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The Links Between Anxiety And Premenopause

Micah Abraham, BSc
The Links Between Anxiety And Premenopause

Premenopause is a stressful time in a woman's life. The hormonal shifts that take place in your body during pre- as well as peri- menopause (a more advanced stage of premenopause) cause your body to shift and change dramatically whether you're ready for it or not.

Unsurprisingly, both pre- and perimenopause can cause anxiety, and in some cases worsen pre-existing anxiety conditions. If you are a woman in your 40s who experiences anxiety on a regular basis, or even if you've just started to experience the symptoms, it may be difficult to discern regular symptoms of anxiety from those caused by premenopause, which means you may not even realize it is happening. Read on to find out if your anxiety may be premenopausal, and how to keep premenopausal anxiety under control.

Premenopausal Anxiety Symptoms

Women have been proven to feel higher levels of anxiety in general than men. A woman in her 40s may not even register that the anxiety she is feeling now and has probably often felt in her life is premenopause-related.

Premenopause symptoms are essentially regular anxiety symptoms. If you have ever felt intense anxiety or had anxiety attacks before, the following symptoms of premenopause anxiety may sound familiar:

However, if you have noticed the following symptoms in combination with the above, it may mean you are going through premenopause.

Unfortunately, all of these symptoms - including irregular periods and in rare cases hair growth issues - can be caused by anxiety alone. So you will still need to talk to your doctor about these symptoms in order to know if you may be going through premenopause stages.

Why Premenopause Causes Anxiety

Premenopause can cause anxiety directly, through changes in hormones. But note that not all changes are going to be related to hormones. Some anxiety is going to be simply a reaction to your symptoms.

Limited sleep, difficulties having/the inability to have sex and unexpected bodily changes seemingly caused by nothing are stressful even for people whose hormones aren't suddenly fluctuating. The symptoms of premenopause themselves can increase your susceptibility to anxiety.

But premenopause can also directly cause anxiety as well, and it's important to understand your symptoms in order to correctly address and identify what they mean. The reality is that your body is doing exactly what it is supposed to do (as difficult as it is to experience). A good analogy is the menstrual cycle itself: your body knows what it's doing, even though it may feel strange and uncomfortable.

During premenopause, your body's hormones begin to shift. More specifically, they reduce: both the estrogen and progesterone in your system (what are known as the sex hormones) begin to be produced less and less. This is because your body realizes you are becoming less physically able to bear and raise children in a way that does not endanger your health. In order to protect you, it sends signals to your sex hormones saying okay, we should stop producing these now.

Estrogen usually decreases more than progesterone, which leads to what is known as a hormonal imbalance. Hormones are your body's messengers that tell the brain and body how to act and feel. This hormonal imbalance can confuse your system, telling it to make more to bring things back into the balance it is used to. When it can't, it sends worried signals like the anxiety symptoms listed above. Just like you, your body may need some time to adjust to the changes, which is why premenopausal anxiety occurs.

Can Anxiety Make Premenopause Worse?

Being anxious not only because of but on top of premenopausal symptoms can actually make the symptoms of menopause worse. Perhaps you have an anxiety disorder, or you are experiencing stressful external factors such as a change in a love, familial or friend relationship, or feelings of missing kids who have moved out (if you have them), or simply the anxiety that comes from having reached midlife that we all experience at some point.

These types of external stressors can mean that you are even less likely to reach REM sleep, can disrupt your menstrual cycle even further, and can cause more weight gain (particularly if you are prone to stress eating). If you want to prevent feeling additional anxiety on top of that which your body may already be causing you to feel, consider the following tips:

How to Minimize Premenopausal Anxiety Symptoms

While premenopause is a force of nature that you don't actually have much control over (in that you can't keep it from happening), there are some steps you can take to take control of and limit the unpleasant side effects you may experience.

When your body causes you anxiety it means that it needs your attention. Whether you are simply feeling anxious, are feeling anxious because you are premenopausal, or are feeling anxious on top of your premenopausal symptoms, it's time to listen to your body and treat it right so that it will treat you right in return.

Article Resources
  1. Juang, Kai-Dih, et al. Hot flashes are associated with psychological symptoms of anxiety and depression in peri-and post-but not premenopausal women . Maturitas 52.2 (2005): 119-126.
  2. Sa?gsöz, N., et al. Anxiety and depression before and after the menopause. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics 264.4 (2001): 199-202.
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