Although many individuals will experience the symptoms of anxiety at some stage in their lives, menopause is a common trigger of it, along with other disruptive symptoms. While 18% of adults in the United States are affected by clinical anxiety, studies have shown that it affects woman twice as much as men. Anxiety can cause nervousness, tension and extreme worrying. Many women experience mild to severe anxiety during this period. Many women during this stage of their life will complain of feelings of doom and often feel as if they are losing their sanity. Some experience depression with anxiety, along with fatigue and hot flashes.
Anxiety can be defined as a painful uneasiness of the mind that is often caused by fear and apprehension of danger or misfortune. These feelings of overwhelming fear typically cause an abnormally high sense of uneasiness. Over 18% of adults in the United States are affected by clinical anxiety, a group of disorders and phobias, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Social Phobia, Panic Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Depending on the symptoms, anxiety can be classified into different disorders. When people worry needlessly and experience fear for no apparent reason, this is called generalized anxiety disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, also known as OCD, is sometimes experienced with menopause. This condition causes phobias and preoccupations with things of small significance.
Symptoms of Anxiety
- Chronic tenseness
- Feelings of apprehension and indecisiveness
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty digesting food
- Urge to urinate
Some people experience worry over social situations and feel very self-conscious around others. This anxiety disorder is called social phobia. When an episode of extreme fear and dread is experienced suddenly, they are experiencing a panic disorder. If women have experienced a traumatic past during childhood or adulthood, this can cause post traumatic stress disorder which is non-hormonal related.
Causes of Anxiety
When estrogen and progesterone levels become unstable, emotions and moods are often the first to be disrupted since the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and melatonin, ceases. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, menstruation begins with elevated estrogen levels at the start of the cycle and elevated progesterone levels at the end of the cycle. Progesterone acts as a calming agent, resulting in feelings of relaxation. When menopause occurs, progesterone levels decrease, which can cause some women to experience anxiety.
- Work stress
- School stress
- Family stress
- Loss of libido
- Weight gain
- Heart attack
- History of psychological illness
- Financial woes
- Side effects of medication
- Drug withdrawal
- Lack of oxygen
- Autoimmune disease
- Excess sugar
- Night Sweats
Learning to take better care of yourself can help to ease anxiety caused by menopause. Most importantly, in order to manage one’s anxiety, it is essential to know that this symptom is nothing to be afraid of. All women go through menopause and will learn how to deal with menopausal symptoms and the anxiety associated with it. Knowing what is happening to you will help you to understand the anxiety so you can help to control it. Regular exercise helps tremendously in relieving anxiety. Walking, bike riding, swimming, aerobics or yoga can release stress and give a feeling of well being. Massages also help relieve stress, relaxing the body and mind and loosening up the muscles so the stress levels diminish. Getting involved with a hobby can relieve the mind and take it off of symptoms putting it on something positive which leads to feeling better naturally. Getting the proper amount of sleep also relieves stress and helps the body function better.
Daily Lifestyle Changes
- Get a Full Night’s Rest - It is vital to get eight to nine hours of sleep to help reduce stress, which could lead to anxiety.
- Stress Reduction and Relaxation – Relaxation exercises, meditation, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to help stabilize one’s mood, as well as minimize the effects of stress on your body during menopause.
- Get Regular Exercise – When one engages in physical activity, they are able to relieve the stress built up in their muscles and increase their heart rates. Exercising 20-30 minutes a day, three to four days a week, can help those suffering from anxiety forget about their worries and focus on staying calm.
- Stay hydrated – Dehydration can reduce blood flow to organs, drastically slowing down your brain—and you along with it. One of the most important diet changes to prevent anxiety is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
- Eliminate Caffeine – Caffeine is known to cause fluctuations in one’s hormone levels because it raises the levels of lactate, which is a known factor to produce feelings of anxiety.
- Replenishing Your Diet - Eating more calcium-rich foods, magnesium-rich foods and Vitamin E-foods, like green vegetables, nuts and almonds, are other easily adaptable diet changes to help prevent anxiety.
- Eat More Magnesium – Magnesium plays a large role in preventing anxiety. One can get magnesium from foods, such as spinach, cashes, almonds and whole grains.
- Eat Tryptophan – Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted to serotonin. It is known to reduce feelings of anxiety and has a calming effect. Tryptophan can be found in turkey, soy products, oats, bananas and milk.
- Combine your Protein and Carbohydrates – By eating the two of these alongside each other, you can help prevent anxiety. Protein contains a neurotransmitter that promotes a relaxed and calm feeling, while carbohydrates boost the brain’s intake of neurotransmitters.
- Low-Fat Diet – If one’s diet is high in fat, it is important to adopt a healthier low-fat diet full of vegetables and fruits because the imbalance of fatty acids can create anxiety. It is advised to decrease the fat in one’s diet by 20% of the total calories. Animal fat should be eliminated from one’s diet.
- Vitamins - B Vitamins, responsible for maintaining normal nervous system function; Vitamin B1, Helps reduce anxiety and has a calming effect on the nerves; Vitamin B6, A known energizer that also exerts a calming effect; Vitamin C, Essential for the proper function of adrenal glands and brain chemistry. Known for its tranquilizing effect and ability to decrease anxiety; Magnesium, helps relieve anxiety and is best taken in combination with calcium; Calcium, a natural tranquilizer.
- Alternative Medicine – Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbology) has been a long standing treatment for anxiety around the world. Acupuncture is a medical treatment involving the insertion of sharp sterile needles into the body at specific points according to a mapping of “energy pathways.” Acupuncture stimulates endorphins and neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which helps maintain a positive sense of well-being and reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Black Cohosh One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
- Herbal Remedies – Kava has been known to reduce anxiety quite effectively due to its kavalactones. Kavalactones have a relaxing and tranquilizing effect and can also help you sleep better. Herbal remedies containing valerian root, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil and chamomile are also effective in treating anxiety. Two common types of herbs that can be used for managing menopausal breast pain are phytoestrogenic and non-estrogenic herbs. Some of the most common phytoestrogen herbs are Saint Johns Wort, Black Cohosh and Dong Quai – all which contain estrogenic components produced by plants and replace some of the missing estrogen hormones experienced as a result of menopause. Although these herbs are known to maintain the balance of key neurotransmitters in the brain, they can also make your body less responsive to producing its own hormones, causing a further decrease of one’s hormone levels. Non-estrogenic herbs are known to nourish one’s hormonal glands into producing its own natural hormones. By stimulating one’s own hormone production, non-estrogenic herbs are recommended, such as Macafem. Macafem is grown in the Andes of Peru and has achieved great success in naturally increasing one’s hormone levels.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy – For more severe cases of anxiety, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.