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Can Menopause Cause Anxiety Attacks?

Faiq Shaikh, M.D.
Can Menopause Cause Anxiety Attacks?

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:

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:

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:

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.

Article Resources
  1. Sagsöz, N., et al. Anxiety and depression before and after the menopause. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics 264.4 (2001): 199-202.
  2. Freeman, Ellen W., et al. The role of anxiety and hormonal changes in menopausal hot flashes. Menopause 12.3 (2005): 258-266.
  3. Deeks, Amanda A. Psychological aspects of menopause management 00077-5/abstract). Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 17.1 (2003): 17-31.
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