Of the many symptoms of menopause, those that affect your mood and mind can be the most difficult to manage. After years of negotiating your monthly hormonal cycles, suddenly things change and your moods may be quite different again. Menopause can be emotionally distressing and is associated with lower moods. However, it’s worth noting this is commonly experienced by many women, and lower moods doesn’t mean you’re depressed.
We’ve heard from many women who suffered from anxiety during menopause for the first time in their lives, or who were suddenly experiencing mood swings and bursts of anger. We are here to tell you that no, you are not going crazy, and yes, anxiety and mood swings are normal during menopause. In fact, studies show us that 23% of women report anxiety during menopause. (1)
We are here to explain what causes these changes and give you a few tips for managing them. Before we do, we want to let you know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel: surveys have found that two thirds of women reported feeling happier after the menopause than they were before it started! (2)
During peri-menopause, which is the time before your last menstrual period, hormones are fluctuating on a downward trend. By the time you reach menopause, your ovaries have stopped ovulating and production of oestrogen and progesterone hormones have stopped. This decline in hormones is directly and indirectly linked to mood-related symptoms.
The direct link is a result of the important role hormones play in mood regulation. Oestrogen coordinates other hormones which are responsible for mood and sleep-regulation, including serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. Progesterone has been linked to a feeling of wellbeing, often giving us a sense of relaxation or calm before sleep. Therefore, the decline of these hormones during menopause can affect your moods.
Lower levels of oestrogen can also affect your moods and energy levels indirectly. Symptoms such as night sweats for example, can lead to poor sleep, fatigue, and anxiety at work. Additionally, thinking about ageing and infertility around this time can be emotionally distressing.
However, it is important to note that frequent and severe anxiety and panic attacks are not normal symptoms of menopause. You should consult your doctor if you are experiencing any of these. It is important to talk to a doctor who understands menopause to help you determine the difference between menopause-related mood symptoms and clinical anxiety or depression.
The good news is that you do not have to suffer in silence and there are things you can do.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) works by replacing the oestrogen that your body stops producing during menopause, and has been linked to improved mood and reduced anxiety. You can read more about HRT here.
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy that is also effective and can be done online, or through the NHS.
Do not underestimate the importance of keeping a healthy lifestyle and having the support of those around you in managing your menopause mood symptoms. We recommend keeping an eye on your nutrition and eating healthily, as well as making sure you are getting enough rest. Other self-care activities like practicing yoga or keeping a journal have been shown to help improve mood.
Having someone to talk to about the menopause can reduce feelings of loneliness, too. Whether it is a family member or a friend. If you would like to meet other women who are also going through menopause, you can join the waiting list for our online menopause course.
The takeaway message here is that mood changes are common during the menopause, and there are things you can do to help. Remember, even talking about it can help!