Anxiety in Menopause

The ups and downs that come and go, the raw irritability and nervousness that can occur throughout menopause can all be managed with professional help.
Anxiety in Menopause

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 06 July, 2021

Last update: 06 July, 2021

Both before and during the menopause itself, the body undergoes a whole series of changes at the same time that, even when the woman isn’t fully aware of it, can affect her mood and, therefore, her entire mental health. Generally, we tend to think that depression is the only problem in menopause – or the most notorious one at least – but what about anxiety in menopause?

In an article published in Elsevier in 2012, several interesting points were highlighted. Even though several authors have indicated that there’s a relationship between anxiety and menopause (and the stage prior to this), it hadn’t yet been possible to clearly distinguish whether the former was a cause or consequence of vasomotor symptoms (specifically, the hot flashes) or if, primarily, it had to do with hormonal changes.

Over the past decade, most researchers have noted that anxiety appears to exacerbate symptoms of menopause. However, not everyone agrees that anxiety is a cause or consequence of the symptoms.

What is anxiety?

Menopausal anxiety is a relatively common problem
Anxiety can manifest itself in many stages of life. During menopause, it can be especially difficult, especially if you haven’t suffered from it before.

The experts in the Spanish Society of Internal Medicine (SEMI) indicate that anxiety is an adaptation mechanism that allows us to be alert and take precautions when we’re facing real dangerous situations. When we experience it in moderation, it can help us stay focused and face challenges.

However, when anxiety is overwhelming, it becomes a problem. This is because, rather than helping to identify real threats and manage them, it paralyzes us and prevents us from functioning properly.

“Instead of acting on our behalf by giving us the motivation and activation necessary to respond to the demands around us, [anxiety] stands as our worst enemy,” explains psychologist Valeria Sabater.

People with anxiety tend to anticipate situations and see threats in every one of them. This increases their degree of discomfort and the feelings of helplessness and lack of control.

An excessive rumination of negative and catastrophic thoughts starts. This is mainly focused on the future, and, in combination with everyday worries, is a great source of both mental and physical discomfort for the person.

When a woman experiences all of the above frequently in her day-to-day life, we can diagnose it as anxiety in menopause, or menopausal anxiety. But, what are the causes behind this?

Causes

Even today there’s a variety of opinions regarding the causes of anxiety.

On the one hand, some researchers argue that this is a consequence of hormonal changes. Others insist that they’re a consequence of hot flashes and still others argue that anxiety occurs as a consequence of several factors, including these hormonal changes.

In recent years, there seems to be more consensus around the idea of a multifactorial origin.

With regard to the incidence of anxiety in women before and during menopause, there’s an interesting statement in a study published in the journal Menopause in 2014:

“Women who suffer from high anxiety before menopause may be chronically anxious and won’t have an increased risk of elevated anxiety at specific stages of the menopausal transition. Conversely, women with low premenopausal anxiety may be more susceptible to elevated anxiety during and after the menopausal transition”.

Symptoms of anxiety in menopause

Anxiety in menopause causes several symptoms
Symptoms of an anxiety attack can mimic other conditions, such as heart attacks.

Anxiety in menopause can have different manifestations, depending on the woman. However, in general, the predominance of the following symptoms has been observed:

  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Cramps
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Constant fatigue
  • Tingling sensation (that comes and goes)
  • Back pain (especially the lower back)
  • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night, etc.).
  • Chest pain (which doesn’t necessarily have a link to heart disease, but to the accumulated level of distress).

Treatment

In cases of women who have anxiety in menopause, there’s some good news: it’s possible to treat it! This is mainly achieved through psychotherapy (and, more specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy) along with some lifestyle adjustments.

These, although they’ll include aspects related to diet and exercise, will also include relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, deep breathing, etc.

Of course, all treatment will take into account the woman’s health status, and her current needs. This is because other health problems, such as hypertension, thyroid disorders, and others can trigger anxiety.

Final recommendations

If you consider that you’re going through anxiety in menopause, it’s best to seek professional help. These days, you have the possibility of attending the psychological consultation in person or connecting with the specialist online. You choose the option that works best for you, and the one that makes you feel most comfortable.

Keep in mind that psychotherapy has proven to be an effective tool in managing mood problems before, during, and after menopause, and that it contributes significantly to quality of life. This is because it helps to modify erroneous beliefs and behavior that prevent you from enjoying well-being and take away meaning from your life.

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