Menopause and Anxiety
by: Cathy Taylor
The mid-life phenomenon known as menopause and the stresses of anxiety go hand in hand. Panic attacks, rushes of energy, burning in the chest, unusual vibrations throughout the body, and warm sensations are some of the physical effects you may feel under this condition.
When menopause hits, there is a greater chance women will go through anxiety and depression. Christian Northrop talks about this phenomenon in her book, Wisdom of Menopause, where if a woman has repressed something in her life, she won’t be able to get past menopause employing the same tactics. For example, unexpressed anger will find its way out and sometimes in unusual or uncomfortable ways.
In what is often referred to as a ¨midlife crisis,¨ this time of life forces women to re-evaluate themselves and the role(s) they play as they are getting older. And, often times we are not comfortable with what we find. A little voice in the back of our head is saying, “If you don’t make changes now … you never will!” Our hormonal imbalances (due to decreased estrogen levels) can contribute to feelings of depression or make us feel plain ‘indifference.’ Even if menopause isn’t actually causing these conditions, it can heighten underlying anxiety and bring it to the surface.
Anxiety is an individual’s prolonged feeling of dread and worry with no particular reason behind it. It’s uncomfortable and causes stress particularly on the body. It can be triggered by problems in everyday life like paying the bills and work. Although worrying about these things for a normal person has its ceiling of severity, menopausal women suffering from anxiety tend to think about their problems excessively.
When anxiety finally hits its highest peak, it is often called a panic attack. Panic attacks are debilitating episodes of fright and fear that include chest pains, fear of death, and shaking. In what is called being ¨psychosocially¨ depressed, women have negative beliefs and attitudes in regards to getting older, assuming unwanted roles such as caretaker, and responding negatively to impatient husbands who might demand sex.
Being depressed during the duration of this condition has a lot to do with their overall psychological well-being prior to menopause. Women who have continuous anxiety and depression beforehand are more likely to suffer worse cases of anxiety during this latter phase of life. If life-long imbalances have not been healed, menopause may exacerbate the situation. We might feel unable to perform ¨female duties¨, contributing to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Research has found that consistent regular physical activity (i.e. exercise) before menopause has been scientifically proven to lessen the possibility of anxiety symptoms during this transition. It’s also helpful to avoid drinking caffeine-loaded liquids, sleep deprivation, and stimulant use.
Psychiatric consultations are highly recommended for anxiety sufferers under menopause. An experienced counselor and/or therapist can help us recover and evaluate our lives including healing emotional imbalances. It is a great time to refocus our attention toward new activities and roles. As is common with anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, fright, and even suicidal tendencies can occur. In this case, antidepressants may be prescribed. Coping with all of the physical changes, assuming new roles, possibly facing many of our fears for the first time, and generally waking up to the fact that ¨life just isn’t what it used to be¨ are all realizations that contribute to anxiety in older women. In these times, it is important to maintain focus and concentrate on the positive things in life. Although it can be hard, it can be done.
Having a plethora of life responsibilities and obligations during menopause can create stress, and having an ´excess´ of this stress can cause adrenal fatigue. Anxiety in menopause sufferers results from hormonal imbalances. In the menstrual cycle, ovulation causes progesterone (which has soothing effects on the mind and body) to be released. Irregular cycles are grounds for anxiety build-up, as a result of the lack of this ¨happy hormone.¨ All of these conditions can be treated with alternative therapies such as natural progesterone cream.
But why do some women go through menopause and barely notice a difference? One consensus among medical doctors theorizes that it has a lot to do with women’s self-esteem and self-confidence. One thing is for sure, if you are having trouble with either of these, you’ll get a chance to deal with them now. One thing menopause is great at, and that is bringing out our unresolved issues. And we all know how anxious that can make us.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice.
About The Author
Cathy writes frequently on mid-life issues for women and men particularly menopause, and a copy of her book can be found at http://www.howtoconquermenopause.com.
To read a sample of this book go to http://www.everythingmenopause.com/currentissue.html
This article was posted on September 13, 2005