Anxiety is a psychological state that is described as overwhelming feelings of worry, especially when there is nothing obvious provoking these feelings. An anxiety attack can happen at any time, and is usually combined with chest pain and shortness of breath. Postmenopause refers to the stage in a woman's life when menstruation has fully stopped, which occurs one year after her last menstrual period. This article will discuss the common symptoms and causes of anxiety attacks during this life stage, as well as helpful treatments.
The primary cause of anxiety disorders in middle-aged women is hormone fluctuations experienced during menopause. For example, a woman's estrogen levels fluctuate, drop, and then stay consistently low during postmenopause. Estrogen significantly affects the brain's regulation of mood and emotions. Consequently, when a woman's estrogen levels drop, she is at higher risk of developing anxiety.
It is important to know that menopausal symptoms begin to lessen once hormone levels subside during postmenopause. Other factors that can induce anxiety attacks include high stress (either at work or at home), genetics, certain medications, excessive caffeine intake, emotional trauma, lack of exercise, and poor diet.
Symptoms of anxiety attacks are typically both physical and psychological. Physical symptoms can include:
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension
Psychological symptoms can include feelings of dread and intense fear, restlessness, irritability, and the anticipation of disaster.
There are several ways to help manage anxiety attacks and prevent future ones from occurring during postmenopause.
Exercising regularly releases mood-regulating neurotransmitters, like serotonin and endorphins, in the brain. The recommended amount of exercise is around 30 minutes per day, at least five times a week. Walking, yoga, and swimming are all good forms of low-impact activities that can keep anxiety away for the long term.
Along with weight management, making simple dietary changes can have the added benefits of improving mood and reducing anxiety. Including protein, fiber, fatty acids, fruits, and vegetables into meals is ideal for boosting energy. Salmon, kale, guava, almonds, and low-fat yogurt are all healthy foods that are thought to help the body and mind better cope with anxiety.
Talking to close friends and family can help you relax and improve your mood. Try to make time to see friends and family throughout the week. Having a solid support system is key to mental health.
Taking time for yourself every day is crucial for feeling good and treating anxiety. Taking a bath after a long day, reading, or meditating are all effective ways to relax the body and mind.
On average, anxiety affects around 40 million Americans. Hormone fluctuations are the primary cause of anxiety in middle-aged women who are going through the menopause transition. Postmenopause can be a difficult time for women who suffer more acutely from menopausal symptoms. It is important to remember that once hormone levels subside, menopausal symptoms will begin to lessen as well. Exercising regularly and taking time to relax are helpful ways to prevent anxiety attacks and symptoms.
Learn more about the 3 main approaches to deal with anxiety during postmenopause.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Anxiety disorders fact sheet. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/anxiety-disorders.html