There are several ways that your mood can be affected by the hormone changes and other events around menopause, and nothing will make you burst into tears faster than someone who dismisses it as “all in your head.” You know it’s not in your head, although it can feel a little crazy sometimes. Understanding why can help you cope, and it also gives you a way to explain it to your less-than-sympathetic family or colleagues.
A number of forces converge during midlife to shake your emotional equilibrium, and some women are more vulnerable than others. If you are one of the women suffering from mood shifts, there may be an underlying clinical reason for it and there are treatments and solutions that can help. Pay attention to the nature of your mood problems, and see whether one of the following could be at the root of your emotional symptoms.
Some women are just more sensitive to hormone changes than other women. Although only about 8% to 10% of women fall into this “super sensitive” category, it can be pretty unnerving to be easily thrown by small hormone changes. Some signs that you might be a member of this group are:
- You have suffered from premenstrual symptoms in the past
- You noticed that you were emotionally up and down during a pregnancy
- You have had a postpartum depression
Recent Cancer Treatment or Surgery to Remove Your Ovaries
As with the hormone sensitive group mentioned above, women who have had their ovaries removed, or women whose ovaries have stopped function as a result of medical treatments, may notice the impact of low estrogen. Because the shift is rapid –- from normal levels of estrogen to very low levels -– the effect on neurotransmitters can be quite dramatic, causing serious mood problems or instability.
Treatment for sudden loss of estrogen depends on the cause. There are hormone therapies and selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM) medications that may be very useful to you during this time. This is definitely a topic for you and your medical provider to explore. If you are anticipating surgical removal of your ovaries, or a medical treatment that affects them (such as chemotherapy), talk to your doctor ahead of time to minimize your symptoms.
Women who have a lifestyle that cuts sleep time short, or who are having vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, are likely to be suffering from some form of mood problem caused by sleep deprivation. After 40, your chances of having a sleep disturbance rise. Sleep disturbance or a sleep disorder changes your mood -– and not in a good way. If any of the following are true for you, you might be suffering from sleep deprivation:
- You wake up at night with night sweats. Even if
your night sweats are mild, they can keep you from getting deep,
restorative sleep. You might think you are getting 8 hours of sleep a
night, but if you never get down into deep sleep, you could still be
suffering sleep deprivation.
- You regularly get fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night.
We have a culture that worships “productivity” and going without
sleep is often a badge of honor. But the truth is that we are less
productive and will have problems with memory and concentration if we
ignore the need for sleep. Finding a way to get enough sleep could
boost your effectiveness in ways that will surprise you.
- You wake up thinking about problems.
Stress is a major reason for sleep loss, so learning stress
management techniques, and ways to fall back asleep, can give you more
emotional stability to cope with life’s challenges.
- Your partner tells you that you snore. Snoring could be a symptom of sleep apnea. If you are a snorer and are tired during the day (like night sweats, sleep apnea can prevent that lovely, restorative sleep), it is probably time for a sleep study to see if you need treatment. Weight gain and age can contribute to sleep apnea, too, so midlife is a common time to develop this condition.