Perimenopause refers to the transitional phase in which the body undergoes several physical changes before the final menstrual period. These changes lead to factors such as hormone changes, sleep problems, life stresses, irregular periods, and infertility that contribute to a number of issues including anxiety.
Menopause usually occurs when a woman hasn’t had a period in the last 12 months. Some symptoms of perimenopause carry over to menopause but occur less frequently.
How Common is Anxiety During Perimenopause?
Some studies indicate that 23% of women experience anxiety during perimenopause and that anxiety symptoms are not the same as depression.
While it is normal to feel depressed or anxious when perimenopause starts, frequent and severe feelings of panic attacks or anxiety are not usual symptoms of menopause.
Menopause And Anxiety
Because of experiencing the loss of fertility during menopause, some women feel troubled or sad. On the other hand, some women feel relieved that they are no longer have to bear the burden of pregnancy.
Apart from that, women may undergo several other life changes during their perimenopausal years, such as their children leaving home, their parents or husbands becoming unwell due to aging. These are potential factors that eventually lead to accelerated feelings of anxiety.
During perimenopause, hormonal changes can also contribute to feelings of anxiety. This includes changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone which can have an impact on a woman’s mood swings.
However, these symptoms may leave at the end of perimenopause and when women enter postmenopause, the hormones become more balanced.
Anxiety and Depression Before Menopause
Treatment for Anxiety During Perimenopause
There are a number of treatment options you might consider. Consult with your doctor for the best option for your specific situation.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
It is quite common for women who are going through menopause to receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as well as other treatments for menopause symptoms. However, it is important to consult a doctor first before opting for this treatment as it may not be suitable for some women.
If a perimenopausal woman is experiencing high levels of anxiety, her doctor may prescribe her medication to treat it. However, this is not always necessary. Sometimes, a doctor may also recommend counselling.
A popular type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed for women who have moderate-to-severe levels of anxiety.
Even though SSRIs are quite effective in treating symptoms of anxiety, North American Menopause Society states that half of those who use these antidepressants experience side effects that may affect their sex life. These side effects include trouble maintaining arousal or achieving orgasm and reduced libido.
That’s why there are antidepressants for women who experience sexual SSRI side effects, like newer ones such as duloxetine and bupropion.
Older antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants have no link to sexual dysfunction. But they can still cause other side effects.
To reduce the side effects of the antidepressants for those who experience sexual dysfunction, it is recommended they take lower doses. But before doing this, women must consult their doctors first as stopping medication can have severe consequences.
How to Calm Anxiety During Perimenopause
Lifestyle Changes to Treat Perimenopausal Anxiety
Doctors have recommended women with perimenopausal anxiety to follow a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.
One of most suitable ways of reducing anxiety significantly is regular and gentle exercise. Those with perimenopausal anxiety should pick out their favorite type of exercise and make a daily routine out of it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s walking, running, yoga or swimming, exercising on a regular basis can burn away nervous energy and improve symptoms of anxiety.
Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol is not advised as the former can trigger nervousness and anxiety, while the latter is a depressant that can aggravate the underlying causes of anxiety.
Acupuncture can also be effective in reducing as well as treating other symptoms of menopause. Check with your extended health plan. You’ll often find that this kind of treatment is covered.
Get Enough Sleep
A good long uninterrupted sleep is also useful in reducing anxiety. But women going through menopause may have troubles because of night sweats caused by surges in hormones.
During these times, women may find keeping a ‘pre-sleep journal’ can help improve their sleep. With these journals, the women can write down any of their nervous thoughts so that their minds can rest easier.
Support groups for women going through perimenopause and menopause can also be helpful. Women with similar problems can get together to discuss and share the problems that they’re going through to better cope with their anxiety.
Even if a woman who is going through menopause does not want to join a support group, then talking about it with her closest friends can also be very helpful.
Take Time for Yourself
It is important for perimenopausal women to take time out for themselves. To be frank, we mean engage in what they usually do in their leisure time like reading, gardening, meditating and yoga are all great examples to attain relaxation and self-awareness.
Supplements During Perimenopause
There are some supplements that you might consider taking to help you deal with mood swings due to hormonal changes during perimenopause.
However, studies are a bit inconclusive, so also be sure to check in with your doctor instead of relying solely on them.
You can learn more here: Perimenopause Supplements.
How to Deal With a Panic Attack
Women who have had prior panic attacks are more likely to experience panic attacks during perimenopause. Doctors assume that panic attacks are a reaction to instead of being a symptom of menopause.
When a person experiences a panic attack, they harbor intense feelings of anxiety or “doom.” These feelings are usually followed by physical symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Tingling sensations
Panic attacks usually last for about 10 to 30 minutes but they can also last for hours if they recur in a series of episodes.
Many who experience their first ever panic attack worry that they might be having a nervous breakdown or even a heart attack. It goes without saying that panic attacks are one of the worst experiences of a person’s life.
What to do if you have a Panic Attack
If you have a panic attack, go see your doctor right away. They may be able to prescribe some appropriate medication for you or refer you for mental therapy, which may also help.
Practising mindfulness techniques can also help prevent panic attacks for some people. With these techniques, practitioners are able to focus on the symptoms and thoughts that bring about a panic attack so they can be properly managed.
Irregular breathing can trigger panic attacks, which is when you breathe more than your body lets you or breathing too quickly. That is why you should learn breathing exercises as they can help lower your chances of a panic attack.
Learn more about Anxiety Before Menopause
Anxiety and Perimenopause: Have your Say!
Have you experienced anxiety before menopause? What helped you get through it? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.
Tammy Ford is the resident expert for all things Women’s Health (vaginal discharge and infections, perimenopause, menstrual cycles and more) and is also a chief tester of all things eco-friendly period products. She has a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and specializes in reproductive health.
You can contact her via email: [email protected]