What is anxiety
While anxiety can affect anyone, this psychological symptom is twice as common in women than in men. Though this condition can strike at any time during a woman’s life, hormonal changes can produce feelings of anxiety in women of menopausal age. While most menopausal women do not necessarily develop a serious clinical anxiety disorder, these conditions are not uncommon. In fact, anxiety disorders affect more than 25 million people.
For women who are concerned about anxiety during menopause, it is extremely valuable to gain insight into anxiety, its various manifestations, its symptoms, and its causes. Understanding these aspects of anxiety can help women determine the best way to manage and treat anxiety during menopause.
Information on anxiety
Anxiety is a psychological state characterised by excessive and persistent worry, tension, and nervousness. There are several types of anxiety disorders, classified on the basis of symptoms, causes, and other central features.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – is characterised by a persistent state of exaggerated worry and fear (at least six months), often when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
Panic disorder (PD) – is characterised by recurring acute episodes of sudden terror and overwhelming dread, which produce a variety of emotional and physical symptoms.
Social phobia – involves excessive worry and self- consciousness about everyday social situations.
Post traumatic stress disorder – unrelated to hormonal changes in menopause, is an anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic life event.
Obsessive compulsive disorder – also infrequently associated with menopause, involves irrational preoccupations. Specific phobias, including agoraphobia, are unwarranted and extreme fears of particular stimuli.
Symptoms of anxiety
People who experience anxiety often can’t seem to shake their concerns and worries about everyday events, even though they may know that their anxiety is out of proportion to the triggering situation. Psychological symptoms of anxiety can also include nervousness, difficulty concentrating, trouble relaxing, tenseness, hypervigilance, restlessness, and irritability.
Anxiety can put someone on edge, making it feel as if disaster is always just around the corner. Just getting through the day can feel overwhelming and even unbearable.
At night it can wake someone from sleep or make falling asleep extremely difficult. Moderate to severe levels of anxiety can put a significant strain on our personal and professional relationships, not to mention how it makes us feel about ourselves.
Anxiety produces more than just psychological symptoms. People who suffer from anxiety typically experience a host of physical symptoms, including heart palpitations, fatigue, muscle aches, digestive problems, sweating, frequent urination, shortness of breath, and more. These symptoms may be especially intense for people who experience panic attacks, or sudden and acute episodes of overwhelming fear and panic.
What are the causes of anxiety?
For women in their 40s and 50s who are going through menopause, one of the most common causes of anxiety is decreased estrogen levels. Estrogen declines during perimenopause, or the time before menopause, as the body prepares to cease egg development and menstruation. Scientists have discovered that estrogen has a significant effect on the brain’s regulation of moods and emotion.
While this relationship appears complex, experts do know that changes in estrogen levels have a direct effect on the neurochemicals serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and melatonin. Since all of these chemicals play an integral role in emotion and mood regulation, disruptions caused by estrogen fluctuations can lead to anxiety during menopause.
While the primary cause of anxiety in menopause is hormone-related, other medical and psychological conditions can cause anxiety. Women who are concerned about extreme and/or persistent anxiety should not hesitate to speak with a qualified medical professional.