Menopause and anxiety

 

Feeling tense, jittery, on edge, irritable, or finding you’re worrying all the time? Maybe you’ve started to avoid social situations. Sound familiar?

If it does, you may be dealing with some form of anxiety. It can be difficult to manage and yet it’s a really common menopausal symptom with many treatment options available.

DEFINITION OF ANXIETY

Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion except when it impacts your day-to-day life. Mild anxiety can feel vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety could seriously affect day-to-day living. It can alter how you process emotions and behaviour, while causing some more physical symptoms.

Anxiety can appear as feelings of tension, fear or worried thoughts. Physical symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, chills, heart palpitations, chronic sweating, nausea and vomiting, muscle tension, trembling, increased blood pressure or a rapid heartbeat.

People with anxiety disorders, such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or panic disorders, tend to have more intrusive recurring thoughts or concerns, and may avoid certain situations out of worry.

If you are spending your days feeling anxious … download Stella.

HOW LIKELY IS ANXIETY DURING MENOPAUSE?

  • 1 in 4 women experience anxiety symptoms during menopause
  • Anxiety or feelings of anxiousness can co-occur with depressive symptoms too
  • If you had postnatal depression or a history of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), it’s more likely that you’ll experience anxiety-type symptoms during menopause
  • Women who had high anxiety premenopause may still be anxious during menopause but are not at increased risk of higher anxiety during the stages of menopause
  • Women who had low anxiety premenopausally may be more susceptible to high anxiety during and after menopause

Read more about the stages of menopause.

Signs of anxiety

Panic attacks

Physical symptoms, from nausea to heart palpitations

Restlessness and feeling on edge

Uncontrollable feelings of worry

Increased irritability

Difficulty concentrating

Sleep difficulties

A feeling of impending doom

Anxiety and menopause

It’s straight back to your fluctuating hormone levels, specifically oestrogen and progesterone, that can cause changes in mood, but it’s not the only factor that can cause anxiety. 

Menopause is a big life change that can rattle your self-image. For some women no longer being able to have children can trigger feelings of anxiety and loss – especially if you have experienced infertility or pregnancy loss previously.

Hot flushes and anxiety symptoms have a “chicken-and-egg” type of relationship, if you have more physical symptoms of anxiety then you’re more likely to experience hot flushes and vice versa.

Read more about how to manage menopause and the mental chaos of anxiety.

Anxiety can trigger your flight-or-fight response and release a flood of hormones and chemicals, like adrenaline, into your system.

This can contribute to an increased pulse and breathing rate. Also, if you have IBS, anxiety may trigger symptoms. You may also experience a shortness of breath. You can also feel very angry or tearful, or a range of other emotions.

Getting repeatedly anxious can increase your risks of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep issues
  • Long-term depression
  • Social isolation

Recent research has revealed a link between hot flushes and heart health – adjusting lifestyle factors can minimise your risk. Read how walking helped Ida beat low mood.

Recent research (although indirect) has revealed a link between a lack of sleep and dementia. With more than two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients being women, managing hot flushes and night sweats is important for long-term brain health.

It might be a good time to talk to your doctor or someone you trust if you feel that you might be anxious or have severe symptoms that make day-to-day living feel tough.

Stella has helped me gain control of my thoughts.”

Sara

DISCOVER MORE

One woman’s story on beating low mood one step at a time. Read more

How exercise can really keep your anxiety in check. Read more

How to manage menopause and the mental chaos of anxiety. Read more

WHAT ANXIETY RELIEF IS AVAILABLE?

Download Stella for personalised cognitive behaviour therapy for anxiety during menopause

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Siegel AM, Mathews SB. Diagnosis and treatment of anxiety in the aging woman. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2015 Dec;17(12):93.

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https://www.menopausedoctor.co.uk/menopause/menopause-and-depression (accessed 14.01.2021)

Bromberger JT, Kravitz HM, Chang Y, et al. Does risk for anxiety increase during the menopausal transition? Study of women’s health across the nation. Menopause. 2013;20(5):488-495. doi:10.1097/GME.0b013e3182730599

https://centerforanxietydisorders.com/treatment-programs/menopause-anxiety/ (accessed 14.01.2021)

https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/hot-flashes-anxiety (accessed 14.01.2021)

https://www.healthline.com/health/is-menopause-making-me-anxious#1 (accessed 15.01.2021)

Freeman EW, Sammel MD. Anxiety as a risk factor for menopausal hot flashes: evidence from the Penn Ovarian Aging cohort. Menopause. 2016;23(9):942-949. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000000662