While anxiety can affect anyone, this psychological symptom is twice as common in women as in men, and it often surfaces during the menopausal transition. Though this condition can appear at any time during a woman's life, hormonal changes can often produce feelings of anxiety in women going through menopause.
Anxiety in menopause can range from mild to severe. While most menopausal women do not necessarily develop a clinical anxiety disorder, the condition is not uncommon. In fact, anxiety disorders affect more than 25 million Americans.
Women concerned about anxiety during menopause have a variety of treatment options to consider. Anxiety treatment will often depend on a woman's own unique circumstances, including the severity and duration of her symptoms, her mental health history, her current lifestyle, and more.
Speaking with a healthcare professional or psychiatrist is a good idea if a woman is experiencing prolonged, persistent, or unmanageable anxiety.
In addition to speaking with a professional, there are several other approaches to the treatment of anxiety. Please read on to learn more about anxiety treatment options.
Three Approaches to Treating Anxiety
A woman wishing to treat anxiety has three categories, or levels, of treatment available to her: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Medications and Therapy.
It is always advisable to start with the least-risky form of treatment, changes in lifestyle. Women who do not find relief through lifestyle adjustments and alternative treatments can then turn to medication for anxiety, but only as a last resort.
1. Lifestyle Changes for Anxiety
The first level of treatment, lifestyle changes, carries the least amount of risk, but it demands the most perseverance.
Lifestyle changes for treating anxiety naturally often include making modifications to diet and exercise and adjusting the way you manage stress and other negative emotions. Talking with a trusted friend or a support group can help tremendously in helping a woman work through feelings of anxiety.
Stress management and relaxation techniques are valuable to women experiencing anxiety. While many women are unfamiliar with the tremendous benefits of relaxation techniques - such as yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, and visualization - more and more are discovering just how effective such techniques are in helping to cope with anxiety, not to mention the stresses and strains of daily life in general.
Anxiety and Changes in Diet
- Stay well hydrated
- Eat more complex carbohydrates, which increase serotonin levels in the brain
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid low blood sugar levels
- Increase intake of tryptophan, found in milk, bananas, soy, nuts, peanut butter, and oats
- Reduce intake of caffeine, which can increase nervousness and jitteriness
- Consume phytoestrogenic foods like tofu, apples, lentils, and flaxseed
Changes in diet alone are not enough, but they can promote a feeling of well-being and an overall greater level of physical and mental health.
Lifestyle changes are a holistic and beneficial way to approach the treatment of anxiety, but they may be hard to keep up with. In addition, not all adjustments address hormonal imbalance, the underlying cause of many cases of menopausal anxiety. To treat unbalanced hormone levels, alternative medicines have been effective for many women. Continue reading to learn more about natural treatments for anxiety.
2. Alternative Medicine
The natural approach to treatment encompasses several different options, such as mindful meditation, biofeedback, and massage. While any of these treatments may be effective, herbal supplements are widely preferred, since they are easier to follow, require less time and money compared to other options, and can even balance hormone levels.
Herbal Supplements to Reduce Anxiety
- Lemon balm
- Gotu kola
- Bitter orange
With regard to herbal supplements, two main kinds can be used to treat hormonal imbalances: Phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating supplements.
Phytoestrogenic supplements. - e.g., black cohosh
These supplements are rich in phytoestrogens, plant-based nutrients that function like estrogen in the body. In the short term, they can replenish estrogen levels, but their extended use is not recommended because in the long term, the body may be less able to produce its own natural hormones. This can eventually cause an estrogen deficiency.
Hormone-regulating supplements. - e.g., Macafem
These supplements work by nourishing the hormonal glands rather than using external hormones. By promoting natural hormone production, these supplements can balance not only estrogen, but also progesterone and testosterone levels. Because they have little to no adverse side effects, these supplements can be taken as long as necessary.
From “Nature and Health Magazine”, Dr. Chacon says:
“Macafem nutrients help restore natural hormones in women. Unlike hormone drugs, which are basically resumed in taking synthetic hormones, Macafem acts totally different in your body. It nourishes and stimulates your own natural hormone production, by inducing the optimal functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands”. Click on the following link if you want to read and learn more about Macafem.
A combination of approaches - blending lifestyle changes, alternative medicine, and counseling - is often an effective form of treating anxiety related to hormonal imbalance. However, for severe anxiety attacks or prolonged feelings of anxiety, medical treatment may be necessary.
3. Medications and Therapy
Treatment for anxiety can involve therapeutic approaches, including cognitive and behavioral therapies, where a patient is active in her own anxiety treatment and recovery. Therapy with a trusted and trained professional can be very beneficial for women with anxiety alongside any other treatment.
Medications for anxiety involve the highest risk and often the highest costs compared to other approaches. In the U.S., the most common medications for treating anxiety include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRI's (antidepressants)
- Anti-anxiety medications (called anxiolytics)
- Mild sedatives
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
HRT may be used to treat anxiety related to menopause and hormonal imbalance. Unfortunately, it entails the risk of serious side effects, including an increased risk of certain types of cancer, as the following study has revealed.
In 1991, the National Institutes of Health began the Women's Health Initiative, the largest clinical trial ever held in the U.S. Its goal was to discover more about the drawbacks and benefits of HRT. However, it was cut short 11 years later, at which time it was found that the use of outside hormones increases the risk of certain side effects, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease, blood clots, and stroke. These results were subsequently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While all of these medications may be effective at relieving anxiety or its symptoms, it is important to note that they all pose the risk of adverse side effects, and in some cases, those side effects may overshadow the potential benefit. With severe cases of anxiety, it is essential to talk to a doctor to analyze the risks and agree upon an individualized treatment plan.
These approaches are not mutually exclusive - in other words, lifestyle adjustments, alternative medicine, medications, and therapy and be used as necessary to manage the symptoms. Today, a growing number of women are finding that treating menopausal anxiety is most effectively achieved via a combination of alternative medicine and lifestyle changes.
A Safe Way of Treating Anxiety
Implementing lifestyle changes:
- Learning stress management techniques
- Eating more complex carbohydrates
- Yoga and Pilates
- Consuming estrogen-boosting foods
- High stress levels
- Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine
And taking a natural supplement for hormonal imbalance:
- Supports a healthy hormonal system
- Effective and virtually free of side effects
A good option is Macafem - learn more about it.
- Amin, Z. , Canli, T. & Epperson, C.N. (2005). Effects of Estrogen-Serotonin Interactions on Mood and Cognition. Behavorial and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 4(1), 43-58. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15886402
- Bromberger, J.T. et al. (2013). Does Risk for Anxiety Increase During the Menopausal Transition? Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Menopause, 20(5), 488-495. doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e3182730599
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2014). Stress and Relaxation Techniques: What the Science Says. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/relaxation-science
- Office on Women's Health. (2010). Menopause and mental health. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-mental-health/
- Sarris, J. , McIntyre, E. & Camfield, D.A. (2013). Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2: a review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence. CNS Drugs, 27(4), 301-319. doi: 10.1007/s40263-013-0059-9