I am going through the menopause: why am I so anxious?

Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

04 February 2013

Anxiety: the unexpected menopause symptom

By the time the average woman reaches her mid to late 40s, she is usually quite aware of what menopause is, and has a general idea of what to expect when she begins to go through it.

Usually, a few night sweats and hot flushes, maybe bouts of insomnia, erratic menstrual cycles, and perhaps even a few mood swings as well.

What she might not expect, however, is crippling anxiety, heart palpitations, and panic attacks.  Yet, for a large number of women, these three symptoms of menopause are as common as hot flashes and night sweats. They can also be quite severe.  So severe in fact, that some women become so overwhelmed, they fear they are having a nervous break-down, or worse, that they are suffering a heart attack – but why?

What causes heart palpitations, panic attacks, and anxiety in women who are going through menopause, and more importantly, what can be done about it?

Hormone imbalance

Like all symptoms of menopause, heart palpitations, panic attacks, and anxiety can result from hormone imbalance.  Low progesterone levels, for example, one of the hallmarks of menopause, can cause women to feel anxious, edgy, and irritable.

Also known as the calming hormone, progesterone acts as a natural sedative, if you will, softening and balancing the effects of estrogen. Without enough progesterone, women in menopause feel more overwhelmed and easily stressed.  For many, this can lead to anxiety issues, including tension headaches, heart palpitations, issues with their digestion; and in some cases, even full blown panic disorder.

Adrenal fatigue & thyroid dysfunction

Adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction are also common causes. The physical and emotional stress of menopause can take a toll on the adrenal glands, exhausting them, and hampering their ability to release the proper balance of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and DHEA.

If a woman is suffering from adrenal fatigue, she might feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, yet be unable to relax or sleep because of surging levels of cortisol and adrenaline coursing through her body. High levels of cortisol and adrenaline can cause feelings of panic, nervousness, anxiety, and fluttering and palpitations of the heart. It can also cause you to bolt wide awake from a deep sleep with rushes of anxiety and panic.

Is it any wonder then, that women often feel they are going crazy during menopause!

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, can also be a source of panic attacks, anxiety, and heart palpitations during menopause. Though it may sound counter-intuitive that a sluggish thyroid could cause such symptoms, the unnatural rising and falling of the thyroid hormones TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), T3 (triiodothyronine), and T4 (thyroxine) during hormone imbalance, can cause not only these symptoms, but a very long list of other symptoms as well.

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Get it checked out

If you have been experiencing heart palpitations, panic attacks and anxiety in menopause, it’s very important you see your doctor to have your hormone levels evaluated, and testing done for both your adrenal glands and your thyroid gland. It may be that you will need supplements to support your adrenal and thyroid gland, and hormone therapy to help restore balance in your body.

And remember, ladies, the menopause transition can be a turbulent and rocky road for a lot of women, but investing in your wellness through proper self-care can help ease the symptoms and put you back on the path to balance and health!

Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women’s health and a women’s freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

Learn the truth behind other menopause myths

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