Anxiety and menopause

Anxiety and menopause
Anxiety is another one of those menopausal symptoms that you do not have time for. One minute you are the confident woman you have always been; the next minute you are feeling scared, anxious, and even terrified of normal situations. While many women experience slight anxiety from time to time, anxiety that is interfering with your life requires some attention.

Most women will go through menopause with mild to moderate symptoms. But roughly 10 to 20 percent of women will have severe or even crippling anxiety. It’s tempting to blame menopause but there are often other factors contributing to anxiety attacks.

Menopause and anxiety
Severe anxiety attacks may occur frequently and tend to last for longer periods of time. For example, it is normal to feel anxious before a presentation at work; your grown child’s wedding, or starting a new relationship. Usually nervous feelings are temporary and are resolved on their own. When you are feeling anxiety during seemingly normal moments on a daily basis or the feelings persist for several days, weeks, or even months, this is a cause for concern.

Signs of anxiety
If you have had any of these signs, you should talk to your healthcare provider.

*Persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and nervousness
*Unusual memory lapses and difficulty concentrating
*Irritability and moodiness over even the most minor things
*Interrupted sleep patterns; sleeping too much or too little
*Feeling exhausted; even simple tasks are overwhelming
*Loss of interest in hobbies, work, life events
*Everything seems hopeless; a feeling of ‘what’s the use?’
*Turning to alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs, to cope
*Thoughts of suicide

Does menopause cause anxiety?
Menopause is thought to cause anxiety in some women; the fluctuating hormone levels cause physical symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats that make getting a sufficient rest almost impossible. At the same time, most women are going through many other life events that may actually be behind increased anxiety. Women in their 40s and 50s have to deal with getting older, children leaving home, changes in marital status or within the relationship, changes in responsibility at work, aging parents, and having to start thinking about retirement.

Any combinations of these factors are enough to test even the strongest and most capable women. Women need to examine their lifestyles as well as have their hormonal levels tested to narrow down the causes of lingering anxiety.

Anxiety treatment options
If anxiety is due to hormonal levels healthcare professionals may suggest taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or a natural alternative to help the body regain its balance.

Additional treatments may include a change in diet or giving up habits like drinking too much caffeine or alcohol. Other positive changes like quitting smoking, taking up exercise, using meditation or yoga will help to reduce stress levels. These methods of relaxation are not guarantees, but they provide better coping methods to deal with the multitude of changes taking place during menopause.

North American society
Compared to many women around the world, anxiety tends to be a common North American trait. Youth worshipping is a national pastime and tends to put everyone over 40 out to pasture. Fortunately there are changes in attitudes towards getting older, but the predominant undercurrent of North American society is youth is beauty and energy. Many people will feel pangs of longing for the younger years. But when obsession over age or feeling anxious about getting older and not being able to ‘compete’ is affecting your daily life, it is time to take action.

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the above noted symptoms, especially those symptoms lasting for longer periods of time. Your doctor can determine if your anxiety is due to hormones or other factors and find the proper treatment to help you deal with menopause.

In the past, menopause was little understood and there was a ‘tough it out’ mentality. Today we know better. Menopause is a part of life and like life comes with its own set of challenges. You do not have to merely settle for a miserable menopause and suffer in silence hoping it will pass. By taking control of your menopause and your anxiety, you can take back your life and take charge of menopause.

Source: Managing Menopause-Related Mood Symptoms (Women's Health Matters article) (Web resource; WHM resource) Author: Patricia Nicholson
Organization: Women's College Hospital, Women's Health Matters

Menopause, Your Doctor, and You

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