Some women can experience moods swings during the menopause, or even before the age of menopause, especially on the lead up to their periods. However, during the menopause when your hormone levels are changing, anxiety can set in, without any cause or effect.
Hormones play a huge role in our mood and it can sometimes feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster. Feelings of anxiety and even panic attacks are a common symptom of the menopause. Many people forget about the mental symptoms associated with the menopause and tend to think more about hot flushes or their lack of sex drive, however our mental health is especially important during the menopause.
Our oestrogen and testosterone levels decrease throughout the menopause, which effects our moods. Our hormone levels effect anxiety, anger, energy levels and even panic attacks. This then in turn can affect our day to day living. It may be that you find you don’t want to see friends you used to really enjoying meeting up with or that getting up and going into work every day becomes a real struggle. All these things can be mentally draining, which then leaves you feeling physically drained as well.
These mood swings and feelings of anxiety can easily be mistaken for depression and GPs first call may be to prescribe anti-depressants.
Also, if you suffered from post-natal depression, you are more susceptible to these types of feelings during the menopause, as your hormone levels affect your body more than others.
MY PANIC ATTACKS – BY A MENOPAUSAL WOMAN
I felt my heart getting faster and faster, and my breathing started to increase. My temperature was rising and I could not control any part of my body. It was the start of a panic attack yet again.
As soon as I started to think about leaving the house it felt like my brain had taken over my body and wouldn’t let me think logically. My heart rate had increased so much that I felt frozen with panic.
When I first had a panic attack, I actually thought I was having a heart attack and was going to die. The feeling was so immense that I called 999 and an ambulance came out to see me.
My heart rate was so high they took me into hospital to get me checked out. Luckily for me it was not a heart attack but diagnosed as a panic attack.
I still have panic attacks on a regular basis, but I have now learnt to control them and no longer call 999 every time!! I use a combination of methods to help control my anxiety. Now I walk on a daily basis and I also took up Pilates as I found the breathing really helped me.
HOW CAN I HELP ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS?
PILATES OR YOGA
Both Pilates and yoga operate on breath awareness and provide a mind and body connection. This type of exercising can be extremely beneficial to anybody with anxiety or who has panic attacks.
Start off by having a one to one session with a Pilates or yoga instructor and explain why you are starting. They will then be able to give you a short set of exercises that can be done when you feel a panic attack coming on. The lateral breathing method can be a great way to manage anxiety.
If you are over-weight or smoke, look at changing your lifestyle to help yourself going forward. Small changes in your diet can make a huge difference. If you do smoke but find giving up impossible, maybe try to reduce your daily intake gradually.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of fresh air every day. A daily walk can be of great benefit. Even try and walk with a friend to combine a social visit as well!
COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY
NICE recommends cognitive behavioural therapy, otherwise known as CBT, as a treatment for anxiety experienced by women during the menopause.
CBT is a talking therapy that helps you manage your problems by looking at the way you think and behave. It looks to change the negative thoughts and feelings that can trap you in a vicious cycle.
You can get CBT on the NHS and will need to be referred by your GP. Alternatively, you can pay for therapy privately. You can find a psychological therapist in your area here.
Hormone Replacement Therapy can be a good way to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes these symptoms can be misdiagnosed as depression, so anti-depressants are prescribed.
If you know you are menopausal and having these feelings it is important to speak with your GP. Discuss HRT options, as this replaces the lost oestrogen your body is no longer creating and can really help with low mood and anxiety. There are several different options that oestrogen can be applied – gel, patches, or tablets.
The testosterone hormone may also be prescribed, as this can help lift your mood. It can also help with low sex drive and concentration. So, if you are suffering with brain fog and energy levels it is also worth mentioning to your GP.
Every woman is different, so it is important to get all the facts and options available and then make a decision which is right for you, not anybody else.
For further information on anxiety and products that can help visit Menodelight’s anxiety symptom area here.