dealing with aging parents, caring for children, and other challenges can contribute to anxiety or depression.

A Menopause Problem

Well, many women can agree that there isn’t just one problem with menopause. To put menopause in perspective, women tend to view it as the change that signifies the beginning of the end, so to speak. A loss of femininity, cultural irrelevance, lack of sanity, reduced sexual desire, and lack of control are all associated with menopause. It doesn’t have to be this way, as viewing menopause in this light can be quite emotional. This can lead to isolation and hesitation about sharing emotions or feelings. Not all women will experience mood shifts, but it’s important to feel comfortable speaking about them if they occur. 

Menopause And The Brain

Changes in mental well-being are quite common during a woman’s transition to menopause. Hormonal changes can influence chemical reactions, especially in the brain. This explains the mood shifts, anxiety, or depressive thoughts women can experience. If a woman experiences ongoing panic attacks, depression, or anxiety, it’s best to seek help as ongoing mental health symptoms are not characteristic of menopause. 

Menopause And Anxiety

According to research, there is a link between menopause and depression, but the connection is blurry in regards to anxiety. Researchers know a lot less about menopause and feelings of anxiety. Some evidence points to the fact women are more likely to experience panic attacks during and after transitioning to menopause. Health experts describe a panic attack as a sudden sense of extreme anxiety. Accompanying symptoms can including trembling, shortness of breath, harmless heart palpitations, and sweating.

The problem lies in distinguishing hot flashes from symptoms of panic attacks. The experience can be similar, in that the heart can race and a woman can feel sweaty during a hot flash. Before a hot flash arrives, some women experience migraines, which can induce panic or a sense of doom. That’s why experts don’t know if there is a direct connection between menopause and anxiety at this time. 

Menopause And Depression

The majority of drastic hormonal fluctuations occur during perimenopause. It’s during this phase when the menstrual cycle becomes irregular, i.e. shorter, heavier, longer, lighter, infrequent, or close together. The same hormones that control menstrual cycle also influence serotonin, the chemical that promotes happy or “feel good” feelings. As progesterone and estrogen levels decline, so do serotonin levels, which can increase irritability, sadness, or anxiety. 

Declining estrogen and progesterone levels can trigger mood shifts that make it more difficult to cope with regular things. Some women experience these hormonal dips and fall into a depressive episode. This occurs more frequently for women who have dealt with major depression prior to perimenopause or menopause. If a woman feels that the depression or anxious feelings are too much to handle during menopause, it’s best to seek help. Depression that occurs daily will only worsen over time. There are so many services to take advantage of at the moment, so take action before mental health declines. 



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