Perimenopause, Menopause, and Anxiety
The hormonal fluctuations caused by perimenopause and menopause can potentially alter your mood and cause anxiety. Feelings of anxiety are characterized by nervousness or irritability, feelings of impending doom or danger, increased heart rate, sweating, trouble sleeping, GI problems, and general unrest. Aren’t you anxious after just reading that?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, women from puberty to age 50 are more than twice as likely as men to experience anxiety or to develop an anxiety-related disorder. Read that again: twice as likely as men! Not only that, but 23% of women experience anxiety as a side effect of menopause or perimenopause.
All of this is meant to say that it’s normal to feel anxiety during menopause. So, it’s important to understand what may be triggering it, how to handle it, and how to prevent anxiety that may be related to it in the future.
The Link Between Menopause, Perimenopause and Anxiety
Many of the symptoms that women experience during menopause and perimenopause can cause anxiety. If you are constantly worried that you will experience a hot flash or bout of dizziness, then you may develop anxiety around those symptoms. In addition to these indirect causes of anxiety, the Cleveland Clinic notes that fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can also cause anxiety. And while women who have a history of anxiety and chronic panic attacks are more likely to experience anxiety during menopause and perimenopause, there is no cut-and-dry way to tell if you will experience anxiety during menopause.
How Your Hormones Play Into Anxiety
The Calm Clinic notes that anxiety during menopause may be caused by a combination of hormone mediated anxiety, hormone exacerbated anxiety, and anxiety caused by menopausal symptoms. Fluctuating hormone levels can cause anxiety, and they can make pre-existing anxiety worse. There are other menopause-related symptoms that can cause anxiety, too. Something that may help you is trying to track which types of anxiety you are experiencing, and in what environment, in order to find ways to reduce the risk of triggering your anxiety.
How to Recognize Anxiety Triggers
Anxiety triggers are different for every woman, so it’s important to recognize what triggers anxiety for you. Try keeping a journal to track your environment and mood before anxiety sets in. If you notice that you begin to feel anxious in the middle of a hot flash, maybe try treating your hot flashes in order to indirectly treat your anxiety. One option to consider is Relizen, which is a drug-free therapy made to treat hot flashes and night sweats for menopausal women.
How to Handle Anxiety Caused by Menopause and Perimenopause
When you find yourself starting to feel anxious due to a symptom of menopause or perimenopause, you can take action to catch it before it worsens. Consider talking to a friend about how you are feeling and ask them if you can call to talk when you start feeling anxious.
Breathing exercises can also help to counter anxiety. If you feel your heart rate increasing, try taking five deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. It’s all about maintaining a calm. Maybe make yourself a cup of tea and sit in stillness for a few minutes to re-center yourself. My Second Spring recommends taking some time to go outside and enjoy nature to reduce the effects of anxiety.
How to Prevent Anxiety Attacks in the Future
Getting enough sleep and engaging in regular exercise can help reduce anxiety. Yoga and meditation can lower blood pressure and abate anxiety. According to Healthywomen.org, cutting out alcohol and caffeine can lower your risk of experiencing anxiety as well.
If lifestyle changes are not working, you may want to consider seeking medical attention. Make sure you explain your triggers and current coping methods to your healthcare professional so that they can work with you to eliminate anxiety altogether.