Different women go through menopause at different ages. Heredity, existing medical conditions, genetics, surgical removal of the ovaries, and certain medications also play crucial roles in the onset of menopause.
The time leading up to menopause can be physically and emotionally turbulent for many women. While physical symptoms such as hot flashes and irregular periods are some of the commonly known menopause symptoms, the psychological and emotional impact of menopause can be more concerning and life-altering.
Its onset brings with a range of different symptoms (triggered majorly by hormonal shifts) such as anxiety, insomnia, mood fluctuations, panic attacks and even depression. What is even more worrying is that the situation can quickly spiral due to feelings of isolation and an acute lack of knowledge.
Although not all women necessarily experience the same symptoms, research suggests that significant depressive symptoms are more likely to develop in perimenopausal women as compared to the ones who had not gone through menopausal transition yet.
This post aims to explore more about the psychological and emotional impact of menopause, what measures can you take to effectively deal with the symptoms, and when is the right time to seek medical help.
How Menopause May Contribute to Anxiety, Depression or Panic Attacks?
Symptoms of menopause can vary from mild to severe, and while, in some cases, women do not need medicinal treatment, others might require anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants to deal with the condition.
Hormone therapy, in some cases, may also help treat the symptoms related to mental and emotional health problems caused by menopause. Here are some of the specific ways menopause may raise the risk for anxiety, panic attacks, and depression in some women and the ways to deal with them
a. Hormonal Fluctuations
Transitioning into menopause comes with a sudden drop in hormone levels, causing a range of common symptoms. While some psychological symptoms may be related to various physical changes brought on by the rebalancing of hormones, others may be linked directly with hormonal changes that take place during menopause.
For instance, hormone surges can cause night sweats and insomnia and lead to feelings of tiredness and anxiousness. These changes may also affect the chemicals in the brain, and, in turn, mood.
Hormones that control the menstrual cycle in women also influence serotonin. It is a chemical that mainly promotes feelings of happiness and well-being. When the level of hormone drops, serotonin levels also fall, contributing to increased irritability, panic attacks, anxiety and sadness.
b. Decline in Estrogen And Progesterone
A drop in estrogen and progesterone levels can trigger mood swings and set off depressive thought processes in some women. Women who were especially prone to anxiety in the past or who have had episodes of postpartum depression are usually more likely to have panic disorders and anxiety during menopause; although, just about any woman can develop these symptoms.
Plummeting estrogen levels can also lead to various other symptoms such as dry eyes, shakiness, increased urination and depression. Increased urination in some cases may lead to rapid loss of fluid and nutrients, which can cause dizziness, weakness and can trigger panic attacks. Likewise, nutritional deficiencies can make already existing anxiety symptoms worse and bring about the onset of new bouts of anxiousness.
c. Sleep Problems
Other most commonly reported symptoms of menopause are night sweats and hot flashes. Mainly caused by fluctuating estrogen levels, known as vasomotor symptoms, they can lead to profuse sweating, dehydration, loss of electrolytes in the body through perspiration and insomnia.
Continuous bouts of insomnia can lead to a messed up sleep cycle, and can dramatically increase the risk of women feeling more anxious and depressed. Although sound sleep helps with such panic episodes when night sweats constantly interfere with sleep, the chances of anxiety escalates.
d. Major Life Changes
Apart from the hormone fluctuations, perimenopause is also a time of life marked by several stress-inducing events that can impact emotional health in women. For instance, some women may feel troubled, lonely or sad during menopause because of the changes to their body that occur, such as the loss of fertility.
In addition to this, many women may undergo various life changes during the menopausal years such as career stress, health issues, ageing parents, children departing home and more. These are all external pressures that can lead to panic attacks and trigger or increase depression in some women.
Typically, these symptoms may go away when the perimenopause phase ends, and when hormonal balance is restored as women enter the postmenopausal period.
How to Cope With Emotional Concerns During This Phase of Life?
Many women undergoing menopause receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and other similar treatments to deal with menopause symptoms. However, it is important to keep in mind that not women are good candidates for receiving HRT and the decision should strictly be taken in consultation with a certified medical professional.
For women experiencing high levels of anxiety, panic and depression during menopause, doctors may also prescribe counselling or medication to treat the symptoms.
Apart from this, making certain lifestyle changes and following a healthy routine, as listed below, also helps with menopause symptoms and reduces anxiety and panic attacks.
- Exercising and eating healthy can help to burn off negative nervous energy and improve anxiety and panic symptoms
- Getting good-quality sleep
- Seeking support from family or a professional counsellor
- Nurturing relationships and friendships
- Engaging in some kind of a creative outlet for emotional well being
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Avoiding alcohol and reducing consumption of caffeine
- Learning self-relaxation techniques
- Taking prescribed medicines, supplements, vitamins and minerals
Lastly, it is important to learn more about your symptoms so that you can make informed decisions about the transition your body is going through. Keeping a journal is also a great idea as it can offer you deeper insights into what you are thinking and feeling. This may also allow you to discover whether psychological or emotional factors may be contributing to your physical menopausal symptoms.
When To Seek Help?
When menopausal symptoms lead to severe anxiety, mood swings, panic attacks or depression, it is recommended to seek expert advice immediately.
Although uncomfortable for most women, with timely and appropriate treatment, menopause and its related symptoms of anxiety and depression can be dealt with ease, without necessarily being intrusive to day-to-day life.