Psychological Symptoms of Menopause - Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Hormonal changes that occur during the menopause can result in a range of psychological symptoms. Whilst physical symptoms like hot flushes and irregular periods are the more commonly discussed and well known, the psychological impact of the menopause can be more unfathomable and limiting.
Do you find yourself experiencing regular bouts of anxiety and nervousness? These are very common symptoms of perimenopause.
Listed below is a range of symptoms, which may be associated with the menopause. You may find yourself experiencing some of these symptoms for the first time in your mid-late 40s. I think anxiety and general feelings of nervousness are some of the most common symptoms of menopause and can be even more undermining than hot flushes or night sweats. These symptoms are often exacerbated by insomnia and fatigue. Loads of fun isn't it?!
- Mood swings
- Difficulty coping
- Panic attacks
- Sudden unexplained fears or phobias
- Feelings of helplessness
- A lack of confidence
- Feeling invisible
Some psychological symptoms may be related to physical changes brought on by the rebalancing of our hormones. Others may be directly associated with hormonal changes that take place during the menopause. Managing physical symptoms can help alleviate some psychological symptoms. For example, hormone surges that wake us at night can cause night sweats and insomnia, and leave us feeling tired, anxious, and vulnerable the next day.
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Menopause anxiety is very common and often one of the most difficult symptoms for us to cope with during the menopause. However, it is important to know that you are not alone on this journey, and talking openly about your anxiety can be very therapeutic. Many of us suddenly feel unable to cope with situations that were never a problem before. We feel overwhelmed by simple aspects of day-to-day living. This can be frightening and undermine our confidence and we may even assume that we are slowly going mad. Anxiety is like a build-up of pressure in our minds. It is stating the obvious, but to alleviate this pressure we need to vent the anxiety.
Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
- Talk to friends. Sharing your feelings and emotions is often the best way to discover that many of us are actually feeling the same way. It's easy to think we are slowly going mad and are afraid to share our feelings. Talking it out can also help us to get to the root of our anxieties.
- Develop an exercise plan. Pick a form of exercise you really enjoy and do it on a regular basis. This could be walking, running, swimming, yoga, or dance - whatever appeals to you. Consistency is the key in helping you burn off some of that nervous energy. Studies have shown that anxiety can be significantly reduced by regular, gentle exercise, so it is well worth making it a part of your daily routine.
- Focus on your breathing. When you feel overwhelmed take a few minutes to calm your breathing. Breathe in for the count of 7, and breathe out counting to 11. After a few, deep relaxing breaths, your body and mind can slow down and your thoughts can become much clearer.
- Develop Me-Time. So much of our energy is devoted to what’s going on around us be that work, family or caring for others. It is very necessary to take time-out for yourself. Take even 10 minutes each day when you escape to your bedroom, or the garden and hide from the world: relax, reflect or keep a journal.
- Take time to meditate or practice mindfulness. Use meditation to focus, to quieten the mind, and to become present in the moment. Mindfulness can create feelings of wellbeing and relaxation, lower our blood pressure and heart rate and can reduce menopausal anxiety and stress.
- Practice Yoga. Certain combinations of poses can help reduce anxiety and leave us feeling stronger and more relaxed.
- Try to resolve past emotional issues. Menopause can be a time for forgiveness, healing, and compassion. Whether you need to seek out professional help or can come to terms with these issues yourself, try your best to let go, forgive, and move on. Start by being compassionate with yourself. Life is too short to hold grudges or put up with being unfairly treated by others.
- Talk to your doctor. By keeping an open dialogue and developing a good relationship with your doctor, you may be better able to manage the physical causes of your menopause anxiety. Consider asking about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). While some women are not comfortable with the pills or creams, HRT has made a big difference to many. If you are not comfortable discussing your options with your doctor this may be a time to find a new GP. Seek out a GP who has expertise or experience of the menopause.
- Monitor your diet. How many cups of coffee or caffeinated drinks are you drinking every day? Try cutting back to see if caffeine triggers your anxiety and nervousness.
- Look at your alcohol intake. Alcohol is a depressant and we can often use it as a crutch to lessen our feelings of anxiety, thereby exacerbating the problem.
- Explore herbal and homeopathic remedies. Certain products contain natural ingredients that might provide relief for your symptoms. Herbal tea, such as camomile, is known for its calming properties. You may like to keep some herbal rescue remedy nearby which can help you feel more grounded. Your homeopath can also prescribe remedies, which help with anxiety.
- Educate yourself. As the saying goes - ‘knowledge is power’. Learn more about your symptoms so that you can make wise decisions about what’s best for your mind and body. Keeping a journal can provide great insights into what we are really thinking and feeling. This may help you to discover whether psychological factors may be contributing to your physical symptoms.
- Seek professional help from your GP, a counsellor, a psychologist, or support group such as Aware or Mental Health Ireland.