Menopause and Mental Health: Understanding the Connection

Last updated 05.16.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 8 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


I remember the time when my energetic and multitasker mother suddenly faced a decline in her mental health during menopause. Out of nowhere, her mood swings became worse, she suffered episodes of anxiety and depression, and her brain felt like it was running on low battery.

Sounds familiar?

Well, most women deal with these during their perimenopause and menopause stages. Studies have shown that women are two to four times more likely to experience major depression during menopause than at other times in their lives (1).

Besides depression, anxiety, irritability, and brain fog can all become unwelcome companions during this transition.

Are you suffering from these mental health problems? Do not panic!

Acquiring knowledge about the root cause and symptoms can be helpful in implementing methods to manage these health concerns.

In this article, I will discuss the connection between menopause and mental health. Keep reading to learn about the symptoms, causes, and strategies to cope with your mental health condition.

How Menopause Affects Mental Health?

In addition to physical symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, menopause can affect our emotional well-being, too. Some women say that it feels like a stranger has taken over their bodies and minds.

Let’s understand how menopause affects our mental health.

During perimenopause, the years leading up to menopause, our reproductive years come to an end. Estrogen and progesterone, hormones that play an important role in a woman’s menstrual cycle, start to decline as the perimenopause phase begins. Besides regulating periods, they’re also key players in our brain chemistry, influencing neurotransmitters like serotonin (feel-good chemical).

When estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate, serotonin production can take a hit, leading to mood swings, anxiety, and depression.

It is found that during menopause, there is a significant increase in the risk of mental health challenges. Along with depression, anxiety rates also climb, affecting many women in their menopausal transition stage (2).

Besides fluctuating hormones, another factor that can contribute to mental health problems is sleep disturbances. It is a common symptom of menopause and can worsen mood swings and anxiety. Sleep disruptions can leave us feeling drained and irritable, making it harder to cope with daily tasks.

However, mental health challenges can be managed by making changes in our lifestyle, diet, and daily habits.

My Experience:

For me, the emotional shifts were like fog rolling in. One minute, I was laughing with friends; the next, I felt a wave of sadness wash over me for no apparent reason. Simple tasks became overwhelming, and my patience wore thin. The worst part? I felt like I was losing control.

Common Mental Health Symptoms During Menopause

Having an idea about the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions helps to recognize them. During menopause, you might suffer from these symptoms, so let me list the common ones to help you out.

  • Mood Swings and Irritability
    Remember that pre-period crankiness you used to get? It gets ten times worse for some women during menopause. One minute, you’re feeling happy, and next, a minor inconvenience can send you into a spiral of frustration. For me, this was one of the most noticeable things.
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks
    The hormonal shifts can also trigger anxiety and even panic attacks. The anxious feelings can transform into a constant sense of worry, racing thoughts, or difficulty relaxing. One of my friends experiences low-grade anxiety throughout the day, often accompanied by physical symptoms like heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
  • Depression and Low Mood
    The hormonal changes and sleep disturbances associated with menopause can significantly impact mood, making some women more susceptible to depression. It causes a lack of motivation and a general feeling of sadness that lingered for days at a time. The activities you used to enjoy might no longer hold the same appeal.
  • Difficulty Concentrating
    Brain fog is a common complaint during menopause. Hormonal changes can affect cognitive function, which leads to difficulty concentrating or remembering things. Many women have shared that simple tasks like following a recipe or remembering a conversation became frustratingly difficult.
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns
    All the symptoms of menopause can collectively affect your sleep during menopause. Women in menopausal transition experience more sleep disturbances, and without quality sleep, the ability to cope with emotional challenges diminishes.

Other Factors Influencing Mental Health in Midlife

Besides menopause, there are also other factors that can potentially impact our mental well-being. Women who have to care for children and elderly parents, as well as handle household chores on a regular basis, might experience an increase in their mental health conditions.

The stress of achieving higher goals quickly in your workplace because of the pressure of ageism or to peak before it’s too late can also hamper your mental health.

After a certain period, when you’re retired, and the house chores are limited, the sudden quiet environment can be isolating and lead to feelings of loss and purposelessness.

Strategies for Managing Mental Health During Menopause

Mental health problems can be managed by taking a proactive approach and focusing on self-care. Incorporating better methods can significantly improve your emotional well-being during this transition. Here are some strategies that can be helpful:

  • Nourish Your Body
    What you eat directly impacts your mood. A balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein provides essential nutrients to support brain function and emotional stability. Incorporating more leafy greens and healthy fats into the diet will make a noticeable difference in your energy levels and overall mood.
  • Move Your Body
    Physical activity is a powerful way to boost your mood. The American Psychological Association highlights that regular exercise has been shown to be as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate depression (3). A brisk walk, yoga session, or other kinds of exercise will help clear your head and reduce anxiety.

    Find an activity you like and start including it in your daily routine!
  • Sleep Hygiene is Key
    Adequate sleep is essential for emotional well-being. Doctors recommend that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

    To get a good night’s rest, create a relaxing bedtime routine, follow a consistent sleep schedule, and try to avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

    To combat menopausal sleep disturbances, women should prioritize sleep hygiene.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation
    Practicing mindfulness and meditation can be effective in treating depression and anxiety. Make time to fully relax your mind and focus on the present moment to reduce stress and improve emotional regulation. Many free meditation apps and online resources are available to get you started.
  • Deep Breathing Exercises
    Deep breathing is a great method to manage stress in the moment. It activates the body’s relaxation response, lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

    Whenever you are stressed or anxious, take slow, deep breaths to calm yourself. Even regular deep breathing exercises are very helpful.
  • Journaling
    Journaling is a widely suggested way to manage stress, anxiety, and depression. No matter your age, if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, start putting your thoughts in a journal.

    Menopausal women dealing with mental health conditions should start journaling, as expressive writing is effective in reducing depression and anxiety.

Menopause and Mental Health: A Conversation Worth Having

It is absolutely crucial to have open and honest conversations about menopause and mental health. The idea of suffering alone needs to change!

By talking about it, we can show others they’re not alone and normalize the emotional aspects of menopause. Sharing our experiences can empower other women to seek help.

Talk to your doctor or therapist, or join a support group. Honest conversations can help us understand the connection between hormones and mood. By educating ourselves and others, we can advocate for better support systems for women going through menopause.

I have seen women relaxing and learning ways to handle symptoms after listening to the personal experiences of other postmenopausal women.

FAQs

Is it normal to feel emotional during menopause?

Absolutely! Hormonal changes during menopause can significantly impact your mood, leading to symptoms like anxiety, depression, and irritability.

Am I crazy for feeling so forgetful and lacking focus?

Nope! Brain fog is a common complaint during menopause. The hormonal fluctuations can affect cognitive function, making it harder to concentrate and remember things.

What can I do to feel better?

From healthy lifestyle changes to stress management techniques and seeking professional support, there are many strategies you can use to manage your mental health during menopause.

Conclusion

I hope this article was helpful and you understood the connection between menopause and mental health.

If you are dealing with mental health challenges, share your problems with your family, seek professional help, and incorporate better lifestyle habits.

Do not stress; it can be managed with proper care and attention.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.