Why does anxiety increase in perimenopause?

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

02 May 2022

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I take a look at why anxiety can increase in perimenopause.

Over the years I have found that anxiety is probably the second most common symptom in perimenopause and menopause, behind hot flushes and night sweats. So, this week I thought I would take a closer look at anxiety, why it happens, and what you can do to help yourself.

The emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety during perimenopause

With anxiety, it is not just an emotional symptom, some horrible physical symptoms can also be experienced with the anxiety. So, it's important to be aware that some of the symptoms you may be experiencing are linked to any type of anxiety that you may be getting as well.

For some women in perimenopause, anxiety can be a phase or it can just come at certain times of the month, but for other women, it can increase quite dramatically as time goes on. They may even get to the point where they feel as if there are having a nervous breakdown. I get so many women telling me that they think they are going mad or crazy or they're just losing the plot.

These physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety can impact quite dramatically on your life. They can impact your relationships with your partner, family and friends. They can impact your job and also how you see yourself. If you're getting these symptoms all the time, then it can really interfere with how you feel and how you cope with life in general.

The emotional symptoms can include:

Irritability: You just get fed up with people. You find that you've got a lack of patience.

Nervous tension: You just might find that you're clenching your teeth and your shoulders are really stiff all the time.
Anxiousness: It may well be that you are getting anxious about going out the front door, you are anxious about things you have to do at work, or about meeting people.

Fearfulness: You can start to fear real things like driving. Feeling fearful seems to be quite a common one for a lot of women. They suddenly get very afraid of driving. But it can also be what you may feel are irrational fears. So, you can start to be fearful about dying, about your family, your loved ones. You can become so fearful about what's going on in the world all around you.

Increased paranoia: This can be a really frightening one. You may feel paranoid that everybody's ganging up on you and you're not being left alone.
Worrying more: It can be worrying about day-to-day things, but that worry will continue throughout the day, whether you're thinking about these things or not.

The physical symptoms of anxiety:

It can be things like a racing heart. It can be palpitations. It can be panic attacks. I know for me with the anxiety, my stomach just felt as if somebody was ringing it out really harshly. There's just that horrible, kind of cramping feeling going on right around the whole belly button area.

What causes anxiety during perimenopause?

So, the main cause of this, it's the hormones! Most women will find that just before their period, as their oestrogen starts to fall, they get a little bit more irritable or they did tend to worry a bit more or things seem a bit gloomier, and their mood dips. In this monthly cycle, within a few days, your hormones start to rise again, so you come out of that emotional feeling.

The problem is that when you are going through perimenopause, as you get towards a period, your oestrogen can fall really quickly, so your mood can go from up to down literally within seconds and that can then continue for much longer because it is much more difficult for your hormones to rebalance at this stage.

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Other symptoms which contribute to anxiety

The other thing that can happen, is that other symptoms can contribute to your anxiety, such as:

Hot flushes and night sweats: Not only can they worry about experiencing a hot flush or sweat at an inappropriate time make you anxious, but anxiety can also increase the risk of hot flushes. Plus, they can also cause dehydration and dehydration will severely impact your nervous system, making you much jumpier and causing your emotions to go up and down more.

Poor sleep: We know that poor sleep is a big issue in perimenopause, so if you're not sleeping well, you're not rested, then your nervous system is going to be jumpier the next day. If you are anxious all day, that's going to affect your sleep. And that can be a real vicious cycle. It can just go on continually and wear you down, further and further.

Does anxiety go away after menopause?

It's a difficult one to answer because it's going to be different for every single woman. For some women in the perimenopause, it really is linked to the hormonal cycle, so when that starts to ease off, as your periods get less and less, then the anxiety can ease off as well.

It also depends on your lifestyle. If you've got a really busy life. If you're not looking after yourself well, then the anxiety is more likely to hang around for longer.

What helps anxiety during perimenopause?

So, what are the things you can do to help yourself? There are lots of simple things you can do. Here are a few things I recommend:

It's the basics! And I know it's easy for me to say "look after yourself, get plenty of rest and relaxation". I know how difficult it is, but just trying to find the time to do these things can have a huge impact on how you feel. So, it's making sure you have a really good diet, don't let your blood sugars dip because that can actually cause anxiety as well. I know for me if my blood sugars get too low, and even now it happens, I get extremely irritable and bad-tempered. So, I learned over time just to make sure that I eat really regularly and that helps to keep my mood much more stable.

Remember to drink the water: Dehydration is such a big issue in anxiety and stress. So, remember to drink your 1.5 to 2 litres a day, and that can make a big difference within a couple of days.

Try and get plenty of sleep: Again, I know it's a difficult one if you're not sleeping particularly well, but there are things and herbs that you can take to help you have a much better sleep.

Try deep breathing: When we're anxious we tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the top part of the chest. And research has found that this kind of breathing actually affects the anxiety and panic part of the nervous system. So, if you continue to shallow breathe, you are going to feed that panic and anxiety. Whereas, deep breathing is actually attached to the calming aspect of the nervous system. So, if you are doing really deep, slow breathing, the anxiety and panic part of your nervous system can't engage at the same time. So, it's a really worthwhile technique to learn.

Calming herbs: You can also look at calming herbs such as Lemon Balm, Passiflora, and Valerian. So, you could try our Passiflora Complex Tablets, which contain fresh extracts of Passiflora (also known as passion flower), Lemon Balm and Valerian, together with magnesium. And magnesium helps support the nervous system, so is wonderful for calming it. Or you could try our Passiflora Complex Spray. This is something that you can keep in your bag and use as and when you need it.

Avoid food and drink that trigger your nervous system: So, it's all the things that we like. It's the caffeine. It's the alcohol. It's high in salt and sugar foods. So really keep these to a minimum and that again can help your nervous system.

So, I hope you found this one helpful. If any of you out there have any tips on what has helped you to cope with this particular phase in the perimenopause, then please share them because we would love to hear all about them.

Until next week, take care.

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