Anxiety disorders are a mental health issue. It's not uncommon for those going through extreme anxiety to believe that there must be something more - that somehow, there must be a physical issue causing their anxiety, because the physical and emotional symptoms "can't" be natural. Yet in nearly all cases, their anxieties have no physical cause, and their anxiety disorder is something that requires mental health intervention.
But that doesn't mean that it's impossible for anxiety to be caused by physical changes, and one of the most common physical changes is menopause. This article explores if menopause can cause anxiety and anxiety attacks, how, and what you can do to stop feeling anxious.
Anxiety and Hormones
Your hormones play a role in everything - from stress to digestion to movement and more. When your hormones aren't balanced, your body gets put under considerable stress, and that stress may lead to the development of very severe anxiety and even anxiety attacks. If anxiety happens to be concomitant with menopause, a lot of women might feel it is causing menopause..
Diagnosis, however, is tricky. It's also important to realize that it's rarely as simple as "menopause is causing my anxiety." Often it's a combination of numerous factors:
- Hormone Mediated Anxiety What many women going through menopause want to believe is that their hormones alone are causing their anxiety. It is absolutely possible that hormone imbalances alone are causing anxiety, but it's highly unlikely to be the only factor.
- Hormone Exacerbated Anxiety It's also likely that someone going through menopause suffers from some form of anxiety already, and that menopause simply made the anxiety worse as a result of the changes in hormone levels.
- Menopause Related Anxiety Finally, menopause itself can cause a number of physical changes that may cause anxiety themselves. It's not the hormone changes per se, it's dealing with hot flashes, night sweats, and related menopausal issues that cause considerable stress and could potentially cause you to develop an anxiety problem.
Most likely it's a combination of all of these, and the answer is never going to be that simple. In many cases, it may be impossible to know the exact cause, or which factor is playing the biggest role.
Panic Attacks and Menopause
Panic attacks are also a serious problem for those suffering from menopause. Many women experience fairly profound anxiety attacks that start occurring while they're going through menopausal symptoms.
It is seen that during menopause the risk for panic attacks increases. But again, the cause and effect isn't exactly clear:
- Are hormones causing anxiety attacks themselves?
- Are menopausal symptoms causing stress, thereby causing panic attacks as a result.
- Are symptoms of menopause causing the person to focus too much on health, potentially leading to panic attacks?
The connection between anxiety attacks and menopause aren't clear. It appears that those that have had panic attacks before are more likely to experience them during menopause, and this supports the idea that panic attacks aren't a symptom, but rather a reaction to menopause symptoms. But not everyone has had a panic attack before, and some women find the intensity and severity are unlike anything they have ever seen.
Your Anxiety May Not Go Away Without Help
Another problem to consider is that not all panic attacks or anxiety will go away after menopause is over. Many people will still be prone to these attacks, or at the very least some residual anxiety that can last if the person doesn't get help.
That means that addressing your anxiety today is important. You'll need to find a long term strategy that works for you, based on the symptoms you're experiencing. Even if you have hormonal anxiety (meaning, your anxiety is 100% caused only by your hormones) you can still control it with the right anxiety reduction techniques. That's one of the things that makes anxiety unique. You can also try the following:
- Sleeping Strategies Sleep is crucial when you have anxiety, and plays a role in anxiety attacks. Look up strategies to help improve your sleep. One method is a pre-sleep journal, which can help you write out any nervous thoughts you have so that your mind finds resting easier.
- Support Groups Getting the support of others can provide a tremendous improvement in your anxiety symptoms. You'll meet other people that have dealt with your same issues, and they can provide you with the motivation and positive ear that will help you overcome your anxiety.
- Mindfulness Often panic attacks occur because of the way you, yourself, are responding to your own symptoms. That's why you should try practicing what's known as mindfulness. It's when you take a moment to realize all of the things that you're doing that are contributing to this panic - for example, you may be clenching or tensing up, or allowing your thoughts to run wild about your menopausal symptoms. The more you notice you're doing, the more you won't be as surprised when they occur.
- Breathing Panic attacks are caused a great deal by how you breathe. So make sure that you're breathing correctly. Take slow, measured breaths. Don't try to breathe in more than your body lets you, and don't worry if you feel like you can't get a deep breath. This is normal, and something that will go away the more you force yourself to slow breathing.
- Seek Out Hormonal Treatments Talk to your doctor about any hormonal treatments that may be effective at relieving some of these menopausal symptoms. Normally, medicine is not the best strategy for dealing with any type of disorder. But if hormones are causing your panic attacks, then hormonal therapy should reduce the impact. However, don't be surprised if your anxiety doesn't go away completely. You'll still need to partner it with anti-anxiety strategies.
Perhaps most importantly, don't try to fight your own symptoms. Menopause comes, and menopause goes. It's not your fault that you're going through it and eventually it will be over. Fighting your symptoms (ie, trying to not feel hot when you're having a hot flash) or getting upset with yourself or your body when you do will only serve to fuel your anxiety and stress further. Staying calm and collected is a much more effective strategy.
You Can Also Cure Anxiety
Of course, everything listed above is just a temporary fix. You'll still need to learn strategies that will help you control your anxiety altogether.