Menopause and Mental Health
Fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause and menopause may lead to changes in mood including depression, anxiety and irritability
Hot flashes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, weight gain; sound familiar? These are just a handful of the physical symptoms that can happen during perimenopause and menopause. There is, however, a host of other emotional and psychological symptoms that are often overlooked. Menopause is a major life event, and navigating this complicated road with little signposting can be frustrating and lonely. So how exactly can menopause affect your mental health, and what can you do about it?
Can menopause cause depression?
According to some sources , instances of depression double during menopause. Depression is not just a feeling of sadness. You may feel tired, sensitive, teary, and even hopeless at times. Depression can affect all areas of life, from appetite to libido and everything in between. If you’re experiencing depression, it’s time to see your doctor.
How to deal with depression during menopause
- Talk to your doctor or healthcare specialist, who can provide you with a treatment plan. This may include talking to a therapist or psychotherapist, online self-help, group support, or medications such as anti-depressants or Hormone Replacement Therapy (also called Hormone Therapy).
- Get into a routine and incorporate things you enjoy. It can be easy to want to curl up and avoid tasks and social activities when feeling depressed. Sticking to a schedule that leaves room for the things you enjoy can help you get out of a rut .
- Don’t skip your workout. Exercising regularly boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It may also have long-term benefits for people with depression . Getting out in nature or trying relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation may also help to improve mood.
Avoid alcohol and other drugs. Long-term drug use could worsen or lead to mental health problems .
Can menopause cause anxiety?
Experiencing anxiety that begins during perimenopause is unfortunately common . As much as 51% of women aged 40-55  experience anxiety-related symptoms. If you often feel restless, on edge, wired, or unable to relax, anxiety may be the culprit. Physical symptoms and hormonal changes are most likely to blame, but remember, anxiety during menopause is not only common but highly treatable.
Tips to ease anxiety and lower stress during menopause:
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar intake, as these can exacerbate anxiety.
- Prioritise gentle movement in your body, including walks in nature and yoga which have been shown to lower stress levels .
- Try meditation practices, such as mindfulness and breathing exercises. These can help you take control of your thoughts and make it easier to manage anxiety and stress .
Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Speaking to a trusted loved one, your healthcare provider or your therapist is vital to navigating significant mood changes during menopause. Your healthcare provider may suggest treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Can menopause cause brain fog?
Forgetting or misplacing things, writing endless to-do lists, or finding it difficult to retain information? Studies show that brain fog and poor concentration during perimenopause and menopause affect between 40-50% of women . During menopause, estrogen levels decline, and this hormone plays a vital role in memory and cognitive function.
Supporting brain health during menopause:
- Eating a balanced diet can support brain health and hormonal balance during menopause. Vitamins D, C and B as well as omega-3s and magnesium, are all said to play a role in supporting cognitive function .
- Exercise your body and your mind. Regular physical exercise is linked to improved brain health and general well-being . Keep your mind active with puzzles, sudokus, or learning a new skill, such as a musical instrument or language.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, as these can exacerbate symptoms of brain fog .
Can menopause cause confidence and self-esteem decline?
The physical and emotional effects of menopause, as well as changes in work and personal life, can all impact self-esteem and confidence. Not only is your body going through some major hormonal changes, but you may experience a knock-on effect in your personal and professional life. 45% of women say menopause has negatively impacted them at work .
Alongside the emotional impact of menopause and general aging, it’s not surprising that we may notice our self-confidence slipping. Finding the proper support is critical to navigating drops in self-esteem during menopause.
Navigating decline in self-confidence during menopause
- Don’t stay silent. Speaking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about your feelings can help you feel less alone. It can also help you put things into perspective and make a plan to improve your mood.
- Speak to your manager or HR team if you are struggling at work. Some workplaces have policies and practices in place to support women going through the menopause. GenM provides excellent resources on navigating menopause in the workplace.
- For some, dips in self-confidence can have more serious mental health implications. If you are struggling to cope, you might benefit from additional support. Counselling and online therapies, as well as medications and HRT are just some of the options to consider if you’re struggling with your mental health. Speak to your doctor to find out what support is available to you.
Can menopause cause Irritability and mood swings?
Around 70% of women report that irritability is their main emotional menopausal symptom . Lower levels of estrogen have links to irritability, fatigue, and stress. Declining estrogen levels are to blame, and you might find it harder to control your moods .
Natural ways to improve mood and lessen irritability
- Try relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and meditation. These can help you step back and gain some perspective before reacting.
- Opt for decaf. Too much caffeine increases cortisone levels – the hormone responsible for stress! Cut down or cut out if you’re finding your moods fluctuating throughout the day .
- Prioritise sleep. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it. This might mean reducing screen time before bed, eliminating distractions, and heading to bed earlier.
- Diet can also help to reduce menopausal mood swings, especially one rich in protein and omega-3 .
Menopause is a unique and sometimes messy transition. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having trouble finding your feet. There are heaps of resources available to support you, particularly when it comes to mental health. Check out our list of online resources and support groups below:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Mental Health America
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- To Write Love on Her Arms
 Medical News Today
 Very Well Mind
 Medical News Today