Menopausal anxiety is a symptom that can bring up so many questions. Not only does the depletion of your sex hormones affect your skin and physical body, but anxiety can also affect your mood and brain chemistry.
One menopausal symptom is anxiety, a mood that can be highly affected by the menopausal decline of hormones.
Keep in mind that one woman’s experience with stress and anxiety will not always be the same for another woman. When someone says they’re anxious, it’s usually a biochemical reaction that’s affecting both their brain and their body.
Anxiety stimulates a stress response that feels very much like a fight or flight reaction. When your adrenaline goes up, your heart starts to race, you feel a little panicky like you need to get away from something, your cortisol will start to rise to fuel the fight or flight. There may not always be an actual reason for you to be anxious, but it’s just a feeling. Your heart’s racing, your skin’s crawling, and you may even be short of breath.
Hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, affect the neurotransmitters that control the anxiety response.
The adrenaline produced by your adrenal glands, which affect your body’s response, stimulates something called norepinephrine. This is a stimulating neurotransmitter in the brain. When norepinephrine is elevated and stays high, you will experience mental anxiety. This is when your brain is racing, and you can’t focus. You ruminate on thoughts, getting more and more anxious.
We know that when estrogen levels start to fall in menopause, the effect of the stimulating neurotransmitters, like norepinephrine, can be quite prolonged. Because of this, your anxiety tends to be worse. Anxiety may lead to irritability, depression, or even rage.
The low levels of progesterone in menopause can also contribute to anxiety. And that’s because progesterone helps your body make a calming neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA is induced by your parasympathetic nervous system, meaning the part of your nervous system that calms you down. Unfortunately, you cannot produce enough GABA if you don’t have enough progesterone.
Anxiety starts to become more noticeable in perimenopause, way before you’re actually menopausal.
This is because you’re making so much less progesterone due to not ovulating regularly. This results in a decrease of GABA, so little things start to make you anxious, and you get stressed out more easily. A lot of women will experience this as an increase in PMS, or more anxiety during the week before their period. But it doesn’t seem to stop once the period starts. In fact, the anxious feeling can continue while you’re menstruating, and you spend more and more of the month in an anxious state. You’re not handling stress well and plagued with an underlying feeling of angst.
So, what can you do about menopause-induced anxiety?
Using hormones like bioidentical progesterone can increase your GABA and calm your brain and your body down. A low dose of progesterone in the morning can help to quell that menopausal anxiety, as can low doses of estrogen. Estrogen can also help to increase the amount of serotonin that your brain makes, which can also quell the noradrenaline effect in the brain.
When my patients who experience perimenopausal and menopausal anxiety start to balance their hypothalamus, they feel fewer extremes in their moods. They handle stress much better because it helps the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis calm down. Genesis Gold helps their hypothalamus not be so sensitive by their low levels of sex steroids. It has enough nutrients to continue to make the neurotransmitters in order to keep the brain calm.
Getting to this point does take time. Your hypothalamus takes about three months to completely heal, so patience is needed. However, you will feel a reduction in anxiety within the first few weeks. Be sure that you’re getting enough sleep because this is also a really important factor in quelling your anxiety. The more sleep-deprived you are, the more your brain is running on norepinephrine, making you feel more anxious.
Here are a few tips for getting adequate rest:
- Sleep in the dark.
- Turn off all your digital devices after dusk
- Make sure your room is at the proper temperature, between 60 and 67 degrees.
If you need support during menopause, please consider joining our Hormone Support Group, which you can get access through our Hormone Reboot Training. Don’t go through menopause alone– join a community of women who are here to support and encourage you during this challenging time.
Research Reference: Relevance of Stress and Female Sex Hormones for Emotion and Cognition, The human hypothalamus in mood disorders: The HPA axis in the center, Menopause and the Human Hypothalamus: Evidence for the Role of Kisspeptin/Neurokinin B Neurons in the Regulation of Estrogen Negative Feedback.
*Statements not reviewed by the FDA.