If you’ve been tired or experiencing brain fog recently, you may be wondering, “Can menopause cause mental health problems?” Of course, we expect both peri-menopause and menopause to bring changes to our bodies, but we’re not always ready for the effect they can both have on our minds. So can the menopause cause mental health problems?
When we reach peri-menopause and then menopause, changes in our hormones can cause various mood changes. These can include symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Many brain functions use oestrogen, so falling levels during peri-menopause can affect psychological well-being. In addition, some studies show that a history of severe pre-menstrual syndrome or postnatal depression can make some women more inclined to experience menopausal mood changes.
Studies show that depression doubles during peri-menopause and menopause. Women who’ve already experienced depression or anxiety earlier in life may notice a return of their symptoms. The changes in hormones can trigger emotions, and our mood can be affected during the menopausal transition.
These mood changes aren’t completely hormone-based; however, hormones do play a significant role. Mood changes during peri-menopause and menopause are usually mild, and hormone changes are believed to cause these milder depressive symptoms. An increase in depression during peri-menopause has been linked to fluctuations in both progesterone and estradiol (which is a form of oestrogen.) However, changing female hormones aren’t necessarily related to major depression.
Most women that experience significant mood changes during peri-menopause have experienced them before. However, it’s generally very unusual for someone who’s never previously experienced depression or anxiety to suddenly feel that way at menopause. Additionally, when peri-menopause begins, it’s often a time in a woman’s life when she may have to deal with many other issues at once. For example, she may need to care for children or ageing parents, work full or part-time, or have other responsibilities. Dealing with all of these things together can cause depression, anxiety or stress.
Menopause and Anxiety
While studies have linked peri-menopause to mild depression, studies are less clear about it causing anxiety. The connection between menopause and anxiety isn’t so well understood. However, there’s evidence that women are more likely to experience panic attacks at this time. (A panic attack involves sudden, extreme anxiety, along with sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, or harmless heart palpitations.)
Note that during a panic attack, your heart may race, and you may feel hot and sweaty, which is also how you can feel during a hot flash. A feeling of panic or even a sense of doom can precede the hot flash. However, to distinguish between a hot flash and a panic attack, note that hot flashes don’t make you short of breath, and panic attacks can.
Menopause, Health and Mood Changes
Your physical health and fitness at the time of menopause can also affect your mood. For example, an overactive thyroid gland can trigger stress, and this condition can become more common with age. In addition, lack of sleep can cause depression, and insomnia becomes more common with menopause as women experience night sweats and other sleep disturbances.
Menopause and Brain Energy
Women’s brains have been monitored alongside the brains of men of similar ages using PET scans. According to Dr Lisa Mosconi, the scans showed that women’s brains have 30% less energy during menopause because oestrogen contributes to women’s brain energy, and as oestrogen drops, so does brain energy. The interesting news is that the same study showed that women still outperform men cognitively despite this drop in brain energy! So we may be tired, but we’ remain just as sharp!
What Can You Do If You’ve Started To Wonder “Can Menopause Cause Mental Health Problems?”
- Be mindful that will mood changes can occur alongside other menopausal changes.
- Become aware of mood changes in your day-to-day life and whether you’re affected by stress or anxiety. Also, note if your sleep becomes affected. Seek help with all of these if necessary.
- Exercise daily, control stress and get adequate sleep. Prioritise sleep. It will make a big difference to your tired brain.
- Eat healthily and cut back on caffeine and sugary foods to reduce energy highs and lows. Eat oily, omega-3-rich fish. Also, eat soya beans, lentils and pulses, berries and dried apricots as they contain phytoestrogens, which may help improve your mood and boost your brain energy.
- Don’t try to cope by yourself. Instead, talk to friends, family or a professional if needed.
- Know that mood changes caused by menopause don’t last indefinitely, and they begin to ease with time. So be assured that there is light at the end of the tunnel!
If you’ve been struggling during peri-menopause or menopause, life’s been getting the better of you, and you sometimes think, “There’s got to be more to life than this!” then join me on my presentation, which will help you to take back control of your life. You’ll discover how you can relax and take better care of your mental health during menopause, begin to say “no” to others, and also discover if you’re on your true path in life.