For some people, menopause can come along with an increase in anxiety. But self-help techniques and professional support can help you cope with menopause-related anxiety.

Menopause describes the time of life when the menstrual cycle changes and you haven’t had a period in at least 12 months. Every person who menstruates goes through menopause at some point.

There are symptoms that are commonly known as signs of menopause, such as hot flashes. But many people may not know that menopause can also bring anxiety.

There are many factors that can contribute to anxiety at this time in your life. Lifestyle changes and professional mental health support can help.

Language matters

Sex and gender exists on a spectrum. We use “women” in this article to reflect the terms assigned at birth. But gender is solely about how you identify yourself, independent of your physical body.

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Menopause doesn’t necessarily cause anxiety directly, but these two conditions are highly linked.

Many people going through menopause experience higher levels of anxiety. 2021 research has found that women going through menopause are more likely to feel anxious, even when controlling for other factors like stressful life events.

Partly, this has to do with the hormonal changes that your body goes through during menopause. During this time, your body is experiencing a decrease in certain hormones, like estrogen and progesterone.

These hormonal changes can lead to mood swings and an increase in anxiety and irritability. This is similar to the mood changes that we see in teens during puberty, or during pregnancy.

But hormonal changes aren’t the only factor that can contribute to increased anxiety during menopause. Studies have also found that menopause can cause sleep disturbances. Being sleep-deprived has been linked to increased anxiety as well as a worsening of general mental health.

For some people, menopause coincides with other stressful life events. For example, your children may be leaving home, your parents may need more caretaking support, or there may be a relationship change, such as divorce or separation. This can add to anxiety levels during menopause.

Going through menopause may also force you to confront your mortality. You may face anxiety about what going through menopause means for the rest of your life.

Because of these factors and more, you might find yourself feeling more anxious as you move through menopause.

Symptoms of menopause

On top of increased anxiety, people experience a range of other symptoms during menopause. These include:

  • changes in your menstrual cycle (shorter or longer periods, or no longer having a period)
  • hot flashes
  • incontinence and bladder infections
  • difficulty with sleep
  • vaginal dryness
  • changes in libido
  • physical changes and possible weight gain

Most people who menstruate begin going through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. But some people go through it earlier or later.

There are many ways to calm menopause-related anxiety on your own.

1. Manage stress

Being under high chronic stress can make anxiety worse. If you’re feeling stressed at work, home, or in any other area of your life, address this as soon as possible.

There are stress management techniques that you can use to get stress levels under control.

2. Use your breathing

You can use breathing strategies to physically calm your nervous system and quickly decrease anxiety.

One popular breathing method is the 4-7-8 technique:

  • Breathe in deeply for 4 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Release all of the air through your nose or mouth for 8 seconds.
  • Repeat until you feel calmer.

If at any point during your breathing exercise you become uncomfortable, you have the choice to stop your practice.

3. Exercise

2020 research says that physical activity is one of the best ways to combat anxiety. Find ways to move your body in ways that feel good to you.

If you don’t like the idea of going to a gym, you can go for walks with friends, join a dance class, or take up gardening. Exercise may also help you feel reconnected to and more confident about your changing body during menopause.

4. Try to get some sleep

Menopause is also linked to poor sleep quality and insomnia, which can make anxiety worse. Practice good sleep hygiene, and try your best to prioritize getting the 7 to 9 hours of sleep that’s recommended for adults.

5. Connect to others who understand

Lastly, talk with people who have been through menopause and may understand what you’re experiencing. This can help you feel less alone. Aging is hard for everyone, especially while going through the hormonal changes of menopause.

Increased anxiety is a normal part of menopause for many people. But it’s important to consider that having severe anxiety or panic attacks is not an expected part of menopause, and these aren’t things that anyone should simply have to live with.

If your anxiety is causing you a significant amount of emotional distress, or if it’s getting in the way of your functioning in any area of your life (including your work, home, and social life), then it may be time to seek professional support.

There are many effective treatments out there for menopausal anxiety, including:

  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT) have been found to be very effective for both anxiety and menopause.
  • Psychiatric medication: Medications like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication can help ease mental health symptoms that you’re facing during menopause. Medications like these are more effective when paired with psychotherapy.
  • Hormonal medications: Certain hormone treatments (like estrogen) may be able to help with mood changes and other symptoms in perimenopausal people.

If you’re going through menopause and you’ve noticed an uptick in your anxiety levels, you’re not alone.

An increase in anxiety can be normal during this time, and many people who menstruate experience this. If lifestyle changes aren’t helping, you may benefit from seeking professional support. Consider visiting Psych Central’s resource page to find a mental health professional who can support your needs.