Mood Swings and Menopause—Getting Off The Hormonal Roller Coaster
Female Hormone Imbalance—You’re Not Alone
One minute you’re laughing with your girlfriends—the next minute you’re crying over something trivial. You may be wondering wonder what’s happening to your usual even temperament. If you’re between the ages of 45 and 55, chances are you’re experiencing major hormonal changes that affect your mood and emotion centers in the brain. As you approach the onset of menopause, your body begins to change in ways that may surprise you. In fact, over 50% of all women experience significant changes in mood and emotion during menopause.
Mood swings involve dramatic fluctuations in emotional state, and many times moods are disproportionate to actual events or situations that trigger them. This can be difficult for women experiencing other menopausal symptoms, such as night sweats and insomnia that also affect emotions.
What Mood Swings in Women Feel Like
While every woman experiences changes throughout menopause, they may not realize a gradual shift in emotions and mood at first.
Many women report experiencing one or more of the following psychological events/states during menopause:
- Rapid changes in mood
- Emotions that are unexplained
- A loss of motivation
- Moods that are extreme
- Feelings of irritability
- Aggressive feelings
- Feelings of stress
- Excessive Worry or Anxiety
Currently nearly 500 million women are postmenopausal with numbers projected to reach 1.1 billion by the year 2025.
Mood Swings—Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
As women age, the body’s demands for the hormones, estrogen and progesterone change. Where higher levels were once needed to drive and maintain the cycle of reproduction, they no longer serve that purpose in middle age. While estrogen, mainly produced in the ovaries controls the onset of a woman’s menstrual cycle, progesterone aids in the implantation of the fertilized egg and helps the body maintain pregnancy. As the body prepares for the period of fertility to cease, estrogen and progesterone levels are naturally reduced.
The Estrogen Connection
Estrogen is a key component in the production of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter, serotonin. Estrogen increases the sensitivity in serotonin receptors, as well as receptor distribution and overall serotonin production.
When estrogen levels drop, serotonin levels are affected. This disruption creates the mood swings many women in menopause experience. Other factors such as stress, fatigue, and night sweats may also exacerbate mood swings.
Some women are more prone to mood swings during menopause because of behavioral, medical, or psychological factors as well.
- Alcohol use
- Diet (sugar, caffeine)
- Lack of exercise
- Use of Stimulants
- Early onset menopause
- Heart disease
- Sleep disturbances
- Thyroid disorder
- History of mental illness
- Past trauma
- Relationship difficulties
- Difficulty coping with change
Minimizing Mood Swings
While mood swings may be an uncomfortable part of menopause for many women, there are several lifestyle changes that can be made to minimize their effects.
- Engage in creative outlets or hobbies
- Stay connected with friends for support
- Seek recreational opportunities
- Get regular exercise
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid substances that can trigger mood disturbances such as, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine
- Engage in yoga or meditation
- Supplement the diet with herbal and nutritional support
- Explore activities that stimulate the brain
- Consider natural treatment through acupuncture or massage
Hope For The Future—Pre menopause Symptoms vs. Post menopause Symptoms
Pre menopause, often referred to as “perimenopause” signifies the period of time leading up to actual menopause where the ovaries cease to release eggs altogether. This can last up to 10 years before the actual event of menopause and is the phase where most of the uncomfortable symptoms occur. Once a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months however, she has entered complete menopause. From this moment, for the rest of her life, she is said to be in post menopause. Because there is less fluctuation in hormonal activity after reaching menopause, many of the symptoms associated with perimenopause are much milder, or disappear altogether.
When To Seek Support
Many times, simple changes in diet and activity can help minimize mood swings, or their effects. In some cases however, these are not enough. It is important to talk with your doctor about severe symptoms that may be affecting your life. Many treatment options, including medications and hormone replacement therapy are available to lessen the severity of emotional discomfort, and stabilize mood. Additional treatment or therapy may be sought for stress or insomnia-related conditions as well.
For women experiencing the many hormonal changes that accompany menopause, symptoms can be effectively managed through natural and medical support.