Mood imbalance, or mood swings are a chart-topping menopause symptom. Many women say that they start to feel less like themselves and cannot explain why. Menopausal symptoms can be difficult and coupled with the normal day-to-day stresses such as caring for family members or work, can lead to many women feeling low, or less in control of their lives.
According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), 75% of women report mood imbalance or irritability and approximately 23% of women experience mood swings. Mood disorders associated with menopause can be very debilitating and what makes it even harder is that the symptoms can last between 4 to 7 years.
The perimenopausal period, when most women first experience mood related symptoms, is associated with fluctuation in the levels of oestrogen produced by the ovaries. Oestrogen has a role in modulating neurotransmitters associated with mood. It enhances the synthesis and uptake of serotonin (our happy hormone).
Oestrogen works by blocking the breakdown of serotonin. As your perimenopause takes hold and oestrogen levels fall, the oestrogen receptors in the brain no longer do their job and serotonin levels drop.
Add to this, the psychological, physical and emotional impact of other menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain and it’s easy to understand why mood can start to dip. Many women say that they feel more emotional, angry, irritable and overwhelmed.
The psychological aspects to menopause can be more difficult to diagnose and treat in comparison to physical symptoms. Low mood, having little interest in activities, having little energy and disturbed sleep are also present in depression, and so women seeking help can often be diagnosed with depression.
Since symptoms are gradual in onset, a woman may not recognise symptoms as part of a reversible disorder, but rather may interpret them as a permanent change in their life.
But there are many ways to treat mood imbalance and disorders associated with perimenopause and menopause. Although hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been the mainstay of treatment, a more holistic approach to mood imbalance is our recommended approach and can include the following:
CBT: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be useful for low moods triggered by menopause. CBT aims to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and includes counselling and advice on sleep and relaxation.
HRT: If your mood swings are caused by hormonal imbalance, HRT may help. You need to talk to your doctor about your options, but if your symptoms are severe it may be the most effective treatment and is safe for women under the age of 60.
Diet: Steer clear of alcohol, sugar, caffeine that can increase mood swings. Instead eat a balanced diet especially one rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids and treat yourself to bananas and dark chocolate which contain natural serotonin.
Supplements: Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, has been proven to perk you up when you are feeling low. Take It from September onwards as then it becomes more difficult to get your 15 mins of required sunshine per day. Magnesium is also a great help with relaxation, mood and sleep.
Exercise: Studies show that 20 minutes of exercise per day can make you feel happier and have greater feelings of energy, self-efficacy, and general psychological well-being. The reason? When you exercise, you release endorphins, often called feel-good hormones. Also practices such as tai chi, yoga, and meditation can help you feel more grounded and make it easier to manage stress and irritability.
“We want women to know that a variety of treatments are available,” says Dr Shahzadi Harper. “Sometimes you need to see someone who is knowledgeable to sort it out and determine what course of treatment you need. Intervention at an early stage offers women years of benefit from preventive health care, so it definitely pays to be proactive.”
If you are at all unsure about managing your menopause symptoms it is important you speak to your GP or call Dr Harper on 0207 637 8820 or email to book a consultation. Your local GP surgery might be oversubscribed so make sure you make the most of your 10 minute appointment by downloading and filling out our Menopause symptom checker, it’s a great way to get the conversation started. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.