Menopause Mythbusters: Menopause and Mood Swings

by | November 13, 2018

Menopause can feel like an emotional roller coaster for many women. (We’re talking about the rickety, wooden roller coasters that seem to exist only to induce nausea. Does anyone actually enjoy those?)

The idea of experiencing menopause is enough to cause anxiety, so it’s perfectly normal to not quite feel like yourself if you’re entering that stage in your life. In fact, 23% of women report having mood changes around the time of menopause – and those are just the women who are talking about it.

There are a lot of reasons for mood swings during menopause, so let’s debunk some of the most popular myths about menopause and mood swings.

Does menopause cause depression?

Believe it or not, there is no direct link between menopause and depression. But that doesn’t mean your feelings of depression aren’t valid; they’re just likely caused by other symptoms of menopause. Think about it: between hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleeplessness, weight gain, and even hair loss that some women experience during menopause, it’s no wonder that we’re feeling anxious or depressed.

There’s a whole slew of other things that could trigger depression and mood changes later in life that aren’t menopause symptoms. The thought of aging is stressful for many women. Empty nest syndrome is a trigger of mood changes during menopause that happens when children move out or get married. It’s common for women to feel lonely and depressed during this stage in life. Finally, there’s also the stress of caring for elderly parents that weigh on women during this time. Between menopause and other life changes, it’s a lot to handle.

It’s important to note that while depression is more likely to happen during menopause than other times of a woman’s life, women do typically experience more depression than men in their lifetime. So if you do feel persistent sadness and loss of interest, talk to your doctor ASAP. For a full list of symptoms of depression, click here.

Are depression and mood swings during menopause the same thing?

No. Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness that can impact your daily life, causing you to lose interest in activities you normally enjoy. It should not be confused with mood swings, which can change quickly from day to day and typically don’t last long.

Will I experience mood swings during menopause?

It’s very possible. 70% of women report increased irritability during perimenopause, or the time when hormone levels first begin to decline. And if you feel like laughing one second and crying the next, you’re not alone either: mood swings are common during all stages of menopause. The good news is that they are usually fleeting, and not the same as clinical depression.

What causes mood swings during menopause?

Almost anything can trigger a mood swing during menopause, and these may not even be circumstances that triggered you before. Anything from traffic jams to work stress to having a minor disagreement with your significant other can result what feels like an epic mood swing. The worst part is that when you’re experiencing one, it can feel like there is no end in sight. But there are ways to avoid feeling absolutely terrible listed below.

How do I treat menopause mood swings?

Sometimes mood swings are inevitable, and you shouldn’t feel like you need to suppress your feelings. However, there are a few ways you can work toward having less traumatic mood swings in the future.

  • Exercise is incredible for stress relief. When it comes to mood swings, nothing beats physical activity, whether it’s a quick run, walk, cycling session, or whatever form of exercise you prefer. If you’re experiencing mood swings and you’re relatively new to exercise, pick an activity and make it your go-to for stress relief when you need it.
  • You probably saw this coming, but a healthy diet will also help ward off intense mood swings. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate will make you feel better in the long run.
  • De-stressing will go a long way in helping alleviate mood swings. Try meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to help you banish stress when you need to.
  • Finally, getting enough sleep is crucial for avoiding irritability and mood swings during menopause. Make it a priority to get a full 7-8 hours of sleep, and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed to ensure you’re getting a good night’s sleep.

Does St. John’s Wort work for treating mood swings?

St. John’s Wort has become a popular dietary supplement used to treat a range of ailments, including menopausal symptoms like mood swings. It’s been widely accepted as a natural way to balance moods and even avoid depression.

However, St. John’s Wort is not medically proven to treat or cure depression and mood changes. What’s worse, studies have shown that St. John’s Wort can block the effectiveness of other drugs like antidepressants, heart medications, HIV drugs, some cancer medications, and more.

Always take caution when considering any natural supplement, because natural doesn’t necessarily indicate that it’s safe. Talk to your doctor before adding any natural supplement to your regimen, especially if you are taking any other medications.

The bottom line

Mood swings during menopause can feel debilitating, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. When you take into consideration menopause symptoms and the many stressors that come along with aging, it’s easy to understand why anyone could feel overwhelmed during this life stage. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. If you’re experiencing mood swings or if you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor about your treatment options.