There are many symptoms commonly associated with both perimenopause (the start of the hormonal changes) and actual menopause. These include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and weight gain. A woman may also experience increased joint pain, irregular cycles, heavier periods, hair loss and insomnia.
In discussions with their friends, female family members and health care providers, most women have a general understanding of what’s to come when it relates to the big hormonal transition. However symptoms such as increased, worsening or new anxiety might be a surprise.
Many women have experienced at least some form of anxiety in their lifetime and find it concerning if those nervous, overwhelmed, worried or fretting feelings really ramp up in their forties and fifties.
Research, and anecdotally in my practice, shows that women who are prone to anxiety before menopause are much more likely to have higher levels as they go through it. In fact, it is reported that 51 percent of women between 40-55 years old experience mood swings or anxious feelings more regularly than when they were in their twenties and thirties. While there is little research on the subject of why, and the reasons are conflicting, there are a few consistent theories that may apply.
As women approach menopause, the need to become pregnant becomes less therefore ovulation becomes less frequent. Without ovulation a woman does not make much progesterone and progesterone is the more calming, soothing, anti-PMS hormone for women. This leaves estrogen to become more dominant which can cause increased symptoms of PMS, irritation, anger and overwhelm.
This hormonal transition of menopause is often occurring at the same time that life is stressful -- Murphy’s law?
Women are juggling family, work, financial, relationship, and world responsibilities while trying to eat healthy, exercise, stay sane and navigate menopause. This causes a lot of internal stress on the body, particularly upon the adrenal glands. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, irritability, overwhelm and panic.