How can menopause affect your mental health?

Some women experience mental health problems during the menopause. Here's how the two are linked and what you can do about it.

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The menopause is a biological stage that women go through when their periods stop and they are no longer able to get pregnant naturally. If you haven’t had a period for 12 months, you are said to be in menopause. This usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can occur earlier or later in some women.

Many women going through menopause are still working and living active and independent lives. That’s why it’s so important to talk about the impact it can have on us, not just physically, but also personally, professionally and mentally.

Throughout this blog, we use the term ‘woman’. However, we want to be clear that this blog is inclusive of everyone who experiences menopausal symptoms as a result of hormonal changes.

Can menopause affect your mental health?

Some of the most common symptoms of the menopause are physical. While many experience things like hot flushes, insomnia, fatigue, night sweats, headaches and weight gain, the menopause can also affect your mental health.

It can cause symptoms of mental health conditions, even if you’ve never experienced them before. If you’re already experiencing mental health issues, it may make them worse. Psychological symptoms of menopause may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger and irritability
  • Being more tearful than usual
  • Reduced confidence and self-esteem
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of motivation

Perimenopausal mental health

Perimenopause is defined as the time leading up to the menopause. This is when you may start noticing changes.

As well as the physical symptoms of menopause, you might find that you go through periods of depression or heightened anxiety, even if you have never struggled with episodes like this before. Or you might find that any existing anxiety you have is exacerbated all of a sudden, or your moods fluctuate more than usual.

Often, women in perimenopause don’t realise that their mental health symptoms are a sign of the menopause approaching. In these cases, it’s usually only when they start to experience some of the physical symptoms, such as their periods becoming lighter and less frequent, that they make the connection.

Menopause and mental health conditions

While menopause itself isn’t a mental health condition, the hormonal changes that you go through during this time can cause or exacerbate symptoms of mental health problems.

Menopause and anxiety

If you have a history of anxiety, your symptoms may become worse during the menopause. You may be more anxious than usual and the coping tools you have in place might not work as well as they have done previously. Even if you have no history of this mental health condition, the hormonal changes you go through during the menopause can cause symptoms of anxiety.

Find out more about anxiety in women.

Menopause and depression

Perimenopause and menopause can also result in depression symptoms. This is the case both for women who have struggled with depression previously, and those who have no history of depression. Changes in hormone levels can give you a depressed mood and make you more tearful and emotional than usual.

Find out more about depression in women.

Menopause and personality disorders

Personality disorders are typically associated with mood swings and extreme emotions. The changing hormones during menopause can trigger these symptoms or make them worse if you already struggle with a personality disorder.

How can I improve my mental health during menopause?

Menopause is a natural stage in life but it’s not always an easy transition. Sometimes you may need some extra help to improve your mental health during menopause.

Ask for help

Menopause can be a deeply personal topic and many people may feel embarrassed talking about their symptoms and how they’re feeling.

If you’re struggling with menopausal symptoms and it’s affecting your mental health, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help and support from partners, family, friends and colleagues. Let them know how you’re feeling, how it’s affecting you on a daily basis, and things they can do to help. Opening up a conversation and ensuring the right support is in place can make a real difference.

Remember, menopause is a subject for everyone. About half of the population will be affected by menopause first hand, and others can play a vital role in supporting someone going through menopause.

Look after yourself physically

The link between mental health and self-care can’t be underestimated. Looking after yourself physically throughout the menopause can help you to feel better mentally during this time. Make sure you eat well and drink plenty of water, try to get enough sleep at night, exercise, avoid recreational drugs and reduce your alcohol intake.

Try some relaxation techniques

If you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety, panic and stress, it can be useful to learn some anxiety relaxation techniques to help you whenever you’re struggling. These can help you to calm down and manage your mental health symptoms more effectively.

Speak to your GP

If you’re struggling with your mental health during menopause, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP. They’ll be able to take steps to make your physical symptoms easier to manage, if these are having an impact on your mental health. They can also assess your psychological symptoms and medical history, and refer you for further mental health treatment if needed.

Page clinically reviewed by Dr Donna Grant (BSc, MBBS, MRCPsych) Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford.

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