5 ways in which perimenopause affects your mental health
The familiar story is that the hormones estrogen and progesterone found in your body have a great deal of influence on it, especially during perimenopause. It’s probably not as common knowledge that these hormones can also be found in your brain. Fluctuations of these hormones influence that organ just as much as they have influence on your body. Voila: the perfect recipe for a big layered mental struggle cake during and before menopause.
There’s a lot more to a perimenopause than just physical problems. It’s important to pay attention to your mental health during these times as well. We compiled the 5 most common psychological symptoms related to perimenopause with the help of comments by Cycle’s psychologist Cobie Lutters.
First things first, menopause, perimenopause, postmenopause. All these terms signify different phases of this life-changing process and are sometimes used interchangeably. If you need a refresher on the differences between these phases, you can read our article about it here.
Crying, hot flashes, night sweats, stress and irritability. Lots of (peri)menopausal people think they have depression, but that’s generally not the case. Menopause can’t cause depression. However, It can trigger symptoms if you have a genetic predisposition for depression. According to Cobie: “it helps to understand where your sadness comes from and to know that perimenopause could go hand in hand with feelings of depression. Emphasis on “could”, because it’s definitely not a given. But don’t get mad at yourself or frustrated with yourself in these deep valleys of depression. Don’t try to block it out, but give yourself a moment to allow yourself to be in your feelings. Afterwards you can distract yourself with something fun to do, or someone calming to be with. It’s important to keep up with your basic needs and self care such as a good sleep pattern, healthy diet, exercise and time for fun activities.” If your depressive feelings persistently prevent you from performing your daily activities, you shouldn’t shy away from contacting your GP.
Feeling dizzy, chest pains, heart palpitations and shortness of breath? Do you feel like you’re not in control? That could be connected to your perimenopause as well. Again, contact your GP if you feel like it’s running out of hand. Cobie says: “several physical menopausal symptoms align with those of a panic or anxiety attacks. This makes it harder to discern what is caused by (peri)menopause and what is caused by anxiety. Menopause also signifies a new phase in life which could also be scary for some people.”
Care less, not careless
The body produces less oxytocin before and during menopause, which is better known as the hugging hormone. The result? Not wanting to participate in social activities. Bye parties, nights out, coffee dates with colleagues and dinners with friends. Leave me be! Cobie: “listen to what your body is trying to tell you. If you want to be left alone, lay down those boundaries. If you keep crossing your own boundaries (too many social activities, even though you don’t feel up for it), your body will experience higher levels of stress, which only makes you more likely to feel sad, restless or anxious.
While one prefers to be left alone, the other struggles with the so-called empty nest syndrome. You feel alone and miss the social interactions. You’re bored. This worsens with the realization that the phase of fertility is now over. Cobie: “It’s the beginning of a new phase of life, this is often paired with quite intense and confrontational feelings. Acknowledge these emotions and express them towards your surroundings. One or two people in your circle are enough to share your feelings with so you don’t have to bear the feelings of stress by yourself. Oftentimes at least one person in your circle is going through the same as you are. You can support each other if needed. Most people know - if they take a hard, honest look at themselves - whether they’re sufficiently expressing their feelings or whether they’re pushing the emotions, struggles and symptoms in the far back of their minds.”
Trouble in paradise
Because of all these hormonal fluctuations and with all the experiences you’ve acquired in your life, the way you view your life might change. Maybe you long for a different job, home or hobbies. This has an impact on your relationship. Cobie tells us: “Communication is essential in a healthy relationship. Try to put yourself in each other’s shoes, but most importantly: speak up. Your significant other can’t possibly know what needs you have unless you talk it through.”
There are way more symptoms aside from the five symptoms mentioned above. That’s the tricky thing about menopause: it’s so unpredictable. It’s hard to say what symptoms you’ll experience and how long you’ll have to deal with them. Do you feel overwhelmed or confused? Contact your GP or a menopause specialist. You can do this! We’re here for you!