Women experiencing mood swing symptoms during Menopause

Does Menopause Cause Mood Swings?

Aging gracefully is easier said than done. Just when you were getting used to gray hairs, crinkly eyes and laugh lines, you notice your monthly visitor changes, too. You may notice your periods getting shorter and lighter, or longer and heavier. And you may also notice that your cycle isn't as regular as it used to be. In other words, your periods may become less frequent or more frequent…until they vanish entirely! And dang, why do you feel so grumpy all the time?!

Don't worry; you're not going crazy. These changes usher in a new phase of your life: welcome to perimenopause. For most women, symptoms start in their 30s and 40s when hormone levels, specifically estrogen and progesterone, drop as they enter the end of child-bearing years.

Menopause is the sequel to perimenopause, and it's a normal part of being a woman. It's defined as the absence of a period for 12 consecutive months. In the United States, it's common for women to enter menopause, on average, around the age of 51. This is when estrogen levels produced by the ovaries decrease, resulting in mood swings and other common symptoms.

While the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause vary greatly, it's common for women to experience:

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing and lack of motivation
  • Irritability
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Anxiety and depressive symptoms
  • And other menopausal discomforts

But while these changes are inevitable, it doesn't mean mood swings and irritability have to control your life. You can empower yourself and improve your mental health by embracing menopause as a journey of new beginnings and helping your body find balance again.

What are menopause mood swings?

It's common for women to experience mood swings during their menopausal transition, but many women go through this without developing mood disorders. So, you may feel that you have perimenopausal depression that never seems to go away. But don't fret; it's not "you;" it's the biochemical and physical changes your body is undergoing, which in turn impact your mental health.

Menopausal mood swings may feel similar to pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or similar symptoms. So, you're more likely to have mood changes when you are middle-aged if you were emotionally moody during your regular menstrual periods. And if you experienced postpartum depression, it's more likely you'll experience menopausal mood swings or other mental health-related issues during peri-menopause and menopause.

Does this mean you'll coast through this transition if you never experienced any mood swings during your younger menstruating years? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The risk for anxiety and depression is higher during perimenopause and menopause because of the changes in hormonal levels, including the feel-good hormone serotonin. So, you might still experience mental health concerns and mood swings as your body finds balance through your menopausal journey.

What causes mood swings in menopause?

By the time you reach your mid-life, you're not just starting perimenopause and the eventual menopause transition; there are also many other life changes that are happening. Raising children, caring for aging parents, and demanding careers can all contribute to mood swings and incidence of depression and anxiety. In addition to life and physiological changes, stress, poor lifestyle habits, difficult living situations, or unsatisfactory relationships with loved ones can also make you feel depressed.

It's very rare for a woman with no history of depression or anxiety to suddenly develop major depression during menopause. What's more common is that the menopausal transition puts you at an increased risk for mood disturbances. Why? Let's take a step back and see what happens behind the scenes of menopause-related symptoms due to hormone-related changes.

When our bodies start the menopausal transition, the delicate balance between hormones fluctuates frequently and erratically. Less progesterone is produced in relation to estrogen, teetering off to low levels after menopause. Estrogen levels also drop, which impacts serotonin production, one of the mood-regulating neurotransmitters.

This imbalanced cocktail of chemical messengers and lack of quality sleep (not to mention life circumstances) commonly result in mood disorders that can impact your mental health.

How Long do Menopause Mood Swings Last?

For some women, symptoms such as perimenopausal depression may last only a few months, or it may last for years. The most important thing to remember about so-called "perimenopause rage" and menopause mood swings is that they are temporary! Although it's easier said than done, being aware of these changes can help you manage your mood—so you don't take your frustration out on your partner and loved ones.

How can you stop mood swings during menopause? 12 wellness hacks

The menopause transition affects all women differently, though we all tend towards more irritability, anger, and depression compared to younger women. Some women have sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, changes in energy levels, weight gain, irritability, and a reduced sex drive, all of which can affect their mood and level of anxiety.

Here are 12 wellness tips to help you better navigate this transition.

1. Balance your hormone levels

Stay on top of your health by doing regular blood work. Periodically measuring your hormone levels gives you a clear insight into what's happening behind the scenes of your unique biology, allowing you to make any lifestyle or nutritional changes necessary to stay in top-notch health. A comprehensive hormone panel is a good place to start.

2. Try hormone replacement therapy

The menopausal changes cause fluctuations and an overall decline in female hormones like estrogen, progesterone and even testosterone. Many women find relief from menopause symptoms with hormone replacement therapy. But the type of hormone therapy matters.

  • Conventional hormone therapy uses synthetic chemical messengers that can differ from the natural chemical structure of the hormones your body produces naturally and has been shown to result in several health risks.
  • An alternative to conventional HRT is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Yes, that's very much what it sounds like, using chemical messengers that are biologically identical to the ones your body produces naturally. Plus, bioidentical HRT is not associated with the health risks of conventional HRT.

3. Regular exercise routine

When you're having "one of those days," going for a run or dancing it off in your Zumba class can do wonders for your mental and emotional wellness. Regular exercise gives you an outlet for all that pent-up energy and irritability. It's also beneficial for cognitive health, and not to mention managing a healthy weight. Another reason you'll want to stay active is for your bones' sake! Research shows bone mass density decreases during menopause. Having a regular exercise routine can help maintain healthy bone mass density.

Don't know how? Make time for up to 50 minutes of full body movement, the kind that gets you breathing and sweating heavily, at least five days a week. Pro tip: Include mobility and strength training in your routine to keep your joints supple and to strengthen and maintain muscle mass.

4. Prioritize quality sleep

Getting at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Why? During sleep, your brain and body go through a repair process, reinforcing your immune system, strengthening your resilience to stress and recharging pathways that regulate mood and emotions, learning and memory, focus and concentration, and so on. So, as you navigate this new transition, ensuring you're getting enough restful sleep can be the ace up your sleeve to managing a healthy mood, and maybe even feeling younger!

5. Cultivate a "zen" state of mind

The high demand of your day-to-day can trigger your stress response, leaving your body tense and frazzled, and who can stay calm and collected when they are in a frenzy?! Here's where helping your body manage stress with lifestyle hacks comes in! Life can be demanding, but learning to calm the mind empowers you to stay in control (not your mood swings).

Here are three wellness tips to help you get started.

  • Breathwork

    —When you're feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath in. Hold for a few seconds, and slowly release your breath. Your mind and gut are intimately connected, so doing belly-breathing (or diaphragm breathing) exercises can have a nerve-calming effect.
  • Keep your hormones in check

    —Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate several biological processes, including your mood. Ensuring you have healthy hormone levels is vital for your emotional and mental well-being. Pro tip: Estrogen is necessary for serotonin production, so ensuring your body has healthy estrogen levels can help with depression and other mood concerns. Nutrients like Siberian rhubarb can be a non-hormonal approach to provide relief for common menopausal discomforts like mood swings and irritability.
  • Eat the rainbow

    —No, we don't mean Skittles. Eating nutrient-rich foods (think leafy and colorful produce, grass-fed protein, healthy fats like omega-3s, and complex carbohydrates) provides your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive and support a healthy mood.

6. Speak with a therapist

For many women, the menopausal journey is overwhelming. After all, you're going through significant psychological, hormonal and physical changes that can take their toll—it's normal to feel confused.

You may find that talking to your partner about your menopausal symptoms isn't always easy. They may show little understanding about what you are going through, so you choose to wait to discuss it with them. And that's perfectly fine; you're entitled to share it on your own time.

But you don't have to face this menopausal transition alone. Finding a healthcare professional (consider a therapist) that you're comfortable with can go a long way in navigating depression and mood swings—along with helping you talk through how hot flashes, night sweats and other menopausal concerns are impacting your psyche. A therapist also can help you find the right way to communicate with your spouse. Pro tip: Life Extension has an expert team of Wellness Specialists who are here to offer free advice and guidance, and answer any health-related questions you may have.

7. Add yoga and meditation

Research suggests these ancient practices have many health-promoting benefits, including overcoming depression, improving sleep, supporting healthy inflammation, quality of life and more.

Incorporating yoga and meditation into your wellness journey empowers you to stay in control, despite the biochemical changes you're experiencing as you navigate this milestone.

8. Nurture your sexual health

Another pesky side effect of menopausal changes is a decline in libido. That's enough to make any woman moody! Who has time for bedroom fun when you're dealing with hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness? You may also become more sensitive to your look in the mirror as you go through menopause and your body image changes, which can affect your self-esteem and make it even less likely to enjoy a romantic night with your significant other.

But not all is lost to raging hormones, depression and low libido! Remember every biological process slows down as you age, and how you experience pleasure is no exception. So, getting aroused and even reaching orgasm may take longer, but being open with your partner and clearly communicating your needs is key to enjoying intimacy as you embrace the changes that come (for both of you).

9. Cultivate your social and spiritual health

Coping with menopausal symptoms isn't easy. But you can help mitigate the downward spiral of depression by maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family and by cultivating your spiritual health. Enjoying a meal with loved ones has measurable benefits to your heart health. It's always fun and heartwarming to catch up with friends you haven't seen in a while or enjoy a date night with your spouse. Some scientific evidence suggests that spirituality can help reduce the severity of depression and other mood disorders.

10. Enjoy alcohol and caffeine in moderation

Starting your days with a morning cup of joe and ending your evening with a glass of wine can be a great way to stay peppy and then wind down after a taxing day of looming deadlines and erratic hormones. But be sure to do enjoy both in moderation; overindulging may cause more harm and lead to health concerns.

11. Try aromatherapy

The good news is you can help the brain navigate depression and other symptoms of perimenopause and menopause by hacking your biology. The brain works by association, and familiar smells can help promote calming feelings—even when the world outside of you is full of chaos! Pamper yourself by using essential oils like lavender, orange peel or sage to create a relaxing environment.

12. See an acupuncturist

Research suggests acupuncture may help improve depression and even sleep! Research suggests the hair-thin needles may help modulate neuroendocrine pathways that regulate the production of chemical messengers and neurotransmitters like serotonin.

Is this emotional rollercoaster normal? Or am I losing my mind?

As unsettling as this transition may feel, it is normal to experience frustration and even feel lost as you navigate this new journey. A perspective shift can make a difference: consider that rather being a time when you say goodbye to youth, menopause is an opportunity to enjoy the relationships, confidence and wisdom you've spent your whole life acquiring. And remember, you are not alone. Any woman who has ever gone through hormonal changes understands exactly what you are going through. Pro tip: Empower the warrior woman you are with a nutritional support strategy and bioidentical hormone therapy. These are fantastic ways to help keep your hormones balanced, along with a healthy lifestyle that includes quality sleep, regular exercise and a well-balanced diet.

About the Author: Krista Elkins has 20 years of experience in healthcare, both as a paramedic (NRP) and registered nurse (RN). She has worked on both ground and helicopter ambulances (CCP-C, CFRN), and in ER, ICU, primary care, psychiatric, and wilderness medicine. She practices and has a devoted life-long interest in preventative medicine. She is a conscientious, research-driven writer who cares about accuracy and ethics.