Menopause and Anger: What's the Connection and What Can I Do?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on November 20, 2017Written by Kathryn Watson

Anger during menopause

For many women, perimenopause and menopause are part of the natural process of aging.

Menopause has begun when you haven’t had a period in one year, which in the United States is about 51 years of age.

Perimenopause is the period before menopause when all the symptoms occur. As your reproductive hormone levels change, your body may react with hot flashes, sleep interruptions, and changes in mood that can be unpredictable. Sometimes these mood changes take the form of extreme and sudden feelings of panic, anxiety, or anger.

Feeling anger can be a result of factors connected to menopause. The realities of getting older and moving into a different phase of life — in addition to the stress that lost sleep and hot flashes sometimes cause — can contribute to moods that are unstable. Remember that your body is changing, but you aren’t to blame for these emotions. A very real chemical reaction is at play.

Menopause affects all women differently, so it’s hard to say how rare or common menopause anger is. Hormone changes can have a significant effect on your mood, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve permanently lost control over the way you feel.

Keep reading to learn more about why these mood changes may occur and what you can do to find relief.

Estrogen, serotonin, and mood

Estrogen is the hormone that manages most of a woman’s reproductive functions. As you approach menopause, your ovaries slow their production of estrogen.

Estrogen also controls how much serotonin is being produced in your brain. Serotonin is a chemical that helps regulate your moods. If you’re producing less estrogen, you’re also producing less serotonin. This can have a direct impact on how stable and optimistic you feel.

Balancing your hormones is the key to regaining mood control. There are several activities and lifestyle changes you can try that might work to balance your hormones naturally.

1. Eat a balanced diet

Your diet has a significant impact on your hormone levels. Adding foods that are rich in vitamin D, calcium, and iron will not only help you feel better, but also keep your bones strong as your estrogen production slows down.

Menopause can be linked to weight gain, which can in turn effect your self-image and your moods. Stick to a high-fiber diet to protect your colon health and keep your digestion regular. Be active. Take the responsibility of caring for your body.

Ongoing research also suggests that plant estrogens found in soy may help reduce menopause symptoms, so consider making edamame, tofu, and soy milk into pantry staples. Women with medical history of cancer and should talk to their doctors before increasing soy in their diet.

Caffeine has been linked to aggravating hot flashes and night sweats, so cutting back here may also be helpful. Drink cool fluids. Sleep with a fan at night.

2. Exercise regularly

Exercise can stimulate endorphin hormones, which boost your mood. Postmenopause, you are at an elevated risk for heart disease, so getting some cardio in now is as important as ever for your long-term health.

Low-impact cardiovascular exercise — such as Pilates, elliptical machines, and jogging — can get your blood pumping and improve the way you feel about your body.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise per week for older adults, including women in menopause.

3. Channel anger into creative activity

According to researchers in one clinical trial, perceived control over your symptoms may be an indicator of symptom severity. That could be why some women find it helpful to channel their strong emotions into a productive outlet.

Activities like painting, writing, gardening, and even home decorating can give you the space to process your emotions in a positive way.

When you’re able to accept that you’re moving into a new phase of life and decide to embrace that change as a positive one, you may see a decrease in your strong mood swings.

4. Practice mindfulness, meditation, and stress management

Mindfulness and meditation can help you regain a positive awareness and feeling of control over your symptoms. Be in the moment. Focus on what your senses are telling you right now. What do you see, smell, feel, hear, taste?

Studies are emerging to probe the effect of mindfulness on depression and anxiety, but we already know that these practices give us a sense of self-compassion and empathy.

By using a mindfulness app, doing deep breathing techniques, or simply starting your day with 10 minutes of free time to think, you’re already on your way to a mindfulness practice.

Use this ability to empty your mind of negative thoughts when your anger flares up. Connect to your feelings deeply during heated moments or uncomfortable hot flashes. The more you practice this habit, the more automatic it will become.

Take a stress management class so you can have new ways to stop stressful outbursts. Consider an online menopause support group.

Try journaling —that is, writing out your frustrations. Reflect back on your own behavior and think of things that were triggers.

Next time an outburst might be prevented by recognizing you’re on the path to one. Stop, breathe five deep breathes. Remove yourself from the situation.

When to see your doctor

If you become concerned about the way your mood is affecting your life, make an appointment with your general practitioner or OB-GYN.

You may benefit from targeted treatment if you:

  • feel like your behavior is erratic
  • are experiencing panic attacks or insomnia
  • have relationships that are suffering as a result of your moods

You should also see your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression. This includes:

  • exhaustion
  • apathy
  • helplessness

Don’t hesitate to involve your doctor. They can help you feel like your usual self again by developing a treatment plan suited to your individual needs.

Treatment options

Your doctor might recommend prescription drugs to help you stabilize your moods.

For example, hormone therapy with low-dose synthetic estrogen is a good choice for some women to help provide symptom relief. Low-dose antidepressants (SSRIs) can help decrease hot flashes and mood swings.

Your doctor might also recommend that you see a psychologist or licensed counselor to make a mental health plan that addresses your long-term needs.

The bottom line

Although mood swings, anxiety, and intense anger during menopause are normal, these aren’t symptoms that you have to live with. Through holistic treatments, home remedies, and the help of your doctor, you can take back control of your moods and embrace the new phase of life that you’re entering.

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