Approaching menopause you may have noticed some deviations in your usual mood. Or perhaps your family or colleagues have been kind enough to point them out to you!!!
Well don't despair, you're not alone. Approximately 30% of women report psychological symptoms related to menopause . Some women find themselves becoming short and snappy, while others are teary and overwhelmed. Even the strongest woman who appears outwardly like she's got it all together may be inwardly crumbling. Things that don't normally upset you suddenly do. It can be something as simple or as insignificant as your partner not making the bed, or your stockings laddering... but it can seem like the end of the world. ‘Who is this person I have become?' you may later ponder. Why did I react like that? I don't recognise myself!
Menopause can do funny things to you. Rest assured that these intense emotions are just part of the transitional period your body is going through as it tries to get used to all the changes it's experiencing...and know just that, they are only transitional ! They will eventually disappear.
A few of the commonly noted mood symptoms reported by women during menopause:
- Feelings of increased vulnerability
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Panic attacks
- No motivation
- Low self esteem
- Mood swings
- Crying and tearfulness
If you're reading this and you can relate to any of these symptoms be proud! The fact that you are aware of your symptoms is great. Why? These symptoms are a wake up call, they're telling you to pay attention to your body... What is it telling you?
Depression associated with menopause:
It has long been recognised that women are at a higher risk than men of developing depression and that such risk is particularly associated with reproductive cycle events. Long term, prospective studies show that for some women the transition to menopause is associated with higher risk for new onset and recurrent depression .
Anxiety is relatively common symptom among postmenopausal women and may present as panic attacks, nervousness and worry. These feelings are not something you have to put up with and with proper treatment they can be addressed and eliminated very quickly.
So what are some causes for these changes in mood?
Fluctuations in hormones
Nobody really knows what causes these changes in our mood but most experts will tell you that your hormones appear to be involved. Declining hormone levels have been suggested to cause changes in neurotransmitters such as serotonin which increases feelings of anxiety and depression . Changes in oestrogen levels as well as declining levels of androgens (e.g. testosterone) have been credited for the myriad emotions experienced during menopause. Certainly altered hormone levels are responsible for symptoms such as hot sweats and vaginal dryness, the presence of which may have a negative roll on effect in the way a woman feels about herself. Progesterone "the happy hormone" exerts an antidepressant and calming effect on the brain, declining levels close to menopause would obviously contribute to changes in your usual mood. It is this hormone that needs to be given to relieve some of the symptoms of menopause .
Depression prior to menopause
Studies show that women who have suffered from depression prior to menopause are much more likely to experience mood changes during menopause1.
Perception of self and others
How much do you love yourself? Are you happy where you are in life? In your relationship? What is your attitude to menopause? To ageing? To the end of being fertile?
These factors will all influence your mood and the way you react to the changes in your body.
"By eating well, women take care of themselves on the most basic level" Dr Karen Johnson . It's true! You are what eat. Poor nutrition, deficiencies of specific nutrients and not eating regularly will influence your mood. You know it yourself when you haven't eaten for a while how do you feel? Cranky and irritable!
Stress and fatigue
Do you have other stressors in your life? Usually when you're under stress or you haven't slept well (which is a stressor in itself) you're bound to not be feeling 100%. It makes sense that any additional stress is bound to push you to boiling point. Between juggling a career, children and relationships, women these days are devoting less time to nurturing themselves. Put simply they are under a lot more stress than they should be! In my experience many women these days appear to be looking after everyone else first....and themselves last.
So what can we do to cope with these emotional changes?
- Getting your hormone levels checked is a good first step. Correct hormonal balance alone can make an amazing difference to the way you feel on a daily basis.
- Having a good support network to guide and carry you during this time is also important. Do you have a good friend who will listen to you without judgment? If not speaking to a counselor can be a useful way in which to resolve unfinished emotional business.
- Studies show increased stress is related to an exacerbation of menstrual and menopausal symptoms so reduce stress in all its forms! This sounds easy but many women find this hard to do! Brain storm how you this can make this happen. It may be something as simple as hiring someone to iron the clothes for 3 hours a week so that you don't have to do it. Whatever it is, put your plan into action.
- Nurture yourself and engage in pleasurable activities. Take some time out for you, nourish your soul! This can be passive activity such as making time for a bubble bath filled with relaxing essential oils or a foot bath once a week, or active such as enrolling in a language or pottery class at your local TAFE or community college.
- It sounds funny but if you're someone who goes the extra mile for everyone, practice being selfish. Let others go the extra mile for you! 
- A healthy diet can really help. Eating the right foods at the right time is important. Studies of different populations show that increasing fruit and vegetable intake particularly soy based foods and reducing consumption of meat has benefit in management of menopausal symptoms.
- Ensuring you are eating regular meals with some protein component will prevent fluctuating blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia often plays a large part in mood changes. Aim to eat something every 3 hours. Good protein snacks include a small handful of almonds, a tub of natural yogurt or a tablespoon of tahini.
- Exercise is known to improve the mood and reduce stress. Choose something you enjoy and aim to do 4 to 5 sessions of 30 to 45 minutes. The choices are endless: yoga, pilates, bushwalking, swimming, belly dancing, ice skating and so on.
- Daily affirmations are important way of challenging negative perceptions we might have about ourselves and menopause. An example of an affirmation you could repeat on a daily basis might be:
"Menopause is a happy time for me... my body and mind are growing in wisdom"
- Find something that resonates with you. If you need more help try reading the work of Louise Hay, who may be able to provide you with further guidance on finding the right affirmation for you.
- Read inspiring books on menopause. Good examples include "Women's bodies, Women's Wisdom" and "The Wisdom of Menopause" both by Christiane Northrup and The Menopause Self-Help Book by Dr. Susan Lark. Your local library should have a wide variety of menopause-related books to choose from.
- Regular massage and acupuncture as well as daily meditation and breathing exercise are all useful. How often do you find yourself just sitting and doing nothing, not even reading? Make little pockets of rest throughout your day in which you focus on your breath and sit quietly even if it is just for 5 minutes. You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes.
- Keeping a diary of discrepancies in your mood can help you to identify thought patterns so these can be challenged.
- Smokers are more likely to experience menopausal symptoms than non-smokers so cut down or even better give up!
- A high potency multivitamin multivitamin with good amounts of B vitamins is a necessity to ensure your body is supported during periods of stress.
- SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine 800mg/d) is involved in the synthesis of various neurotransmitters in the brain. SAM-e may assist in the management of mood swings and may also help relieve nervous tension, stress and mild anxiety.
- Magnesium (400mg/d) and vitamin B6 (100mg/d) may be useful in reducing hormonal mood related symptoms including anxiety.
- Vitamin E (400mg/d) may be useful in treating fatigue and depression associated with menopause. Evening primrose oil (2-4g/d) may be effective in reducing mood swings.
- Glutamine (3g/d) is required for the production of neurotransmitters and is an all-natural, anti-anxiety supplement that allows the mind to relax.
Women's experiences during menopause vary greatly. A negative attitude to menopause and ageing can result in more menopausal symptoms, which are often more intense. A positive attitude and taking care of your overall health can reduce or eliminate your mood changes make an enormous difference. Look after yourself. You're worth it.
Yes, there is help
Women often come to us saying, "I thought I was losing my mind!" because they're shocked by their mood swings and irritability. For them it's a relief to know that their moods have a physical basis and can be relieved. There's usually nothing wrong with you that you can't fix by taking better care of yourself.
We've been very successful in our Natural Menopause treatment programs in helping women find relief from their mood swings and irritability. Even severe mood swings can be alleviated by providing your body with the support it needs to achieve hormonal balance.
Our Personal More Natural Menopause treatment Program is a great place to start
Your Personal Program is designed to promote optimum hormonal balance through the use of natural Bio-identical hormones coupled with dietary and lifestyle guidance, and / or phone or face to face consultations with our team of Medical practitioners.
To assess your symptoms, call us now on 1300 883 405 for your Free personal menopause consultation with a medical doctor.
Frey et al (2008) Depression during menopausal transition: a review of treatment strategies and pathophysiological correlates. Menopause International Sep;14(3):123-8.
Trickey, R (2003) Women, Hormones and The Menstrual Cycle, Allen & Unwin
Osiecki, H. (2004) The Physician's Handbook of Clinical Nutrition (7th Ed) Bio-concepts
Northrup, C. (1994) Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom Bantam Books, USA
Pope, A. (2001) Walking with the Genie, The Modern Woman's Menstrual Health Kit, Bondi Junction