Menopause and Mental Health

By Alex Nicklen

Adults Mental Health tagsAdults Mental Health tagsMental Wellbeing tags

Menopause, the stage of life during which hormonal changes culminate in a woman no longer having periods, causes significant physical changes, and it can also profoundly influence mental health, often through mechanisms that we do not fully understand yet. Research into this area has historically been underfunded. Understanding and sometimes seeking support for these mental health challenges is important for women experiencing menopause.

One common mental health consequence can be increases in feelings of anger and irritability. Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can trigger mood changes, which can make you feel irritable and easily agitated. Coping with these emotional changes can be challenging and can sometimes affect relationships and daily life.

Increased anxiety is also common during menopause. Hormonal imbalances can intensify feelings of worry and apprehension, leading to heightened anxiety levels. The uncertainty associated with menopause, such as changes in body image and identity can also contribute to increasing anxiety. The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report on menopause and the workplace in 2022, and this contains a stark anecdote from a woman whose anxiety during menopause was so severe that she transitioned from being a police inspector with an air of invincibility to not being able to leave the house unaccompanied.

Some women also report ‘brain fog’ during menopause which can cause forgetfulness and difficulties with concentration. Many women find this to be frustrating, and it can impact on daily functioning.

Loss of self-esteem and confidence is also common during menopause. Physical changes, combined with societal expectations and stereotypes, can contribute to a decline in perceived self-worth. Navigating these changes requires an emphasis on self-acceptance.

Low mood and feelings of sadness or depression are also common features of menopause, and many women report that menopause is a ‘taboo’ that they cannot talk about openly. Hormonal fluctuations, coupled with the psychological impact of ageing, can contribute to a sense of loss and sadness. Recognising and addressing these emotions is vital for maintaining mental well-being.

Sleep disturbances and tiredness are some of the most common effects of menopause, which can exacerbate other mental health issues. Hormonal changes can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and worsening other mental health symptoms. Establishing a consistent sleep routine and addressing any sleep disorders can significantly improve overall well-being.

Although much is known about how menopause can affect mental health, there are also many unknowns or partial unknowns. Taken this out as it is a repetition of the above. For example, research in the last decade has found evidence of a connection between menopause and histamine intolerance, where a person has too much of a chemical called histamine in their body, which is responsible for expelling allergens and regulating important digestion processes. Histamine intolerance can worsen mental wellbeing as it can lead to mood swings, brain fog, lack of motivation, and trouble focusing and concentrating. Modern science has some of the answers, but it cannot necessarily fully explain how you might feel during menopause.