Mental Health – Anxiety and Depression in Menopause

On an average, women encounter menopause at 51 years of age. However, research has revealed that symptoms related to this phase manifest much earlier. Anxiety, depression, mood swings and disruption in bowel movements are some clear indications of your perimenopause having commenced. While some women are aware of these changes and prepare to face them, a vast majority are caught unaware. For the second category, coping poses the biggest challenge, not to mention overcoming the symptoms and moving on.

Because anxiety and depression tend to persist throughout perimenopause and menopause, learning how to manage them can make a big difference. They may be inevitable, but there is a lot that you can do to minimize suffering and ensure a smooth transition. Being aware is the first step that you need to take to render the path ahead comfortable.    

Why Does Anxiety Happen? Does It Get Worse?

Estrogen, the reproductive hormone in women, has been found to be the root cause of anxiety, depression and several other irregularities that mark perimenopause and menopause. Since estrogen impacts several receptors and transmitters in the brain, any fluctuation in its production leads to changes in mood, cognition, and behavior. This is where menopausal symptoms come in.

Perimenopause causes estrogen levels to drop, and this in turn hinders the ability to control moods and emotions. As a result, you may be caught unaware by the frequent bouts of anxiety or sudden change in mood. Given that these symptoms resemble a typical anxiety disorder, perimenopause is not exactly the first thought that strikes. Many women ignore these symptoms, thus causing them to become aggravated to the point of impacting daily life.

If left untreated, there is a good chance that the anxiety and depression would get worse. On the other hand, the good news is that they can be managed through mindfulness, therapy, and other treatment options.  

Red Flags, Signs and Symptoms

While menopause does trigger panic and depression, the bouts are not supposed to be ongoing. Usually, the anxiety occurs in short bursts, wherein it might be triggered by a certain stimuli, and then is soon over and a thing of the past. In the event that it continues beyond a day or two, you must treat it as a red flag.

Hormonal fluctuations of estrogen or progesterone can make you feel anxious or depressed, but these should not have a lasting impact on your everyday routine. Any indication of the panic having become a constant part of your life should be taken seriously so as to prevent it from aggravating into a full-fledged disorder.

In addition, some common signs and symptoms of menopausal anxiety include –

  • Breathlessness at the slightest exertion
  • Loss of concentration and focus
  • Sleep related problems, wherein you might be sleeping too much or too little
  • Change in appetite
  • Fatigue and overall lack of energy
  • Uninterested in surroundings in terms of activities and people

Menopausal anxiety symptoms can be both psychological and physical, and there is no hard-and-fast rule that governs their occurrence. You may suffer from some or several of them, and the combination could be as varied as can be imagined. That being said, as long as you are aware of the onslaught, the first big ordeal is taken care of.

Coping Strategies That Can Help You

When it comes to coping and managing symptoms, menopausal anxiety and depression are no different from any other psychological related disorder. You can cope on your own, and although it takes plenty of confidence and courage, the outcome is fulfilling and satisfying.

For those of you who are brave enough and sufficiently mindful to try managing symptoms on your own, we recommend the following coping strategies –

Dietary Shift – Shifting over to a plant-based diet can ease the constant worrying, and even help feel steady if you include carbohydrates. Having fish also helps during this phase as it provides the body with nutrients while not being too heavy on the stomach. What you must avoid are food groups that contain caffeine, like too much coffee or chocolates. Also avoid alcohol as it can trigger mood swings.

Yoga and Exercise – Deep and systematic breathing techniques in yoga are globally acknowledged for relaxing the body, so in all probability they will work well for you too. Make it a point to include some physical exercise in your weekly schedule as it can release the happiness hormones, which in turn can flush out the stress.

Self-compassion – A bit of self-nurturing and self-nourishing can go a long way in warding off your worries and soothing your irritation. A warm bath, a leisurely walk, massage or a quiet time with soft music and a book are some ways by which you can benefit physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Tech Detox – Being tech savvy does have its plus points, but not when you are up against menopausal anxiety. Instead of relieving, gadgets can add to the tension and keep you on the edge, a situation which you must surely avoid. Rather limit your exposure to technology and all its functions, particularly news updates and excitement, and utilize the break to stay calm and introspect.

What Else Can Help?

Maintaining a journal can help, especially since journal-keeping exercise has been found to be truly effective in enhancing self awareness. Noting down your thoughts can enable you to identify triggers, and you can use this knowledge to shift your thoughts from negative to positive.

Do make it a point to sleep well on a daily basis, and if nothing helps then seek a session with a therapist. Usually, therapists first ensure the presence of menopausal anxiety and depression by eliminating other causes like thyroid, diabetes and so on. Once the cause is established as menopause, they would chart out a treatment plan for you.

Final Thoughts

Think of all the benefits that accrue due to menopause, primary among them being no menstrual cycle and no requirement of birth control measures after one year or so. A positive attitude is one of the most effective ways of combating menopausal anxiety and depression, and it is something that you must keep at the forefront. Ultimately your objective is to ensure that anxiety and depression during perimenopause and menopause must stay within controlled limits. So long as they do not spiral out of control, you will soon have waded through this phase without any lasting impact on health. A few years later you could even be well-poised to guide other women through it.