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Mood swings

Struggling with hormonal mood swings is something many women experience throughout their life. We explain why mood swings might become particularly bad during perimenopause and menopause, and how you can understand them.

What happens to our mood in menopause?

Whether it's frustration from forgetting things, or increasing feeling increasingly anxious many women experience changes to their mood with menopause. Let's not forget that on top of hormone levels bouncing around, there's also a lot going on at this stage in life - teenage kids, aging parents, high pressure jobs and maintaining relationships with partners. It's a lot even to think about.

As you progress through menopause the levels of the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone fall. These hormones are powerful - and impact everything from your energy to the way your brain works. When hormone levels become imbalanced it can increase mood swings, and your overall risk of low mood or depression.

Before menopause (or during perimenopause) these hormones are swinging up and down in unpredictable ways. Your hormone levels can peak and drop very quickly, leading to physical symptoms like hot flushes but also to big swings in your mood. The good news is that as your hormone levels begin to settle down as your progress through menopause and many women find their mood improves.

How can I reduce my mood swings?

Both physical treatments like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and talking therapy can help. Both can impact your mood, and improve how you feel overall. If you're struggling, make sure you see a GP and they'll be able to talk you through your options.

It may also help to track your mood over time. Tracking can help you measure if symptoms are getting worse over time, and identify anything which may trigger your mood swings.

Some things to be aware of:

  • If you experienced severe mood swings as part of PMS or post-natal depression you may be more likely to have mood issues during menopause.
  • Antidepressants, whilst highly effective for many people, may not help if your mood swings are driven by your hormones.
  • Exercise, even walking, has been shown to have significant positive impacts on mood. So although it may not be the whole solution, upping activity could play a big part in helping you feel better.
  • Meditation and mindfulness can also improve anxiety and low mood.

References:

1 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Mood Changes and Depression. Accessed 21 October 2019. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/menopause/mood-changes-and-depression/

2 Golden R, Gilmore J. (1990) Serotonin and mood disorders. Psychiatric Annals. 20:580–586.

3 Bromberger JT, Kravitz HM. Mood and menopause: findings from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) over 10 years. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2011;38(3):609–625. doi:10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.011

4 Cohen LS, Soares CN, Vitonis AF, et al. Risk for new onset of depression during the menopausal transition: the Harvard study of moods and cycles. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63:385–390.