Understanding Mood Changes in Women
The stereotype is true: menopause messes with your moods. It’s that simple.
Mood issues comprise a particularly difficult cluster of symptoms in menopausal women because they impact those around you—particularly your loved ones. When your moods are out of kilter, everyone comes along for the ride.
Common Mood Changes in Women
Changes in mood can mean different things for different women. Some women will have moods that fluctuate unpredictably. Some will experience depression. Others will have anxiety, or irritability. And then there are myriad combinations of these.
Mood swings are simply abrupt changes in mood. You might be laughing one minute, and crying the next. A moment ago you were perfectly calm, and then out of nowhere you lash out at your significant other.
When you’re suffering from mood swings, your response to situations is often disproportionate to what’s actually going on. You sob over a sad commercial. You yell because someone left the cap off the toothpaste.
Depression is different from mood swings. Rather than swinging up and down within a short timeframe, depression means being down for an extended period. When women are depressed, they feel sad, empty, unmotivated, and like they’ve lost interest in the things they used to enjoy. Decreased energy and low sex drive are also common. When someone feels this way, it’s hard to imagine feeling good again.
Some women are anxiety prone prior to reaching menopause, and find that hormone imbalance amplifies what they’ve dealt with previously. But even women who were never anxiety-prone earlier in life can struggle with anxiety during menopause. You may feel edgy, jumpy, nervous, or overwhelmed. If these feelings sound familiar, and they’re causing you significant discomfort, anxiety may be to blame.
As much as we may dislike the stereotype that characterizes menopausal women as being cranky and difficult to be around, there is some truth in it. Hormone imbalance makes many women impatient and irritable. And sometimes their loved ones want to run for the hills.
Causes of Mood Changes
Serotonin is a mood-regulating neurotransmitter, and is an especially big player when it comes to maintaining stable moods. It also regulates your sleep cycle and your energy level. In summary, it’s critically important to your sense of wellbeing.
You may be wondering what serotonin has to do with menopause. That’s a valid question, since serotonin isn’t one of the hormones we typically hear about in relation to menopause. Estrogen, however, is a hormone familiarly associated with menopause. And our bodies need estrogen to make serotonin. So when estrogen levels drop during menopause, serotonin levels drop, too.
There are hormones other than serotonin and estrogen that also have a pronounced effect on mood:
- Progesterone acts as a natural anti-depressant, and has an anti-anxiety effect, as well.
- Testosterone lifts mood when present at healthy levels.
- Low thyroid is known to actually cause depression, anxiety, and irritability.
The emotional distress that comes with other symptoms of menopause and perimenopause can also be enough to cause mood issues. Hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, and low sex drive can make a woman miserable and can drive her to feeling depressed, anxious, and irritable.
Stress and Cortisol
Stress can result in excess cortisol production. In turn, excess cortisol can cause adrenal fatigue, and adrenal fatigue can cause depression and anxiety.
Treatment For Mood Changes in Women
Trying to live with unstable moods during menopause is miserable, especially if your loved ones are affected. Neither you, nor those close to you, should have to suffer through this kind of turmoil. Let’s find some solutions together.