Perimenopause is the years leading up to full menopause, lasting around four years for most women. However, some women may experience symptoms for nearly 10 years. Perimenopause typically begins in a woman’s early 40s, though it may begin earlier for others. Menopause is only officially diagnosed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for over 12 months. Studies have shown that nearly 23% of women will experience mood swings during menopause. Women may also suffer mood swings during perimenopause, often causing many to experience depression or anxiety for the first time.
Mood swings during perimenopause can be quite extreme and may seem to come out of nowhere. Many women describe feeling out of control of their emotions and report feeling exhausted, forgetful, and emotional. These mood swings are often one of the most difficult symptoms of perimenopause and menopause to cope with.
Estrogen reduction, the female sex hormone produced in the ovaries, is responsible for sexual development and menstrual cycle regulation and causes these mood swings to occur. Estrogen impacts mood by affecting the levels of serotonin, a mood-balancing hormone often called the ‘happiness hormone’, in women’s bodies. These imbalances cause many women to feel more depressed or suddenly sad during their day.
Progesterone, another sex hormone, also reduces during perimenopause and menopause. If progesterone levels fall and there is still more estrogen, it can lead to irritability and depression. Because progesterone is responsible for promoting good sleep and feelings of calm, the reduction can wreak havoc on a woman’s mood and sleep quality. Symptoms related to a reduction in progesterone also include migraines, hot flashes, and unexplained anxiety.
When estrogen and progesterone are unstable, mood is severely impacted. Sleep disturbances and hot flashes make the situation worse. This doesn’t take into account feelings about body changes or other symptoms that are related to perimenopause and menopause such as weight gain, loss of libido, and other extreme body changes such as hair thinning.
While these mood swings and changes can be severe, it is important to recognize that these are very real physical changes that are occurring which impact how you behave and how you feel. Many therapeutic approaches have been shown to be helpful for managing symptoms, including therapy. If you or a loved one are struggling with the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.