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What is the link between menopause and anxiety?

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Hot flashes and night sweats are commonly associated with menopause, but the vast majority of menopausal women also suffer from mood and emotional issues, such as stress and anxiety.

Research recently conducted by family physician and menopause specialist Dr. Louise Newson, founder of Balance Menopause, found that 95% of nearly 6,000 women going through perimenopause and menopause experienced a negative change in their mood and moods. emotions during menopause, with stress and anxiety being the most common psychological symptoms.

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Speaking at Mental Health Awareness Week (May 15-21), Newson says: ‘Because we often frame menopause in terms of physical symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, can disappear as soon as possible. radar.

“Every year I see hundreds of women struggling with menopause and thousands more take to social media, seeking symptom advice that can impact their relationships, social life, confidence and career.”

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Here, Newson and other menopause and anxiety experts discuss the link between menopause and anxiety and how to deal with it

What causes anxiety during menopause?

Low mood and anxiety can be common features of perimenopause and menopause due to fluctuating and declining hormones, says Newson. “When estrogen goes down, levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin also go down, while cortisol (the primary stress hormone) goes up,” he explains. “Plus, the knock-on effects of physical symptoms, such as fatigue, hot flashes, and aches and pains, can affect mood and self-esteem.”

How common is menopause anxiety?

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Newson’s research shows that the majority of women (95%) experience some sort of low mood during the time of menopause.

Indeed, Dave Smithson, chief operating officer of Anxiety UK, suggests that anxiety is one of the key symptoms, if not the main symptom, affecting women during perimenopause and menopause. “Often anxiety doesn’t get the attention it deserves as a symptom of menopause among the medical profession and indeed the public, which is concerning given the profound impact it can have,” he points out.

Who is likely to suffer from anxiety during menopause?

Sexual and reproductive health consultant Dr Paula Briggs, chair of the British Menopause Society, says the period of menopause has been described as a window of vulnerability, explaining: ‘Some women experience anxiety and low mood or depression in addition to other symptoms better recognized menopause Sometimes these symptoms occur in isolation and the link to menopause may be less clear.

“Mood-related changes are more likely in women who have had previous mental health problems and in women who have undergone surgical menopause [removal of the ovaries and or womb].”

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Can you have menopause anxiety when you’ve never been anxious before?

The anxiety caused by menopause can affect women who have never had an anxiety problem before, Smithson points out. “Many women report new-onset anxiety, having never previously experienced anxiety to a degree that could be termed an anxiety disorder,” she says. “Others report a worsening of their pre-existing anxiety condition following menopause.”

“For women who have lived with anxiety for many years, when menopause arrives, they may report finding that their anxiety has taken on a whole new identity, becoming more severe, intense, frequent, or disabling, and as a result very difficult to manage”.

What are the symptoms of menopause anxiety?

While there are different types of anxiety, the symptoms tend to be the same regardless of the underlying cause, Briggs explains. He says they can include feeling tense and jittery, inability to relax, difficulty concentrating, feelings of panic and dread, inability to cope with normal daily activities, being overwhelmed, self-consciousness, and feelings of weakness and tiredness. Physical signs of anxiety include sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, and hyperventilation.

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“Where there is no history of mental health problems and the symptoms and signs coincide with menopause, they are more likely to be related to hormonal variability,” she says. “If there is a background of anxiety and depression, then the symptoms and signs may be exacerbated by menopause.”

How do you treat menopause anxiety?

Smithson says there’s still a taboo around the topic of anxiety, though she admits there’s been “major strides” toward her breakup recently. “That said, access to support and treatment remains patchy, with many women left to face alone and battle what can be one of the most difficult phases of their lives.

“Anxiety is both treatable and manageable, and we encourage all women experiencing new-onset anxiety or worsening pre-existing anxiety to seek support.”

Briggs and Newson state that HRT, when appropriate, is often the first treatment for menopausal anxiety, even though Newson points out: “HRT is the first-line treatment for all menopausal symptoms, including mood-related symptoms. But the first piece of advice I give to any woman grappling with her mental health is to see a healthcare professional to discuss treatment options.” She suggests logging your symptoms on the Free Balance Menopause Support App Symptom Tracker.

Briggs says that if needed, antidepressant medications can improve outcomes, and talk-talk therapies, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), are also important in helping manage anxiety and depression, regardless of the underlying trigger.

“Some women, especially those who are partially responsive to HRT, may need to consider adding an antidepressant, especially one recognized to help with anxiety,” she says.

However, Newson cautions, “Women are often mistakenly prescribed antidepressants for menopause-related low mood and anxiety, but these mood changes are very different from clinical depression.”

Can lifestyle changes help?

Experts point out that healthy lifestyles can really help improve anxiety symptoms, and Newson advises: “Alongside HRT, optimizing exercise and nutrition is so important. A balanced diet with plenty of fruit and Fresh vegetables can help regulate your mood and control your alcohol consumption.” and caffeine intake, as both can increase anxiety.

“Regular exercise will lift your mood and help you sleep, as anxiety can be a real barrier to getting a good night’s sleep.”

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She says studies suggest mindfulness can help with symptoms of anxiety and depression in menopausal women and points out, “Make time to focus on yourself and find some coping mechanisms you can turn to when you need to. If you talk having a good friend helps with anxiety , give them a call. I find writing lots of lists helps me feel in control and calmer.”

And Briggs adds: “Many women have unrealistic expectations about HRT, and it’s important to stress that lifestyle management is also an important aspect of menopause management, as well as considering things like cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, and awareness”.


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