It’s too bad women’s bodies aren’t like office software, sending you reminders whenever any important even in your body’s life is going to come up. One morning when you are still a young girl, you should cough out a memo that you’re going to get your first period and what pain to expect. Then, a few decades later, you cough out another memo about normal signs of menopause and that panic attacks will likely happen. Wouldn’t this be great?
Unfortunately, our bodies do not come with an instruction manual or timely reminder about anxiety and menopause. Women think they are going crazy, or are somehow defective, which can make their panic attacks stronger and longer. Women have to take it upon themselves to learn about menopause. When panic attacks come suddenly out of the blue after a couple of skipped periods, know that you are not going insane. Now sit down, open the Ben and Jerry’s and listen up.
Everyone gets anxious, but not everyone suffers from anxiety. Just what is anxiety? You basically get panicked or incredibly upset for a very trivial reason. Feeling panicked can lead to painful physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, shortness of breath and chest pains. These physical symptoms just reinforce the anxiety.
According to The Menopause Book (Workman Publishing; 2009) women are three times more likely to suffer from anxiety than men. Women who suffer nerves during their periods are also more prone to suffering from anxiety during menopause.
The ancient alchemists had a theory about the universe – “As above, so below”. This referred to anything, so logically it can refer to menopause. So you can take comfort knowing that some solar system somewhere is going through a hot flash and mood swings. Keep those images in your head whenever you feel a panic attack coming on. It may help you to laugh, which will help you to calm down.
Microscopic things can have tremendous effect on incredibly large things. Your microscopic hormones affect your whole body. Your hormones are going through a civil war at the moment, which leads to mood swings. They can aggravate your feelings of impending doom, nervousness or insecurity.
The exact cause of panic attacks is a point of some debate in medical circles. Some feel the hormones entirely control the response; other feel the organ in the brain called the amygdale is entirely responsible. Whatever! The point is that all bets are off during menopause.
If you have a history of panic attacks, then you really shouldn’t be surprised at getting more at menopause. Check with your doctor, even if you were thought you were finished your menopause. For women that never had a history of anxiety and panic attacks before, still go to see your doctor, but know that your panic attacks are treatable.
Your doctor may want you to get a blood test in order to check for ailments that can cause anxiety, such as a malfunctioning thyroid or abnormally low blood sugar. Ask you close female relatives if they suffer from depression, anxiety or went through a difficult menopause. Your doctor may want to take this family into account before making up a treatment strategy.
Your treatment will depend a lot on what medications you are taking now and your past medical history. You might have to take medications such as anti-depressants, be asked to try breathing exercises during the attack or have a change in your hormone replacement therapy. The Menopause Book encourages regular exercise at last 5 days a week to reduce stress levels.
Wingert, Pat, et al. The Menopause Book. Workman Publishing; 2009.
Johnston, Joni E. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety. Alpha Books; 2006.