The shifting estrogen and progesterone hormone levels that characterize perimenopause can sometimes result in extreme mood swings and increased irritability. In your daily life, hormonal mood swings can manifest as overreactions to some small matter, or they may occur seemingly at random. Learn how menopause can affect your mood, and what you can do about it.
How Menopause Affects Mood Swings
Estrogen helps regulate several hormones with mood-boosting properties, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. As your estrogen fluctuates, so do these chemicals, resulting in changes in your brain that affect your mood.
Estrogen also supports cognitive functions such as memory, and episodes of forgetfulness and fuzzy thinking can cause frustration. For some people, frustration can lead to embarrassment, annoyance, and a shorter temper.
Menopause-related physical challenges and discomfort can impact your mood, as well, such as:
- Disrupted sleep,
- Body shape and weight changes,
- Sexual difficulties, and
- Fears about aging and the future.
Not all women experience mood swings during perimenopause, and it’s not always possible to predict who will, but certain factors increase your risk, including:
- High stress levels
- A history of depression
- Poor overall physical health
Managing Menopausal Mood Swings
Sometimes, simple lifestyle tweaks can successfully manage mood swings. Here are just a few tips that have helped many before you, and may help you, as well.
- Aerobic exercise. Exercise releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in your brain. Exercise can include gym workouts, running or walking, dancing, cycling, swimming or any activity that you enjoy that elevates your heart rate. Endorphins also relieve pain, which can further improve your sense of wellbeing.
- Clean eating. Despite our reliance on sweets and comfort foods in stressful times, healthy foods like fresh fruits, salads, lean meats, and whole grains that give our bodies the nutrients we need are more likely to lift our mood.
- Stress management. We can’t always eliminate stressors in our lives, but we can do what we can to manage our tension and anxiety in productive ways. Find what helps you unwind, whether it’s meditation, relaxing with a book, exercising, or snuggling with a four-footed friend. Reducing stress also boosts your immune system.
- Adequate, quality sleep. Exactly how much sleep is adequate can vary from person to person, but not getting enough of it can cause irritability and foggy thinking. Try getting into a relaxing pre-bed routine, shutting off electronics, setting a comfortable room temperature, and wearing an eye mask. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol can also help.
Some women turn to acupuncture and/or short-term hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for help with hormone balance and symptom relief. HRT can be easily administered as a patch, cream, or pill. Be aware, however, that certain forms of HRT increase your risk of blood clots, breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Speak with your doctor about the potential benefits and risks.
When Should I Seek Help?
Don’t wait to contact your doctor if your mood swings:
- Feel severe and uncontrollable
- Cause you to feel anxious
- Hinder your ability to enjoy or participate fully in life
Prior to your appointment, it can be helpful to keep a record of your mood swings, including details concerning:
- Possible triggers
- Daily diet and activities
- Current or upcoming stressful situations
- Any medications, supplements, or mood-altering substances you are taking
Your doctor will likely do a physical exam to rule out an underlying medical cause for your mood swings. They may also do a blood test to check your hormone levels and thyroid function.
Though the menopausal transition can take months or years, menopause-related mood swings generally stop on their own once your body’s hormonal system stabilizes.
*Whelan, C. (2017, Apr. 25). What You Should Know About Menopause and Mood Swings. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause-mood-swings