Mood swings

These are a common symptom of the menopause although they can occur at other times in a woman’s life. Mood swings are common during menstruation or a result of having a ‘bad day’ but there are ways of dealing with these.

A good analogy for this is to think of your moods as a rollercoaster which go up and down due to fluctuating hormone levels.

What are mood swings?

There is a stereotype of the crazy and deranged menopausal woman but this is an extreme example of what happens during the menopause.

Many women experience mood swings during the menopause but they undergo counselling, participate in stress relieving sessions such as meditation or talk to others in a similar situation.

Mood swings are particularly noticeable during the early stages of the menopause but the extent of these varies from one woman to the next.

But not every woman suffers from mood swings.

Many people assume that if you suffer from extreme mood swings as part of ‘premenstrual tension’ (PMT) then you will experience these during the menopause but that is not always the case.

You may be lucky enough not to experience any of these whereas a woman who has remained even tempered up until now suddenly finds that her moods have become erratic as a result of the menopause.

The important thing to remember is that it is ‘not all in your mind’or a sign that you are going mad. It is down to changes in your hormone levels which are discussed below.

Mood swings are best described as examples of unpredictable behaviour, for example a tendency to become angry or to burst into tears without prior warning.

Causes of mood swings

The menopause is a time when your hormones are behaving in a wildly erratic manner. The two principal hormones, oestrogen and progesterone are out of kilter with each other and tend to rise and fall at intervals.

Oestrogen is responsible for a range of functions within the body which includes the impact of chemicals –known as neurotransmitters –on nerve structures within the brain.

These chemicals affect mood and behaviour.

Plus there is also the fact that certain women are more susceptible to mood swings than others. They may be more sensitive as a whole or just more aware of hormonal changes than others.

How do you know if you are particularly sensitive to mood swings during menopause?

If you have suffered from mood swings and other PMS symptoms in the past; had a tendency to mood swings during pregnancy; and suffered from ‘baby blues’ after childbirth then these may suggest that you are vulnerable to mood swings.

Mood swings often occur in women who have suddenly started the menopause as a result of surgery, e.g. hysterectomy or following a course of chemotherapy.

This causes a sudden change from normal levels of oestrogen to low levels which have a dramatic affect on the neurotransmitters within the brain. The outcome of this is fluctuating moods and extremes of behaviour.

Treating mood swings

The more information you have the better as this puts you in a strong position as regards understanding and dealing with mood swings.

The more knowledge you have about these the better informed you are about what to expect.

This enables you to make a few changes to your lifestyle which will reduce these fluctuating moods. These include:

  • Reducing your consumption of sugary foods
  • Reducing your caffeine consumption
  • Following a healthy diet, eating little and often
  • Exercise
  • Relaxation methods, e.g. yoga
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

HRT is a popular choice of treatment to relieve the symptoms of the menopause but it is not without its risks.

Speak to your GP about HRT as he/she will be able to discuss the benefits and the risks with you so that you can make an informed decision about whether it is right for you.

Some women find that counselling helps or menopause support groups.

Find out more about this and other forms of treatment in our menopause treatment section.

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