How the menopause can affect mental health

It’s common to experience changes in your mood and how you generally feel when going through menopause. Many women report feelings of anxiety, irritability, “brain fog” and low self-esteem, as well as a sense that this is the end of an era. Many of us feel invisible at this time of our lives, and struggle to know our new place in society.
 
These feelings are largely caused by the hormonal changes you go through - the drop in oestrogen can play havoc with your emotions and make you feel all sorts of horrible things. 
 
The physical effects of menopause, such as hot flushes, headaches and joint stiffness can also have an impact, understandably causing you to feel frustrated and down. 
 
If you’re experiencing any of these feelings, then rest assured that you’re not alone. Keep reading to learn more about how menopause can impact your mental health, and the steps you can take to get through it.

Common mental health issues associated with the menopause

Feeling low during menopause 
Hormonal changes during the menopause can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and low mood. This is because oestrogen, which controls your menstrual cycle, also influences serotonin – a chemical that promotes feelings of wellbeing and happiness. 
 
If you have a history of depression, you may recognise some familiar emotions start to creep back in, which can feel scary, but remember that these feelings are very common during menopause, they can be treated, and they will pass.
 
Feelings of anxiety during menopause 
Certain symptoms of menopause can induce or be associated with feelings of anxiety. Hot flushes can feel a lot like a panic attack, as they can both cause your heart to race and make you feel hot and sweaty. 
 
During the menopause you may also experience trouble sleeping, and tiredness can trigger feelings of anxiety too. 
 
Mood swings during menopause
Mood swings are a common symptom of menopause. Falling oestrogen levels can trigger changes in your moods and make you feel less in control that you might usually feel.
 
This can understandably affect how you feel about yourself, and it can also put a strain on relationships, but being open and honest with yourself and those you love about what you’re experiencing can help you to get through this time in your life and help your loved ones to understand what you’re going through.
 
Physical factors of menopause that can influence mood 
A lot of the physical symptoms of menopause are well known, like weight gain, headaches and joint pain. Any of these symptoms can make you feel down at the best of times, so it’s not surprising that they have an impact on your mood. On top of this there is always that chance of incontinence occurring during this time which can come with its own problems that will impact the way you may feel about yourself, but hopefully that’s something we can help you with.

Staying confident during the menopause

All of the feelings we’ve mentioned above can impact your confidence and self-esteem, but there are certain things you can do to manage these feelings and to help you stay confident during the menopause:
  • You’re already on the right track for this one: read up on menopause so that you have an understanding of what’s going on with your body and what you can do to prevent and help with the symptoms of menopause to enable you to get the knowledge to understand how to prevent and decrease the symptoms.
  • Monitor your mood and identify any patterns to the ways you might feel. Are certain situations triggering you to feel sad or anxious? If so, avoid these if you can.
  • Prioritise sleep: You might find it harder to sleep during the menopause, so make positive lifestyle choices to improve your sleep. Avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks or energy drinks six hours before going to bed as this can contribute to urinary frequency and nocturia. Quit smoking and try to minimise stress.
  • Minimise stress through choices like regular exercise, a healthy diet and keeping your blood sugar levels stable. Meditation can also help. 
  • Eat a nutritious diet: Eating a balanced diet can give you more energy, reduce stress levels and help you to sleep better. Eating well can also help to ensure you have good bowel health, which can improve serotonin production. Irregular and heavy menstruation is a common part of peri-menopause and can lead to a risk of iron deficiency, which can lead to increased feelings of tiredness, so eat food high in iron or take iron supplements to counteract this.
  • Talk to others, whether that’s friends, family or other women going through menopause too. Remember that you are not alone in this. Consider joining a Facebook group or forum for extra support.
  • The frequency and intensity of symptoms are different for each person. Just because you have had friends who have had a terrible time during the menopause doesn’t mean that you will too.
  • Remember that it’s normal to feel the way you do, and this is something that every woman will go through at some point in her life. Remember that there’s lots you can do to take control of the situation and prevent and minimise the symptoms.
  • Don’t hide from it, embrace it. Share you experiences with others. You’ll be surprised to know how many women, young and old, will benefit from your experience and will want to hear what you have to say. 
  • If you experience incontinence during menopause, having discreet and effective protection with fast absorption that are delicate enough for the most sensitive of skin can help you to feel more confident.

Getting help and support during menopause

If feelings of anxiety, low mood or mood swings are affecting your daily life or your relationships, and you’re really struggling, then speak to your GP. Help is available, and you don’t have to do this alone. Your GP might offer you hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medication, other medicines, or counselling to help you as you go through menopause.

Further reading