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Panic disorder during menopause can become a very debilitating symptom for many women. Sometimes, for apparently no reason at all, a woman’s heart speeds, her breathing quickens, sweat beads on the brow, and she experiences rushes of energy, as though her “fight-or-flight” instinct has been activated. Because of the hormonal fluctuations occurring inside the menopausal women’s bodies, several physical and psychological effects take place, such as a panic disorder. The best way to alleviate panic disorder is to gain an understanding of it.

Panic disorders during menopause?

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder, which are the most common type of psychological disorders, characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress. These episodes are often referred to as “panic attacks.” The episodes may resemble a heart attack. They may strike at any time and occur without a known reason, but more frequently are triggered by specific events or thoughts, such as taking an elevator or driving. The attacks may be so terrifying that some people associate their attacks with the place they occurred and will refuse to go there again.

What are the symptoms of panic disorders?

There are some common symptoms of panic disorder that can help women identify this disorder. Many of the below symptoms peak and begin to dissipate within 10 minutes of the onset of a panic attack, but others may remain for longer.

What causes panic attacks during menopause?

It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of panic disorder, because so many factors are involved (emotional and physical problems, traumatic events, and so forth). But because women are twice as likely to suffer from panic disorder as men, most commonly during PMS, pregnancy and menopause, doctors have come to conclude that hormones are typically the underlying cause.

During menopause, the vital female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone rapidly decline, which has a major affect on women’s mood as well as their bodies. Low oestrogen can cause panic disorder during menopause for two reasons: declining level of oestrogen and declining levels of progesterone.

1. Oestrogen has an inhibitive effect on the stress-hormone cortisol. When oestrogen is too low, levels of cortisol rise, raising blood pressure and blood sugar, and causing panic disorder. Oestrogen also has an important effect on a brain chemical called serotonin, which is responsible for happy, balanced moods. Oestrogen helps to stimulate the production and transportation of serotonin around the body, and prevents its break down. The drop of serotonin levels that accompanies low oestrogen levels during menopause causes an unstable mood and, as a result, anxiety.

2. Finally, hormonal fluctuations during menopause cause panic disorder due to drops in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone has been shown to have a calming, soothing affect on the brain, and low levels of progesterone (in combination with the hormonal changes described above) can cause panic disorder.

Other causes of panic disorder

During menopause, the hormonal changes described above leave women even more susceptible to other causes of panic disorder that come from their lifestyle or stressful life events.
Caffeine – Contains dopamine, a chemical that causes the jitters, thus worsening sensations of panic.
Alcohol – Raises certain mood-affecting chemicals in the blood and also affects the nervous system with its addictive elements. Alcohol addiction is often associated with panic disorder.
Nutrition – Poor nutrition (especially excessive consumption of sugars and fats) can cause panic disorder by creating sudden bursts of energy followed by severe slumps of exhaustion, leaving the body weak and emotionally susceptible.

During menopause, a woman’s lifestyle changes just as rapidly as her body. Her children leave home, she becomes infertile, and other traumatic life events can occur like the death of parents or a spouse. All of these factors can also lead to panic disorder.

Source: 34 Menopause Symptoms. 2017. 34 Menopause Symptoms. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/panic-disorder.htm. [Accessed 10 October 2017].

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