Are extreme mood swings that occur primarily in perimenopausal women solely the result of fluctuating and declining ovarian hormones?
Experts disagree over the cause of mood issues during the menopause, and raise questions about the role of co-stressors, such as empty nest syndrome, aging, work, assessment and expectations about goals and achievements, and of course, vasomotor symptoms and associated problems (e.g. hot flashes/night sweats/sleep disturbances/cycle changes, etc).
Of late, a lot of attention has been focused on the link between depression and menopause. Yet, research suggests that a history of PMS and depression earlier in life as well as other psyschosocial and cultural factors, actually account for depressed mood and depression among menopausal women. Other study findings have shown that PMS and perceived stress are significantly linked to irritability and mood swings.
The good news is that across the board, studies show that mood disturbances tend to diminish as one moves through the menopause. However, what should you do when the blues/anger/irritability/fatigue/crying spells hit?
In previous posts, I’ve discussed the potential benefits of exercise, meditation, red wine (!) and St. John’s wort. I’ve also run across a few things written about the benefits of phytoestrogens (plant-like compounds that act in the body like estrogen). However, presently, a preponderance of evidence appears to support a greater role for phytoestrogens for bone and heart than for mental health. I’m committed to searching the literature for additional interventions but in the interim, I welcome your feedback and personal experiences.