Mood Swings

Symptoms of Mood Swings

  • Frequent mood changes
  • Brief bouts of tears
  • Unexplainable emotions
  • Temporary feelings of sadness
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increased irritability
  • Less patience
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of melancholy
  • Nervousness
Mood swings are ranked as one of the most common symptoms of menopause, affecting not only the menopausal woman, but the family, friends and co-workers surrounding her. If not managed properly, mood swings can make life miserable for everyone. Fortunately, as frustrating as mood swings during menopause can be, they typically don’t indicate a psychological disorder and are easily treatable.

What are Mood Swings?

A mood swing is an extreme or rapid change in mood, characterized by extreme shifts in one’s emotional state. Often used to describe an emotional reaction that is out of proportion with what could be called a normal reaction to an event or circumstance, mood swings can be very tolling for not only those experiencing them, but also the family and friends surrounding them. Every woman has her own unique and individual way of managing her emotions, so all women experiencing menopausal mood swings differently.

Causes of Mood Swings

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Hormonal A woman’s hormones, which regulate mood and emotions, are thrown off balance during menopause. These wildly fluctuating hormones deeply affect your mental state, as well as the serotonin levels in your brain, which is the chemical that manipulates mood. Also known as the mood regulating transmitter, serotonin plays a large role in one’s mood swings.

When our body begins to limit estrogen production, it creates an imbalance because of the direct effect estrogen has on serotonin. Without a steady balance of estrogen, serotonin receptor levels are decreased, serotonin receptors are highly sensitive and serotonin production declines. The moment one’s serotonin level drops, their moods will plummet. If one’s serotonin rises, the moods will follow.

Other Causes
Often times, menopausal mood swings are caused by the result of other chronic symptoms wrought by menopause – hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, loss of libido, etc. Each symptom brings its own individual physical and mental changes and many women find this transition exhausting, depressing and irritating. If a woman can’t deal with the stress well, mood swings can arise.

Risk Factors

With a decline in estrogen production, women are much more sensitive to stress-causing stimuli during menopause, increasing the likelihood of mood swings. Women who have undergone a surgical menopause, such as a hysterectomy or oophorectomy, are at a much greater risk for mood swings, given the sudden decline in estrogen levels after surgery. Also, women who experienced PMS (Pre-menstrual Syndrome) throughout puberty and in their younger years may have more intense mood swings than those who did not. Because every woman’s biological make-up is different, some are more prone to mood swings than others, as well as those women who are in high-stress environments. In addition to hormone fluctuations, age-related emotional stresses, body image, sexuality and health related factors can also put menopausal women at a greater risk for mood swings. Additionally, those women with a history of clinical depression are more susceptible to recurrent clinical depression.

Psychological Factors

  • Past trauma
  • Relationship issues
  • Coping with transition
  • Past mental illness

Behavioral Factors

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Poor diet
  • Inadequate exercise
  • Stimulant use

Health Factors

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Poor diet
  • Inadequate exercise
  • Stimulant use

Extreme Mood Swings

Bipolar Disorder
Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and alternating episodes of depression or abnormally extended low moods. It is characterized by the presence of one or episodes of mania. It is crucial to be able to distinguish the difference between the symptoms of bipolar disorder with the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time in their lives. If left untreated, those suffering from bipolar disorder can damage relationships with family and friends, lose jobs and can result in suicide. The good news is that bipolar disorder can be treated and those diagnosed with this illness can lead full and happy lives.

Common Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

  • Periods of overwhelming sadness lasting for longer than two weeks
  • Withdrawal from family, friends and co-workers
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Periods of intense mania, restlessness and hyperactivity

Depression
Also known as major depressive disorder, depression is caused by abnormalities in the levels of neurochemicals in the brain. Over 25% of women and 15% of women have experienced depression at some point of their lives. Depression should not be dismissed as a normal consequence of menopause and often times, many women suffer unnecessarily because they accept these feelings as a natural part of aging.

Common Symptoms of Depression

  • Two or more weeks of a depressed mood
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities
  • Excessive feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide

Anxiety
Defined as a painful uneasiness of the mind caused by fear and apprehension of danger or misfortune, causing 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. It is important to seek medical attention if one experiences these symptoms for a period of six months or more.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Feelings of timidity
  • Chronic tenseness
  • Tachycardia
  • Muscle tension
  • Increased Respiration

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Feelings of apprehension and indecisiveness
  • Hypertension

Managing Your Mood Swings

Common Triggers

  • Family history of depression
  • Having undergone a hysterectomy/oophorectomy
  • Work and/or family related stress
  • Overconsumption of caffeine, sugar, alcohol
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Poor Diet

Dietary Change

perimenopause-mood-swings
  • Numerous studies have shown that carbohydrates can increase one’s serotonin level
  • Increase your dietary intake of bread, oatmeal, cereal, brown rice and whole grain bread
  • Cut out caffeine, sugar and alcohol to avoid stimulating the crashing effect that can lead to an increase in mood swings
  • Cut out refined white-flour products which can cause a sudden rise in blood sugar
  • Eliminate yeast-producing foods, such as vinegar and baked goods, due to an overgrowth of yeast
  • Drink more carrot juice – Some studies show that mood swings can be caused by the pancreas and carrot juice contains natural insulin and stabilizes one’s pancreas.

Daily Lifestyle Changes

  • Get a Full Night’s Rest – It is vital to get eight to nine hours of sleep to help reduce stress and depression and alleviate one’s mood swings.
  • 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 and minimize the effects of stress on your body 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 mood swings. Simply confiding in a friend can be extremely helpful in improving one’s emotional health.

Treatment

menopause-mood-swings-relief

  • Vitamins – Changing one’s blood sugar levels can contribute greatly to emotional highs and lows. 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. 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 mood swings around the world. 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 mood swing 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 mood swings 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 neurotrasnmitters 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. Macafem is grown in the Andes of Peru and has achieved great success in naturally increasing one’s hormone levels.

Please note: A woman may use a variety of approaches and treatments to alleviate her menopausal mood swings. But, if for some reason your mood swings are not improving, it is advised to seek professional attention for untreated mood disorders. There is no reason to suffer from this potentially debilitating disorder. If mood swings are dominating your life, please seek help. Speaking with a doctor is the most important part in the diagnosis and treatment of mood swings.