Menopause – the time in a woman’s life when her ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone – often has unpleasant physical symptoms. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, these can include sleep difficulties, hot flashes and mood swings.
Various studies have linked menopause with anxiety. According to a study published in the journal Menopause in 2013, women with high levels of anxiety and/or stress were far more likely to experience hot flashes. A related study appearing in the same journal found women who had low levels of anxiety prior to entering menopause were at a greater risk of developing increased anxiety once they entered menopause – but women whose stress levels were already high ran a lower risk.
Regardless of its source, anxiety can seriously impact a person’s ability to enjoy life. Much of the research on anxiety and menopause has focused on its role in pre- and perimenopausal women, but not on its effects on postmenopausal women. A recent study – the first of its kind – published in the Menopause in January 2017 examined the effects anxiety has on women with menopause.
The researchers examined over 3,500 postmenopausal Latin American women. The rate of severe physical symptoms were five times higher in women who were also dealing with anxiety. The ongoing research is trying to understand why the rates are higher. Anxiety may increase the amounts of chemicals in the body, such as serotonin, which helps regulate the body temperature. This may explain the increase in the occurrence of vasomotor symptoms or hot flashes. The researchers also noticed a relationship between anxiety and other symptoms of menopause.
“Although anxiety is a common symptom during menopause, panic attacks are not. This study documents the importance of screening patients for anxiety,” said author of the study JoAnn Pinkerton, M.D., executive director of the North American Menopause Society.
“If women are having significant anxiety, they should discuss viable treatment options with their healthcare providers. These can include relaxation techniques, caffeine reduction and exercise,” she added.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder compared to men. Indeed, the Harvard Medical School estimates nearly two-thirds of the adults with anxiety disorders are women. The ADAA also warns that anxiety disorders tend to manifest at earlier ages in women than they do in men.
The reason for this may be brain chemistry. The fight-or-flight response is activated more quickly – and lasts longer – in women than it does in men, says the ADAA.
Also, women seem to cope differently with stressors compared to men. Some researches suggest that women tend to brood over stressors more often in comparison to men. More disturbingly, research has shown that women are subjected to abuse and sexual violence more often than men are.
If left untreated, anxiety can create further problems. Some patients may turn to drugs or alcohol and this form of self-medication often results in dual diagnosis, co-occurring of a psychological disorder with addiction.
Anxiety disorders are treatable. In Florida, Sovereign Health provides care for anxiety disorders and other illnesses at two locations – Pompano Beach, near Fort Lauderdale, and on the gulf coast in Fort Myers. Both centers offer effective, evidence-backed treatment programs in comfortable, welcoming and safe environments. For a healthier life, call our 24/7 helpline.
Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at email@example.com
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