People who experience anxiety often cannot shake their concerns and worries about everyday events. Anxiety can make a person go through the entire day with exaggerated fear and tension. At night, it can wake them from sleep or make falling asleep extremely difficult.
While most women do not associate menopause with anxiety, increases in this psychological phenomenon are not uncommon during the menopausal transition. Because hormone fluctuations during menopause affect the brain's regulation of mood, hormonal changes can cause some women to experience anxiety during menopause.
Women who develop anxiety during menopause undoubtedly have many questions about this condition. Please read on to discover the answers to the most frequently asked questions about anxiety that develops during menopause.
Q: What Is Anxiety?
A: Anxiety is a psychological state characterized by excessive or persistent worry, tension, and nervousness.
In its mildest form, anxiety can be productive, compelling a person to complete tasks under pressure or be cautious in dangerous situations. However, some people experience inappropriate, excessive, or long-lasting anxiety, which can impede on daily life. Anxiety can be experienced as a constant psychological state or may come in the form of acute episodes, known as panic attacks.
Q: Is Anxiety during Menopause Common?
A: Anxiety is a common symptom during menopause. While a majority of women will not experience significant anxiety, this symptom is more common during menopause than at other times of life, especially in women who have suffered from anxiety previously.
Q: What Are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders?
Types of Anxiety
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Social phobia
- Specific phobia disorder
A: Anxiety during menopause does not necessarily reach the level of clinical anxiety, which often persists for many months, significantly impedes daily functioning, and usually requires assistance from a mental health professional. Even so, it is a good idea for women experiencing this symptom to understand the different types of clinical anxiety.
Q: What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
A: The symptoms of anxiety largely depend on the type of anxiety a person is experiencing. However, the following are the most common physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety, which a woman may experience during menopause.
Psychological symptoms of anxiety can include nervousness, difficulty concentrating, excessive worry, trouble relaxing, tenseness, hypervigilance, restlessness, and irritability. Physical symptoms can include heart palpitations, fatigue, muscle aches, digestive problems, chills, shakiness, sweating, frequent urination, and shortness of breath.
Often, these symptoms are more intense and last a brief time in women with panic attacks. In people with generalized anxiety, they may be milder but more persistent.
Q: What Causes Anxiety in Menopause?
A: While anxiety is the result of a complex interplay of social, biological, and psychological factors, hormonal changes are often the root cause of anxiety during the menopause transition. Though the relationship is complex, estrogen's influence on the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and melatonin indicate that hormonal fluctuations in menopause can have a significant effect on the brain's regulation of mood and emotion.
Q: What Can Trigger or Worsen Anxiety?
A: Other factors can also cause or contribute to anxiety during menopause. They may be physical or psychological factors.
Physical Causes of Anxiety
- Other menopause symptoms, such as night sweats and hot flashes
- Certain medications
- Illicit drug use
- Excess caffeine
- Heart attack
- Lack of oxygen
Psychological Causes of Anxiety
- Employment stresses
- Family issues
- Health problems
- Financial stress
- Past or recent emotional trauma
- History of psychological illness
- Interpersonal relationship strains
- Personality predisposition
Q: What Can I Do about Anxiety?
A: Generally speaking, there are three different ways to approach anxiety treatment: self-care and lifestyle changes, natural therapies, and medical options. Most experts advise that women begin with the least aggressive and least risky of these three approaches, lifestyle changes and self-care, which can include increased exercises, dietary changes, relaxation techniques, and more.
Because these methods can be difficult to implement into a busy schedule and because these measures do not address the root problem of hormone imbalance, lifestyle changes can also be combined with herbal supplements that balance hormone levels.
Q: When Should a Woman See a Doctor about Anxiety?
A: Anxiety that occurs during the menopausal transition is experienced by many women as mild, and such, does not typically require medical attention. However, any woman who is concerned about her symptoms of anxiety during menopause should speak with a qualified healthcare professional.
Women who experience anxiety symptoms for an extended period of time - that is, more than six months of generalized anxiety symptoms or repeated full-blown panic attacks - should speak with a psychiatrist. Women for whom symptoms of anxiety impede on daily functioning or interpersonal relationships are also encouraged speak with someone who can help. Fortunately, anxiety disorders can be treated successfully.
Q: What Are the Best Ways to Cope with Anxiety?
A: Three approaches can be considered for treating anxiety: (1) lifestyle changes, (2) alternative remedies, and (3) medications. It is generally recommended that women begin with the least aggressive approach and move to the next level of treatment only if symptoms persist. Click on treatments for anxiety to discover the best route to relief.
- Amin, Z. , Canli, T. & Epperson, C.N. (2005). Effects of Estrogen-Serotonin Interactions on Mood and Cognition. Behavorial and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 4(1), 43-58. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15886402
- Bromberger, J.T. et al. (2013). Does Risk for Anxiety Increase During the Menopausal Transition? Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Menopause, 20(5), 488-495. doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e3182730599
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved May 4, 2016, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
- Office on Women's Health. (2010). Menopause and mental health. Retrieved May 4, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-mental-health/