Hormonal changes can affect not only the body, but the mind as well. Many women that go through menopause experience periods of depression or anxiety due to the fluctuation of hormones. While panic attacks are not a common experience for those going through menopause, it can happen. Panic attacks are periods of intense, severe anxiety that often result in people questioning their health, even feeling as if they are having a heart attack or are about to die.
What causes these panic attacks, and is there anything that can be done to prevent them?
Hormone Imbalance and Panic
Hormones affect neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), coping ability, physical sensations, and more; any of which may be a factor in the development of anxiety and panic.
It is important to note that not all panic attacks during menopause are caused by menopause itself. Some may be caused by your reaction to the physical symptoms while others may be a result of concerns over the future and feelings of aging.
Starting in Perimenopause
Hormonal shifts begin during the perimenopausal stage, when the body decreases the amount of estrogen it produces. It is possible that during this stage, when hormones in flux, the ability to manage anxiety is decreased.
Unfortunately there isn't a set cause. It's not clear why some women experience anxiety and panic and others don't. What we do know is that hormones are the body's messengers. They tell the body to create other hormones, generate neurotransmitters, and even cope with stress. When they are continuously fluctuating, the body has to rapidly adjust.
The symptoms of menopause and perimenopause may play a role as well. It is likely you will experience anxiety when you are:
- Not sleeping well, have insomnia, and are tired and fatigued.
- Experiencing hot and cold flashes or night sweats.
- Experiencing mood swings.
These symptoms of the hormonal changes that are occuring could explain why there is a chance for increased panic attacks during menopause.
Menopause and Anxiety
Panic attacks may start in the early stages of pre-menopause but they can continue into menopause. Once you begin to experience panic attacks, they can be difficult to stop.
Panic disorder is not characterized by panic attacks alone. In some cases it includes a fear of panic attacks. You can have only one panic attack and never have another again, but if you continue to experience anxiety over fear of another attack then you may have panic disorder.
How to Stop Panic Disorder From Menopause
Most panic attacks do not have an underlying physical cause. They are a physical response to stress and anxiety. Typically, learning and utilizing coping skills for stress and anxiety can help to lessen the frequency of panic attacks.
With menopause related panic, it's a little bit more complicated. You can cope with panic attacks without any medication, even when your hormones are in flux, although it may be challenging. You can talk to your doctor about hormone medications, but it is important to remember that panic attacks are still an anxiety disorder and may continue to occur after your hormones are under control. By learning coping skills for stress and anxiety, and considering long-term treatment to identify the underlying cause of your panic attacks, you can begin to manage menopausal related anxiety.