Many studies question whether irritability and mood swings caused by transitioning into menopause are directly associated with a hormonal imbalance or whether they are consequent to the disruptive symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, weight gain, loss of libido, vaginal dryness and many more. Regardless of the cause of irritability, this negative symptom can be damaging to yourself, your family and loved ones, your job and many other aspects of your life. Irritability is a state of excessive sensitivity to stimulation of any kind – your children, husband, boyfriend, friends, dog, traffic, etc. It is a state of mind that results in over reaction and impatience. As a result, people feel stressed, impatient and become angry very easily. It is a signal that an unpleasant situation can’t be resolved in an appropriate manner.
Estrogen is known for its ability to increase serotonin and beta-endorphins, which are typically associated with a positive mood. Because estrogen’s effect on mood is directly linked, menopausal women often suffer from irritability and mood swings due to estrogen levels dropping. Physical changes in one’s body can also bring frustration, such as uncontrollable hot flashes, vaginal dryness and loss of libido, which causes irritability. Fortunately, irritability is curable and there are many lifestyle and dietary changes, along with treatment options, to help manage this symptom.
Symptoms of Irritability
- Easily offended
- Feeling threatened with normal, harmless stimuli
- Social withdrawal
- Lashing out for no reason
- Loss of appetite
Causes of Panic Disorders
When estrogen levels drop, serotonin production ceases. Unfortunately, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a large role in our everyday functions. Since serotonin’s main function is to send messages from one area of the brain to the other by transmitting nerve messages to nerve cells, women suffer from irritability when their hormones begin to fluctuate. Women also experience higher stress levels and the body requires more serotonin when they become overwhelmed with stress. With lower levels of serotonin, women are more likely to experience mood swings, emotional ups and downs and depression.
Symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, loss of libido, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, depression and many more, can contribute to one’s irritability. Due to the physical changes and the emotional changes that a woman endures through menopause, irritability is a common feeling unless the woman is prepared for her transition into menopause.
- Sleep deprivation
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Feeling inadequate
- Money worries
- History of depression
- Poor nutritional diet
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Thyroid disease
- Drug withdrawal
- Job Situation
- Excess alcohol
- Lack of physical activity
When to See a Doctor
If your irritability lasts more than a week and is having a serious and negative impact on your family, job productivity and relationships, it is advised to seek attention from your healthcare provider. It is also recommended to see a professional if you feel severe depression and are experiencing migraines.
Managing Panic Disorders
Daily Lifestyle Changes
- Stress Reduction and Relaxation – If stress is the major cause of your irritability, then stress levels need to be controlled. To achieve that, stress reduction techniques can be learned and practiced on a daily basis. Relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to help deal with stress and minimize the effects of irritability on your body during menopause.
- Get a Full Night’s Rest – Another major cause of irritability is lack of sleep. Proper sleep can be maintained by eliminating caffeine products a couple of hours before sleep time, switching off TV before going to sleep, elimination of snoring by sleeping on the sides, etc. Sleeping for the recommended eight hours can help alleviate irritability experienced during menopause.
- Get Regular Exercise – Physical activity releases endorphins, which improves one’s mood and reduces cortisol, the hormone related to stress. Exercising 20-30 minutes a day, three to four days a week, can help those suffering from mood swings forget about their emotions and focus on their energy and happiness. Studies show that exercise helps restore broken sleep patterns, which lead to anxiety, anger and irritability.
- Find a Support Group – Many women find it beneficial to talk about their feelings and issues surrounding their menopausal irritability. Simply confiding in a friend, family member, therapist or a support group can be extremely helpful in improving one’s emotional health and reducing irritability.
- Carbohydrates – Numerous studies have shown that carbohydrates can increase one’s serotonin level
- Whole Grains – Increase your dietary intake of bread, oatmeal, cereal, brown rice and whole grain bread
- Eliminate Caffeine and Alcohol – Cut out caffeine, sugar and alcohol to avoid stimulating the crashing effect that can lead to an increase in mood swings
- Eliminate White-Flour – Cut out refined white-flour products which can cause a sudden rise in blood sugar
- Eliminate Yeast-Producing Foods – Eliminate yeast-producing foods, such as vinegar and baked goods, due to an overgrowth of yeast, which can affect one’s feelings of irritability.
- Drink More Carrot Juice – Some studies show that irritability can be caused by the pancreas and carrot juice contains natural insulin and stabilizes one’s pancreas.
- Vitamins - Changing one’s blood sugar levels can contribute greatly to feelings of irritability. The mineral chromium (200 mcg) helps to regulate blood sugar levels and control one’s sugar cravings. Vitamin B complex (50mg) can help treat stress-related mood swings and irritability. Increasing one’s calcium intake (1000mg) and magnesium intake (500mg) can allow for the transmission of nerve impulses, which can decrease edginess and irritability.
- Tai Chi and Qigong – Tai chi and qigong exercises also help women to harmonize emotions by maintaining a better balance between yin and yang aspects of their bodies.
- Alternative Medicine – Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbology) has been a long standing treatment for irritability 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. Acupuncture also increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which reduces irritability occurrences. Acupuncture removes energy blockages, stabilizes hormonal fluctuations and reduces mood fluctuations. The primary energetic imbalance that causes mood swings is liver qi stagnation.
- 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 – The two different herbs for treating symptoms of irritability are phytoestrogen 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, such as Macafem, are recommended. 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 irritability, 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.