6 Ways Menopause Can Cause Anxiety (And What You Can Do To Fight It)
Menopause can be a confusing and destabilizing time in the life of any woman.
If you have found yourself particularly anxious lately, you may be wondering whether your menopause could be the cause—and if so, what you can do about it.
Does menopause lead to anxiety directly through a physiological mechanism—or are you simply anxious because you are going through a change of life? The answer in this case is “both.”
In fact, there are a number of ways in which menopause might lead to heightened anxiety. Let’s check them out.
1. Dips in estrogen may lead directly to increases in anxiety.
At least some of the anxiety you are experiencing may very well be the direct result of hormonal swings.
Your hormones are all over the map during menopause, but generally speaking, your estrogen levels are dropping. You are leaving behind the cyclical ups and downs of estrogen and progesterone which have characterized your biology to this point.
According to clinical nurse specialist Jerilyn Hagan CNS, “There’s some evidence that estrogen has some mood-enhancing benefits. So the decrease of this hormone may contribute to the mental health issues women experience during this period.”
So there you go. That alone could explain some of the changes in your mood, including anxiety, rage, and depression.
2. You could be experiencing problems with memory and concentration which make you nervous.
For whatever reason, menopause may also cause issues involving memory and concentration. Researchers still are not positive why this happens, but it may have something to do with the decrease in estrogen.
It appears that there is a link between estrogen and cholinergic activity in the brain. The decline in estrogen may correspond with a decline in cholinergic activity. Cholinergic decline is associated with dementia. This may be one reason why women are at an increased risk for developing dementia after menopause.
In any case, this is supposition, but this same mechanism could also feasibly explain the temporary cognitive impairments seen in menopause.
The bottom line is this: it is no fun having trouble concentrating or remembering things. You may even worry that you are developing early-onset dementia. That can lead you to feel anxious. Just remember that this is a very common symptom, and chances are good that it is temporary. If you are really concerned about it, talk to your doctor.
3. Pain and discomfort can lead to anxiety.
Menopause can involve varying degrees of discomfort and pain. For some women, these issues may be quite severe. If hot flashes are disrupting your sleep or you are suffering from harsh migraines, you may start to dread the next hot flash or migraine.
You may worry about the formation of new symptoms. You might wonder how long they will last and if they will go away when menopause ends.
All by itself, this can put a lot of strain on your psyche. Just remember, the majority of these symptoms should abate by themselves when menopause comes to an end. There may be some long-term issues that you need to iron out, but you can work on that in collaboration with your healthcare provider.
here are a lot of treatment options and lifestyle changes you can make to accommodate your new hormonal profile.
4. If you are depressed, that could contribute to anxiety.
Depression is a common side-effect of the hormonal changes associated with menopause, and it is well-known among psychologists that depression and anxiety are close bedfellows. Where you have one, the other can easily bloom. If you experienced depression first, it could well have given rise to your anxiety by now.
Likewise, if you are only experiencing anxiety now, depression may very well follow. That is why it is imperative to take steps to get your anxiety under control.
5. Losing sleep can increase anxiety.
Sleep disorders and anxiety are closely interconnected, and they have a cyclical relationship. If you are not getting enough sleep, that can make you anxious. And if you are anxious, you may have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep through the night.
Menopause is characterized by hot flashes late at night. Waking up sweating with your heart pounding and adrenaline on high is obviously going to cause a lot of disruptions in your sleep. These interruptions may reduce the amount and quality of sleep you are getting, leading to fatigue the next day.
This in turn creates a physiological and psychological environment which is conducive to anxiety. Then it becomes even harder to get the sleep you need, and your psychological symptoms are just exacerbated.
It can be hard to get the sleep you need, but taking herbal supplements both for hot flashes and insomnia can go a long way toward restoring rest and mental health.
6. Life changes can lead to anxiety.
Menopause is undeniably a major life change all in itself. But during menopause you may also be experiencing other life changes. These changes may involve your job, your family, other aspects of your health, and your plans for the future. Looking back, you may also be facing regrets from your past.
Any of these life changes may lead to problems with anxiety. Furthermore, these challenges may persist even after menopause, which means that the anxiety you have developed around them may persist as well.
What can you do about it? I tackle that below.
Tips for Fighting Anxiety During Menopause
How should you treat your anxiety? You may wonder if you should just wait for it to pass like any other symptom of menopause. That is not necessarily a great approach, though. It neglects the fact that other events in your life could be contributing, and that your anxiety may be tied at least in part to issues that will persist later.
It also is not a great answer in terms of quality of life. Plus, anxiety is something which can turn into a habit. Once your brain gets used to those pathways, removing the initial trigger may not be enough to move forward with a calmer mind.
For that reason, I suggest you consider some of the following ideas:
- Do what you can to treat your other symptoms. If hot flashes are keeping you up, then you should consider an herbal remedy which will reduce their severity and frequency and help you sleep through the night. You can also treat your migraines and other symptoms using supplements. With less pain and discomfort (and better rest at night), you should experience less anxiety.
- If other life problems may be responsible for causing your anxiety, you should take steps to confront those issues directly and resolve them. If the issues are still present after menopause ends, you will probably still be anxious.
- Many women choose to participate in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during and after menopause. While this is one possibility, you may achieve similar results through a gentler and more natural path by taking herbal supplements to balance your hormone production. This is something to talk to your doctor about.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be helpful in managing some of your anxiety symptoms. There are many different CBT techniques which you can try. This is something that a therapist can help you with, but you will also find plenty of free online resources if you wish to try it on your own.
- Try practicing meditation and mindfulness. These are techniques which can relax your body and mind. There are numerous other health benefits associated with meditation as well, so the benefits you reap should go far beyond taming your anxiety.
- Exercise more. For many people who suffer from anxiety, working out leads to some immediate distraction and relief. You may also find that if you do it on a regular basis, it leads to an overall reduction in your anxiety levels.
- Get plenty of sleep. Just missing a couple hours of sleep can cause you to feel a great deal more anxious the next day. If you have to go to bed early for a while to ensure that you sleep enough, it is time to commit to a new, regular sleep schedule that allows you to get the rest you need.
- Consider therapy, especially if you feel your anxiety is tied to other issues in your life, or it seems to be growing to encompass other aspects.
Dealing with menopause or anxiety on its own is hard enough—dealing with both of them together can be overwhelming. Just remember that the two often go hand-in-hand, and there are a lot of different ways in which menopause can wreak havoc on your mind.
Hopefully that gives you the perspective you need to start making positive changes in your life to get your moods back under control.
Just remember that the hormonal changes are going to cause a lot of chaos, and you may not always be as calm as you want. Do not hold yourself to unreachable standards. This too shall pass if you remain optimistic and realistic and take an active role in finding a calm, centered place.
Read Next: 10 Tips for Sleeping Better During Menopause