If you’re in menopause or perimenopause, you’re probably no stranger to a hot flash.
Sometimes lightly referred to as “power surges,” hot flashes send a rush of heat through your upper body.
If they’re especially strong, hot flashes can cause red blotches on your skin, a racing heart, and sudden, drenching sweats. And for many people, hot flashes are accompanied — perhaps even caused — by anxiety.
A hot flash is a sudden feeling of intense heat that isn’t caused by something external.
We’re not exactly sure why a hot flash starts.
It may be that changing estrogen levels disrupt your body’s thermoregulation (ability to warm up or cool down). As a result, the blood vessels near your skin open up and your skin temperature suddenly rises (though your core temperature doesn’t).
After the flush, sweat evaporates from your skin, delivering a welcome cooling sensation. The swift change can literally leave you feeling dizzy.
Yes and yes.
The relationship between anxiety and hot flashes may be a chicken and egg situation.
When researchers returned to that same cohort in 2016 to analyze their symptoms at the 14-year mark, they were able to confirm the strong relationship between anxiety and hot flashes.
People whose anxiety was emotional didn’t have a greater risk of hot flashes. But having physical anxiety symptoms was a strong indication that hot flashes would happen throughout menopause.
Childhood abuse survivors experience more hot flashes
Researchers in a
2008 studysuggest there’s a connection between childhood abuse or neglect and the tendency to have hot flashes during menopause. They concluded that the effects of child abuse persisted well into midlife.
A number of other conditions and behaviors can increase the likelihood that you’ll experience hot flashes.
Here’s what we know:
- Alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods are common hot flash triggers.
- Some prescription medications may cause or worsen hot flashes, including those used in chemotherapy.
- Cigarette smoking is associated with midlife hot flashes.
- Radiation therapy for cancer treatment may also cause hot flashes and night sweats.
Menopause is often described as a roller coaster ride. Your anxiety levels can peak and plunge as your body’s hormone production fluctuates.
While you may not be able to do much about the up-and-down hormones, you can certainly take advantage of proven anxiety-reducing strategies.
Here are some options to consider:
Rest is key
When hot flashes become night sweats, and anxious thoughts lead to insomnia, sleep may be delayed or interrupted.
The relationship between sleep disturbance, anxiety, and menopause is
Talk with a healthcare professional about ways to make sure you get the recommended amount of rest every night.
There’s no such thing as outrunning menopause. However, a growing body of
Both cardio (aerobic exercise) and strength training are recommended during menopause — not only because they reduce anxiety, but because they can keep you from losing bone strength and gaining extra weight as your body changes.
Talk about it with someone you trust
Menopause can raise a number of thorny issues — changes to your body image, sex life, and identity; dealing with the shift in fertility; and reacting to the societal expectations around menopause.
And those are just a few things that can arise.
People in many cultures feel additional anxiety about discussing symptoms openly.
You may find it helpful to talk about your symptoms and any other menopause-related issues with an online or in-person therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be especially effective for treating anxiety.
If one-on-one therapy doesn’t appeal to you, you might see whether there’s a support group devoted to menopause or anxiety issues nearby.
Take good care of yourself — mind and body
If looking back on the hormonal upheaval of your teenage years fills you with compassion, lavish lots of care upon yourself now.
Eat rainbows of healthy vegetables and muscle-building protein — which are vital as you get older.
Take time and space to create things. Numerous
And consider taking a mindfulness course. In a
If your hot flashes are barely noticeable, you may decide to accept them as unpleasant but natural.
If, on the other hand, hot flashes are keeping you up at night, causing you severe anxiety, or otherwise interfering with your work or home life, there are a range of treatment options for you to consider.
Hormone replacement is sometimes recommended as a way of reducing symptoms of menopause.
Hormone therapy balances the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body. They’re often prescribed at low doses for short periods to avoid causing other health problems.
It’s important to understand that hormone replacement therapy has risks. People who take estrogen and progesterone during or after menopause may have a higher risk of certain kinds of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and dementia.
There is some
Specific combinations of hormones can also lower the risks associated with hormone therapy.
If you’re thinking about hormone replacement to reduce your anxiety or hot flashes, talk with your healthcare provider about your medical history to decide whether it’s appropriate for you.
If hormone replacement therapy isn’t the right choice for you, your healthcare provider might prescribe one of these medications to relieve your menopause symptoms:
- antidepressants (paroxetine and others)
- antiseizure medications (gabapentin and pregabalin)
- blood pressure medications (clonidine)
- antispasmodics used for bladder control (oxybutynin)
Zumba is your friend. Or several brisk laps in the pool, if cool water sounds better.
When researchers in
This may be because the brisk exercise improved circulation and boosted the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
Although solid research on the effectiveness of natural remedies for menopause symptoms is limited, there’s some
Before you try any natural remedy, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor or healthcare provider to see if it will have an interaction with any other medication you’re taking.
Managing hot flashes may be a little easier if you change some of the habits that seem to strengthen or trigger them.
You may want to try:
- limiting foods and beverages that trigger them
- choosing clothes made of cotton or wicking material, and wearing layers you can remove when sweating starts
- putting cotton sheets on your bed
- using a fan in your bedroom at night
- eliminating cigarette smoking
Hot flashes and anxiety are both common symptoms of menopause. When you have a hot flash, you may feel anxious — and when you’re anxious about something, you may suddenly experience a hot flash.
There are a number of medical treatments, including hormone therapy, that can reduce hot flashes and anxiety.
There are also nonmedical alternatives that may reduce anxiety and hot flashes, including lifestyle changes, natural remedies, and talk therapy.
While hormone therapy may be the most effective treatment, there are significant risks to weigh.
Menopause, anxiety, and hot flashes are all connected, so it may take a multifaceted treatment approach to resolve symptoms and ease your transition.