This is an umbrella term used to describe a range of psychological symptoms experienced as a result of the menopause. These include mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks and depression and can be difficult to deal with.
Mood swings are discussed in a separate section.
The main problem with the menopause is that of roller coaster emotions. This is where your emotions seem to go crazy which means that one minute you are in a positive mood but the next minute you are sad or angry.
What do we mean by emotional changes?
A useful way of thinking about these is to compare them to those annoying symptoms you experienced before every menstrual period.
In other words, they are similar to pre-menstrual tension (PMT).
They are a normal part of the menopause but they can be managed, often by making a few lifestyle changes.
The most common types of changes include:
- Anger or aggressiveness
- Poor concentration
- Little or no motivation
- Mood swings
- Feeling tense
You will experience some or even all of these symptoms. The extent of these varies from one woman to the next.
These symptoms are part of the menopause but they can be an indication of other problems such as depression. If you are suffering from any of these then speak to your GP as there may be another reason for these symptoms.
Feeling sad or ‘blue’and irritability are the most common psychological effects of the menopause.
These have a dramatic impact upon many aspects of your life affecting your ability to do your job, your relationship with your partner and others and normal day to day functioning.
Depression is a common factor and under the circumstances, entirely understandable. The menopause is a time when you are facing a transition from a fertile, reproductive state to a non-reproductive state which is difficult for many women to accept.
Plus there is the fact that the menopause is a part of the ageing process and that combined with the fact that you are no longer young and able to do the things you did before is distressing.
There are other factors which can cause depression during the menopause which include financial worries, worries about health, low self-esteem, regret about not being able to have children and the general stigma attached to the menopause.
If you are suffering from depression then see your GP. It may be caused by other factors apart from the menopause but there are treatment options available such as antidepressants.
Causes of emotional changes
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause but fluctuating hormones appear to be the main culprit.
The female hormones oestrogen and progesterone and the androgens affect your psychological state so if these behave erratically then expect your moods to do the same.
Another factor is serotonin. This is a chemical known as a ‘neurotransmitter’which causes you to feel happy and in a positive state of mind.
Normal levels of serotonin mean that your moods are stable; you have low levels of anxiety and feel good about yourself. But if this falls then your mental state changes to one in which you feel on edge, bad tempered and out of sorts.
If serotonin levels rise then so does your mood but if they fall then your mood falls with it.
What further exacerbate the problem are other symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats which result in a broken sleep pattern and extreme tiredness then following day. This builds up over a period of time, causing you to ‘lose it’ over the slightest thing.
These changes can also be caused by major events in your life such as your children leaving home or redundancy. These are stressful events which when coupled with the menopause can play havoc with your emotions.
These hormones will rise and fall during the menopause but do settle down after a period of time.
Treating emotional changes
There are ways of dealing with these changes so that they do not rule your life. Whilst it is difficult to prevent any of them from happening there are measures you can put in place which will help you to cope.
A good way of approaching this is to formulate a plan or strategy in which you devise a series of techniques for dealing with these changes. Recognise the times in the day when you are likely to become stressed or ‘flashpoints’ so that you know what to expect and how to deal with them.
These can include taking up a new hobby, eating healthily and exercising on a regular basis.
Think about relaxation methods such as yoga or meditation: breathing exercises can help especially if you feel you are about to lose your temper!
Limit your consumption of alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants. It is tempting to resort to these as a way of dealing with the symptoms but they can make things worse.
Talk to friends and family. It is all too easy to push people away at this time but many women find it helpful to discuss this with other women especially those who have gone through the same thing.
A support group, menopause network or counselling may help. Counselling is particularly useful if you are suffering from depression as a result of these changes.
Take up a new hobby, a creative outlet or community based activities which will lift your mood and divert your attention away from these changes.
Antidepressants are another option as is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Both of these are effective at dealing with these emotional changes but they do have side effects.
Find out more about these in our menopause treatment section.
Accept that these changes will happen rather than trying to ignore them but as they say ‘forewarned is forearmed’ so ensure that you have a strategy in place to deal with them when they arise.
- Guide to Menopause
- What is the menopause?
- Female hormones and menopause
- Premature menopause
- Menopause signs
- Menopause symptoms
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Urinary changes
- Vaginal changes
- Weight gain
- Lack of interest in sex
- Aches and pains
- Skin changes
- Emotional changes
- Health risks of the menopause
- Heart disease
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Menopause treatment
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Benefits of hormone replacement therapy
- Risks of hormone replacement therapy
- Alternatives to hormone replacement therapy
- Vaginal lubricants
- Menopause self help
- Nutritional supplements
- Complimentary therapies
- Botanical products
- How to survive the menopause
- Menopause myths
- Menopause FAQs