Panic Disorders

Panic disorders are a common symptom experienced during menopause. Often characterized by periods of intense fear and anxiety, panic disorders can be quite disruptive and have a negative impact on one’s relationships with friends, family and their productivity at work. The physical changes experienced during menopause can often bring about panic disorders and panic attacks. Twice as common in women than in men, panic disorders afflict over six million Americans every year. Panic disorders present itself through physical distress – not being able to get one’s breath, feeling weak, exhausted and fatigued, and a racing heart. Fortunately, there are many different lifestyle and dietary changes, along with treatment options, to help manage one’s menopausal panic disorders.

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. 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.

Symptoms of Panic Disorders

  • Chest pains
  • Intense fear
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Nervousness
  • Choking
  • Tingling in fingers or toes

  • Numbness
  • Stress
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of overwhelming panic
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Difficulty maintaining normal weight

What are Panic Disorders

A panic disorder is sudden surge of overwhelming fear and panic. Panic disorder was first identified by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. In this manual, there are three distinct kinds of panic attacks listed. The three kinds of known panic disorders are:

  • Spontaneous Panic Attacks
  • Specific Panic Attacks
  • Situationally-predisposed panic attacks

Panic disorders can start without warning and can last for minutes to hours. Unfortunately, panic disorders can occur while driving, in social settings and in the workplace, which can manifest itself as thought there is something mentally wrong with the individual who suffers from these.

Causes of Panic Disorders

Hormonal Causes

When a woman is going through menopause, the female sex hormones, known as estrogen and progesterone, drops drastically and causes mood swing in women along with other symptoms. Estrogen affect the stress-hormone called, cortisol. When estrogen is too low, it causes the levels of cortisol to rise. When this happens it causes the blood pressure and blood sugar levels to rise, and consequently can cause panic disorders. Low progesterone levels can also cause panic disorders.

Other Causes

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Job Loss
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Phobia

  • Chronic illness
  • Medication
  • Excess Sugar
  • Car Accident
  • Empty nesting
  • Genetics
  • Depression

Risk Factors

Studies have shown that women are more susceptible to panic disorders than men. There are people who have been affected by panic disorders once or maybe twice in their entire lives. This happens usually in isolated stressful incidents and once they are resolved, they are symptom-free. However, for others, there are risk factors that should be recognized. Here is list of a few:

  • Gender - Women in general have a higher risk of developing a panic disorder than their counterparts. Menopausal women have been studied, and it is suggested that they are at a higher risk of suffering from panic disorders.
  • Genetics – A family history of mental illness could make a person pre-disposed to suffering from panic disorders. This does not mean that being pre-disposed through genetics would guarantee that a person would become symptomatic.
  • Stress - People who are under an enormous amount of stress on a regular basis are at risk having panic disorders.
  • Trauma - Exposure to a traumatic crisis or event can put individuals at a higher risk for having panic disorders.

Managing Panic Disorders

While the source of one’s panic disorder will differ from woman to woman, the root of most panic attacks come from an underlying emotional or physical problem. Stress is a large factor in panic disorders and can exacerbate into a large-scale panic attack if not managed correctly. The most important step in managing your panic disorders is to know your triggers, be prepared and to do everything you can to prevent them.

Daily Lifestyle Changes

menopause panic disorder

  • 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 a panic attack.
  • 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 after a panic attack, as well as 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 panic disorders forget about their worries and focus on their energy and happiness.
  • Find a Support Group – Many women find it beneficial to talk about their feelings and issues surrounding their menopausal panic disorders. Simply confiding in a friend, family member, therapist or a support group can be extremely helpful in improving one’s emotional health and reducing the amount of panic attacks.

Dietary Changes

  • 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 panic disorders.
  • Eat More Magnesium – Magnesium plays a large role in preventing panic attacks. 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 depression and has a calming effect. Tryptophan can be found in turkey, soy products, oats, bananas and milk.
  • 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 panic attacks is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Combine your Protein and Carbohydrates – By eating the two of these alongside each other, you can help prevent the frequency of your panic attacks. 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 panic disorders. It is advised to decrease the fat in one’s diet by 20% of the
  • 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 panic attacks.

Panic Disorders Treatment

menopause panic disorder

  • Vitamins - B Vitamins are known to have a balancing and calming effect on those who suffer from panic disorders and attacks. Since stress depletes the body of vital nutrients, it is important for one to take B-Vitamins to prevent future panic attacks. When a vitamin B deficiency is present, symptoms include panic disorder, emotional instability, sleeplessness, anxiety and fatigue. Since stress hormones can deplete magnesium in one’s body, it is advised to take magnesium supplements to prevent panic disorders. Calcium supplements are important because never cells become overactive when one’s calcium supply runs low, causing anxiety. Anxiety often causes panic attacks.
  • Alternative Medicine – Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbology) has been a long standing treatment for panic disorders 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.
  • 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 – Herbal remedies containing valerian root, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil and chamomile are often effective in treating panic disorders. 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 panic disorders, 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.