Menopause, mood and nutrition
The term menopause refers to the cessation of menstruation and most often occurs around 45-55 years of age. The time before menopause is referred to as 'perimenopausal' and the time after as ''postmenopausal'.
The perimenopause transition is a natural and essential life event. Still, it doesn’t make it easy to deal with, and in some instances, the physiological and psychological changes can be debilitating.
The recognisable symptoms associated with menopause include hot flushes, sleep disturbances and vulvovaginal dryness, but anxiety and mood swings are also common. In fact, the hormonal changes, life stresses and sleep disturbances associated with perimenopause can heighten the risk of anxiety and depression for some women who have a history of anxiety and depression. Others may also notice a resurgence in symptoms.
Few studies have systematically investigated the relationship between menopause and anxiety, although persistent anxiety has been shown to increase during the menopausal transition independently of depressive symptoms.
One study found that 51% of menopausal women aged 40-55 reported tension, nervousness or irritability in two weeks, with 25% reporting frequent irritability or nervousness. The same study also reported that perimenopausal women have a greater risk for each symptom of anxiety when compared to premenopausal women.
Findings in other studies also support the idea that the menopausal transition is a “window of vulnerability” for many women.
What can contribute to feelings of anxiety
According to the NAMs North American Menopause Society, hormone fluctuations, lifestyle stresses, sleep troubled by night sweats, and concerns about body image, infertility, and ageing can contribute to emotional distress that may lead to menopause mood swings, anxiety or, in more severe cases, depression. Mood changes such as anxiety have been observed in up to 23% of perimenopausal women.