Menopausal women may find themselves experiencing sudden, extreme changes in mood and demeanor. During menopause, hormones are fluctuating, and this causes the body to react in strange ways. But why do the hormonal changes cause you to become irrational and unpredictable? Read on for answers to common questions about mood swings.
How Are Menopausal Mood Swings Defined?
Menopausal mood swings are defined in very much the same way that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) mood swings are defined: extreme fluctuations in mood. Women who suffer with mood swings will experience drastic changes in their emotional state, finding themselves extremely happy after a moment of great anger or sadness. Most often the change in mood is caused by something, but the abrupt change in emotional state can be an inappropriate and unnecessary reaction to the trigger. Mood swing sufferers are also likely to experience a lack of motivation, irritability, aggression, increased stress, nervousness, and lack of patience.
What Causes Menopausal Mood Swings?
As mentioned above, menopausal mood swings are the result of a change in the levels of hormones that are produced in the female body. The ovaries and the adrenal glands produce the three sex hormones; estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. However, during menopause the production is disrupted and the levels of these hormones become unbalanced. These hormones, particularly estrogen, influence the production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that controls mood. Estrogen increases serotonin receptor sensitivity, serotonin production, and serotonin receptor levels. Therefore, when estrogen levels increase, so do serotonin levels. It is this occurrence that causes sudden mood changes and psychological disturbances such as depression and anxiety.
Could There Be Any Other Reason for My Menopausal Mood Swings?
Hormone imbalances are usually the main reason for mood swings in menopause, but there are other factors that contribute to them and increase their severity. Stress is one factor that does this. Women who are going through menopause can often be stressed already from home and work commitments, so when menopause begins and their hormones start changing, stress levels are aggravated even further. Other symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes, night sweats, and fatigue, can also worsen mood swings.
Hot flashes can occur at any point of the day, and night sweats can easily disturb sleep. The sudden rise in temperature can cause a woman to feel upset and uncomfortable, increasing her stress levels, and worsening other symptoms, such as mood swings. Fatigue is also well known for shortening patience, heightening temper, and causing stress levels to rise.
More Information about Mood Swings
Understanding mood swings and where they come from is essential to managing them well. When you experience a mood swing, try to remind yourself that you are being affected by a hormonal change, and take a moment to breathe and calm down. Mood swings can usually be treated effectively with diet, exercise, and herbal supplements, but some women with severe mood swings may want to talk to their doctors about other options. Follow the links below for more information about mood swings and treatments.
- Amin, Zenab, Turhan Canli, and C. Neill Epperson. "Effects of Estrogen-Serotonin Interactions on Mood and Cognition". Behav Cogn Neurosci Rev 2005; 4; 43.
- Dr. Love, Susan, and Karen Lindsey. Dr. Susan Love's Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- Molecular Psychiatry"Estrogen Promotes Gender Difference in Brain's Response to Stress". Molecular Psychiatry. www.psycheducation.org.
- The Health Center.(n.d)."Adult Mood Swings". Retrieved from www.thehealthcenter.info.