Most often, panic attacks are caused by traumatic events, emotional stress, and excessive consumption of caffeinated products and alcohol. In recent times, however, women in the mid ages of their lives are going through more panic attacks than women in the early stages of their lives. The reason for this is not far-fetched.
I volunteered to teach perimenopausal women in Mexico a few years ago on reproductive hygiene. The session was in its 2nd week, and I was about to round up with them. My stay in Mexico was interesting and entertaining, and I did make a few friends. It was the final day, and we were quite impressed with all the work we had put into the process.
The interactive session came up, and it was time for the brave women to ask questions. One was quite unusual and interesting of all the questions asked that day. Gabriella came up and asked;
“Can menopause cause panic attacks? Because since I got into menopause, I have had these frightening moments that make me want to collapse in the bathroom and cry my eyes out.”
My journey through menopause has been quite smooth, with few complications. While I do know of many symptoms which can sometimes be psychological, I have never seen a case of panic attacks.
So, this was the reality; Gabriella was going through waves of panic attacks, which menopause could cause. She is here for answers; we have to give her those answers.
Panic Attacks and Anxiety: A Comprehensive Guide
I will make this as simple as I can. Anxiety is very normal. In simple terms, anxiety is the body’s way of reacting to danger or threat. You are bound to react when you feel threatened or face a stressful situation.
One time I woke up in the middle of the night to face sparks from a naked wire on the roof. Opening the door, I was terrified at the smell of burnt wires as smoke filled the entire house. Still terrified and knowing how dangerous it was to go through the smoke, I decided to take the window in a bid to escape the terrifying scene in the house. While it felt impossible to take that risk, I did it and was out of the house in no time.
Now here’s the point; on a normal day, there was no way I’d have been able to pull that stunt, but it felt quite easy due to the anxiety I felt.
While anxiety is normal, it becomes abnormal if it happens often. Regular cases of anxiety can be a sign of something very serious. Panic attacks, however, are more intense and more mentally draining than anxiety.
The sudden feeling of intense fear in the face of no real danger is a panic attack. A panic attack usually comes in the form of episodes, and these episodes can trigger intense physical reactions. During panic attacks, you tend to feel like you’re losing control or, even worse, dying.
In the United States, many people go through one or two panic attacks and no more. For some others, panic attacks have become part of them that they often find difficult to cope with. Earlier, I talked about how women in the mid ages of their lives tend to experience more panic attacks than other women. Somehow, research has linked menopause to the major cause of this wildfire.
Can Menopause Cause Anxiety, Depression, or Panic Attacks?
While research hasn’t been able to link a drop in hormonal levels to psychological symptoms during menopause, speculations and physiological studies still believe it to be a major cause.
The transition into menopause is often plagued with turbulent and intense symptoms. These symptoms are what make menopause hectic for a lot of women around the world.
As you go into menopause, your hormones go through an alarming drop, giving access to symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Not only does this drop in hormone levels affect the metabolism of the reproductive system, but it also affects some chemicals in the brain that can cause some problems with your mood.
Speaking of mood, you may experience psychological and emotional stress symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood swings, sadness, and even panic attacks.
Before we go further, it is important to know that anxiety during menopause is completely normal. However, frequent cases of anxiety aren’t and, as such, must be dealt with medically.
Most menopausal women who go through severe and frequent cases of panic attacks and anxiety usually begin showing those symptoms before getting into menopause. In other words, menopause only caused the amplification of those symptoms.
Gabriella was 48 years old when she asked about panic attacks and menopause. Turns out she’s been going through it, and she couldn’t hide it anymore.
Here, Gabriella has shared her story with us, giving us an in-depth analysis of menopausal panic attacks.
I looked out the window as the wailing sounds of a siren filled the atmosphere. It was a normal evening in Puerto Rico, but things felt pretty odd this time. As I opened the door, I saw scars on my wrist, and in no time, I felt some hands all over me, dragging me into the ambulance. Turns out I caused the whole drama.
After spending a few hours in the clinic, I realized what had happened that night.
I was back from work and decided to take a quick nap. After about half an hour, I woke up to a racing heart. My heart pounded so fast, and I could feel it beating in my head. Instead of talking to someone or, better still, calling my doctor, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. I was 100% sure I was being followed and had no fear of using the knife.
My eyes scanned through the big sitting room, and I felt this sudden discomfort in my stomach. With that, I rushed to the bathroom, face down on the toilet seat, and everything in my tummy came out through my mouth.
Still thinking I was being followed, I locked the bathroom door and held the knife close to my face. I was very sure that someone was going to break that door open any moment.
A few minutes later, I felt dizzy, and somehow, I thought cutting my fingernails would make it stop. From cutting my nails, I moved to make marks on my wrist, and then I moved up to my elbow. Blood started dripping over the bathroom tiles in no time, and I collapsed.
In my husband’s story, I was unconscious for a long time, and only the police could open the door. That was when I realized what had happened. I am a psychopath. Yes, a psychopath.
It didn’t stop there; I became more anxious and restless as I entered 50 and registered for multiple therapy classes. Of all the therapists I spoke to, only one told me my problem was more of age than mental. With that, I ended up asking the question in a class for menopausal women;
“Can menopause cause panic attacks? Because since I got into menopause, I have had these frightening moments that make me want to collapse in the bathroom and cry my eyes out.”
What Hormone Triggers Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks can happen to anyone. In the United States, it is estimated that more than 6 million adults battle panic attacks and panic disorders. It means that more than 6 million Americans are going through intense psychological attacks capable of causing setbacks in their thinking and actions.
What, then, is the science behind it? In the brain, there’s a hormone known as orexin. This hormone helps regulate vigilance, and every human has it. However, it becomes a problem when this hormone becomes too much in the brain. New studies have shown that having too much of this hormone in the brain could be responsible for panic attacks.
Panic attacks are triggered by daring or frightening circumstances or incidences in some people. Experts have described these people as going through depressing situations and not depressed. For example, you can experience anxiety and waves of depression from losing your new car. If a nice person buys that same car for you, you will probably be normal again.
By panic attacks, we’re speaking of anxiety or depression in the face of no perceived threat or circumstances. Panic attacks could make you suicidal, and to date, more research is being made to fully understand this problem.
As stated earlier, the orexin hormone has been speculated to be the main cause of panic attacks today. The orexin hormone helps regulate arousal, vigilance, and wakefulness.
A study funded by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institute of Mental health in 2009 unraveled the link between orexin and panic attacks.
The research observed that suicidal individuals experiencing panic attacks possessed higher levels of orexin than those not experiencing panic attacks.
With this, it is concluded that the orexin hormone had a major role in developing panic attacks.
Can Hormonal Changes Cause Panic Attacks?
In women, the major producers of estrogen are the ovaries. It means that during menopause, estrogen hormones begin to fluctuate and go through an alarming decline. The fluctuations in hormonal levels are the main cause of many symptoms experienced during menopause. These symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, osteoporosis, and weight gain.
Sometimes, our mental health and our hormones can complement each other. When our hormones are balanced, our mood stays even, and our body stays healthy. Immediately the balance is tampered with, our general outlook towards life can change, and we begin to experience feelings of anxiety and depression. If it happens once or twice, then maybe we were only going through mental and physical stress; but when it happens repeatedly, it becomes a panic disorder and can be extremely detrimental.
It is important to know that your hormones fluctuate constantly. Fluctuating hormones are more pronounced during significant stages of your life, like puberty, childbirth, and menopause. During these stages, the fluctuations are extreme, and your body might begin to feel off.
As the hormones fluctuate, you can sometimes feel unusual, and it can cause moodiness. If this continues for a long time, you might have a mental problem.
Imbalances in hormonal levels could cause symptoms of varying severity, like anxiety, depression, chronic stress, insomnia, bipolar disorder, irritability, nervousness, memory problems, and mania.
Hormones Linked to Depression and Anxiety During Menopause
The human body is a haven for hundreds of hormones. Of these hormones, only a few are linked to our mood. Fluctuations in the levels of these hormones could cause depression and its symptoms.
In our body, estrogen plays a role everywhere, including in the brain. In the part of the brain responsible for emotions, estrogen can help produce dopamine and serotonin, major mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain. Estrogen can help to regulate the amount of serotonin in the brain to help the brain control emotions. Any little changes in estrogen levels could result in intense mental effects.
This hormone is responsible for the promotion of relaxation and calming sensations. This way, the body reacts well to conditions capable of triggering anger and outburst. It is an antidepressant and could cause depression and other mental conditions at fluctuating levels.
Although more associated with men, women do produce it. The testosterone hormone can help maintain a normal mood. When the levels of testosterone decrease, it could lead to signs of depression.
How Can I Stop Panic Attacks during Menopause?
Being a mental condition, regular exercise and hormone therapy are the best treatment options for panic attacks.
As we went further into Gabriella’s case, we introduced her to various lifestyle changes to help her with her regular panic attacks.
Studies have shown that more cardio exercises and yoga are the most effective activities for combatting mental health issues.
When you are plagued with psychological symptoms of menopause, the most important thing you want to do is get better. The quality of life of so many women depreciates on getting to menopause. I experienced severe mood swings that contributed negatively to my business. For others, it could be low productivity from not getting enough healthy sleep.
Because panic attacks are caused by Menopause, effective management and treatment options for menopause will often reduce the effects of panic attacks.
Hormone therapy is a treatment taken to cushion the symptoms of menopause. It works by replacing the deficient hormones or at a lower level during menopause. With MHT, symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and reduced sex drive can be relieved.
While menopausal symptoms are known to pass after a few years, they can sometimes be excruciating, leading to the urgency of medications like MHT. As an added advantage, menopausal hormone therapy can also help prevent the weakening of the bones (osteoporosis), which may be triggered by fluctuating hormones, a characteristic feature of menopause.
Engaging in Exercises
Diseases of the human body, most especially heart diseases, can be prevented by regular exercise. Regular exercise boosts the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level in the body, decreasing unhealthy triglycerides and reducing our susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases.
The good news about menopausal symptoms is that you can cushion them by adopting lifestyle changes. While these changes are not potions to cure these symptoms, they can be adapted to cope with the changes in the body.
The effects of these menopausal symptoms can vary from one woman to another. The effects of these exercises can also vary from one woman to another. Finding the best routine that fits you is important.
So many women today tend to engage in less physical exercise on clocking menopause. With this, they become more sedentary and less active. Studies show that regular exercise can help to effectively manage many menopausal symptoms. For this reason, women ought to embrace exercise.
Whether moderate or vigorous, exercises have been proven to help burn calories, prevent weight gain and maintain a healthy heart. You can start with walking long distances, then running on the treadmill. Not only will exercise help in the effective management of diseases related to the cardiovascular system, but it’ll also help in cushioning the effects of other menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and anxiety.
Try riding a bike to the bookstore instead of using the car. Do less sitting and more standing, go swimming with friends and relatives, use the stairs instead of the elevator, and try as much as possible to work out for at least 150 minutes weekly. If your work requires you to sit for long hours behind a desk, find time to be less passive. All these activities will help you manage the scares of early menopause effectively.
Eating Lots of Vegetables
Vegetables are of immense nutritional benefits. They are packed with various antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. With this, vegetables are often recommended by nutritionists, dietitians, and doctors for healthy living. Up to 50% of your diet should include vegetables. Women going through early menopause are prone to osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weak and unhealthy bones. With vegetables, these women can utilize the chemicals gotten from veggies to balance the estrogen levels in their systems. With this, they get some protection from problems related to weak bones.
Vegetables can help create a balance in the estrogen levels of the body. Particularly, studies have shown that women going through early menopause should consume more vegetables than they did to help balance the body’s estrogen levels. Vegetables are used for maintaining a healthy heart and could serve as an immune system booster.
Does Menopause Anxiety Go Away?
Women usually experience the peak of their menopausal symptoms at the early stages of menopause (perimenopause). As they go further into late menopause, most symptoms go away.
It means that menopause anxiety will go away at some point. The most important thing is figuring out how to cope with it.
More people (not just women) are battling chronic emotional stress in modern society. These people often see the world differently, and they often end up adopting bad coping mechanisms like the use of drugs, alcohol, and sometimes, self-harm and suicide. Mental issues are very delicate and, as such, require more intensive care. It is important to speak to an expert when you feel odd with your mood and general thinking. One of the best things we can do for our bodies is to maintain good health.
When you experience anxiety, depression, or the urge to self-harm, remember that there are people who care a lot about you and would be interested in sharing those feelings. Most women undergoing psychological trauma during menopause often keep it all to themselves. With this, they resort to illegal substances to prevent others from knowing. However, you should know that hiding psychological pain is not always the best answer.
During feelings of depression or other intense mental challenges, finding a hobby or something you like will help a lot. You can take routine walks to the park or spend quality time with your loved ones. Irrespective of your decision, ensure you do not hide those feelings.
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Are panic attacks linked to menopause? ›
Overall, it is thought that hormonal changes associated with menopause make panic attacks during midlife more prevalent. Oestrogen and progesterone usually work together to regulate mood. As these hormones drop off in midlife, women are more at risk of developing anxiety.How can I stop anxiety attacks during menopause? ›
Possible treatments for menopause-related anxiety can include hormones, hormone therapy, antidepressants, psychotherapy, or supplements for better mood. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective as a treatment for menopause.Do panic attacks go away after menopause? ›
So, the answer is yes. The anxiety can disappear as your hormones start to balance out, as you get towards the end of the menopause. But you need to be aware that, very often, if you had anxiety during the menopause, you need to take better care of your nervous system forever afterwards.What does menopausal anxiety feel like? ›
Changes in your hormones during menopause can impact your mental health as well as your physical health. You may experience feelings of anxiety, stress or even depression. Menopausal symptoms may include: anger and irritability.What hormone causes panic attacks? ›
A new study has linked panic disorder to a wayward hormone in a brain circuit that regulates vigilance. While too little of the hormone, called orexin, is known to underlie narcolepsy, the new finding suggests that too much of it may lead to panic attacks.What causes hormonal panic attacks? ›
Fluctuating levels of estrogen and testosterone, which are considered sex hormones, may play a role in how much anxiety you experience. Changing levels of these hormones can affect your mood. This is why anxiety sometimes peaks during times of hormonal change such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.What is the best medication for menopause anxiety? ›
What is the best antidepressant for menopause? Brisdelle (paroxetine mesylate) is a low-dose SSRI. It's currently the only antidepressant that's FDA-approved for VMS due to menopause. Research shows Brisdelle can improve the frequency and severity of VMS.What supplement is good for menopause anxiety? ›
Conclusions: St. John's wort and black cohosh appear to be the most useful in alleviating mood and anxiety changes during menopause.What supplements help with menopause anxiety? ›
Magnesium eases anxiety and sleep disturbances related to hormonal imbalances in perimenopause and menopause. Magnesium also helps to improve heart health and reduce blood pressure, combat osteoporosis, and, particularly if you take magnesium citrate, help with constipation.Can low estrogen cause anxiety attacks? ›
The drop in estrogen and progesterone that occurs at the end of a women's menstrual cycle may cause anxiety and other mood symptoms. This is similar to the drop experienced during perimenopause, the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause.
Can you permanently stop panic attacks? ›
People with panic disorder frequently want to know if there is any technique or medication that can completely rid them of symptoms. The truth is that panic disorder can never be entirely cured. 1 However, it can be effectively managed to the point that it no longer significantly impairs your life.How do I get rid of hormonal anxiety? ›
- Aerobic exercise. Research shows that those who get regular exercise throughout the month have less severe PMS symptoms. ...
- Relaxation techniques. Using relaxation techniques to reduce stress may help control your premenstrual anxiety. ...
- Sleep. ...
- Diet. ...
Dr. Vaidya: Anxiety can occur due to the estrogen and progesterone imbalance that occurs during perimenopause/menopause. When this hormonal system gets out of balance, symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings, foggy brain, tense muscles, and sleep disturbances can all occur.Does estrogen help with menopausal anxiety? ›
Low estrogen levels during this time are likely responsible for many menopause symptoms, like hot flashes and mood changes. Many believe estrogen also plays a role in anxiety during menopause. Many women notice their anxiety symptoms get better after beginning HRT with estrogen for their menopause symptoms.What is the best natural medication for menopause? ›
- Focus on plants. Studies suggest that plant-based diets may help reduce hot flashes and night sweats, as well as improve physical and sexual health. ...
- Include healthy proteins. ...
- Drink more water. ...
- Licorice. ...
- Anise. ...
- Fennel. ...
- Pollen extract. ...
- Black cohosh.
B-complex, vitamin E, vitamin C, GABA, and 5-HTP are 5 vitamins commonly used to help with anxiety and stress.What happens to the brain during panic attacks? ›
Recently researchers have identified certain regions of the brain that become hyperactive during a panic attack. These regions include the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain, and parts of the midbrain that control a range of functions, including our experience of pain.Which symptom is commonly associated with panic attacks? ›
Panic attacks often include physical symptoms that might feel like a heart attack, such as trembling, tingling, or rapid heart rate. Panic attacks can occur at any time.What is one of the most common triggers for panic disorder? ›
Major life stress, such as the death or serious illness of a loved one. A traumatic event, such as sexual assault or a serious accident. Major changes in your life, such as a divorce or the addition of a baby. Smoking or excessive caffeine intake.Why do I get panic attacks without triggers? ›
It is not yet known what causes panic attacks but certain factors may play an important role, including genetics, mental health conditions, major stress or having a predisposition to stress. Panic attacks are typically experienced as a result of misinterpreting physical symptoms of anxiety.
Can hormonal imbalance cause panic attacks? ›
Anxiety is one of the common symptoms of hormonal imbalance. While both sexes may be affected, research shows that females are more likely to experience hormone-related anxiety than males. Women's health and well-being are affected by different hormones. Hormone imbalances can cause or worsen mental health problems.How much magnesium should I take during menopause? ›
It can be particularly effective during the menopause by supporting both both heart and bone health. It can also help with menopausal insomnia and other symptoms such as low mood. Yet, surprisingly, adult women do not get enough magnesium from their diet: we need approx 300mg a day (see food sources below).What does hormonal anxiety feel like? ›
Imbalances in hormone levels leads to loss of focus, motivation and even constant mood swings. Hormonal anxiety could be extremely exhausting. In women it is essential to get your progesterone and oestrogen levels balanced and in men balanced levels of testosterone is crucial.Is anxiety high or low estrogen? ›
Women who have low estrogen levels may be more prone to developing anxiety and mood disorders, or experience worsened symptoms, when they face stressful or traumatic events. Women who have high estrogen levels may be more resilient and cope better with stress and trauma.What over the counter medicine is good for panic attacks? ›
- Antihistamines. Most often used to treat allergies, antihistamines typically cause side effects of drowsiness or sedation. ...
- 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) 5-HTP, sometimes called tryptophan, is a compound found naturally in the body. ...
- Magnesium. ...
- CBD. ...
- Ashwagandha. ...
- Kava. ...
Drugs such as Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam) work quickly, typically bringing relief within 30 minutes to an hour. That makes them very effective when taken during a panic attack or another overwhelming anxiety episode.Why is anxiety worse during menopause? ›
A: Changes in hormone levels may influence neurotransmitters in the brain. The drop in estrogen levels can also lead to hot flashes that disturb sleep, which can then lead to anxiety and mood swings.What are the symptoms of low estrogen? ›
- Dry skin.
- Tender breasts.
- Weak or brittle bones.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Moodiness and irritability.
- Vaginal dryness or atrophy.
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Irregular periods or no periods (amenorrhea).
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness and sexual discomfort.
- Changes in sex drive.
- Dry skin.
- Weight changes.
- Hair loss.
For some women, these medications can help to reduce these symptoms, but they are not usually effective in helping their mood related changes or other menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness, headaches and joint pains as these are due to fluctuating or lowered levels of estrogen and testosterone.
What are the most important vitamins for menopause? ›
- Magnesium. For many women in our Menopause Solutions Facebook group, magnesium (particularly magnesium glycinate) has been a game changer. ...
- Vitamin A. Your body can get vitamin A from two forms. ...
- Vitamins B6 and B12. ...
- Vitamin K. ...
- Vitamin C. ...
- Calcium. ...
- Vitamin D. ...
- Omega 3s.
- Black cohosh root. Black cohosh root has been found to reduce vaginal dryness and hot flashes during menopause. ...
- Ginseng. Ginseng use has shown encouraging results in alleviating various menopause symptoms. ...
- Chasteberry tree. ...
- Red raspberry leaf. ...
- Red clover. ...
- Dong quai. ...
- Valerian root. ...
Nutrition after menopause
Before menopause, you should have about 1,000 mg of calcium daily. After menopause, you should have up it to1,200 mg of calcium per day. Vitamin D is also very important for calcium absorption and bone formation. Vitamin D can greatly cut your risk of spinal fractures.
Anxiety is one of the common symptoms of hormonal imbalance. While both sexes may be affected, research shows that females are more likely to experience hormone-related anxiety than males. Women's health and well-being are affected by different hormones. Hormone imbalances can cause or worsen mental health problems.What anxiety medication for menopause? ›
Brisdelle (paroxetine mesylate) is a low-dose SSRI. It's currently the only antidepressant that's FDA-approved for VMS due to menopause. Research shows Brisdelle can improve the frequency and severity of VMS.Which hormone is responsible for fear and anxiety? ›
Hormones of the HPA axis, such as Cortisol, or corticosterone (in rodents), ACTH, and CRF are usually increased in a state of fear and anxiety. They also appear to modulate the response to threatening events.When does women's anxiety peak? ›
The scores showed that anxiety levels were highest for people between the ages of 40 and 60. The peak anxiety levels were noted in those in the 50 – 54 age group. Many things can cause midlife anxiety, ranging from underlying health problems to financial concerns.Will estrogen help with anxiety? ›
HRT with Estrogen May Lower Fear Response & Anxiety
They found that estrogen may have a calming effect on the fear response, including for women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, there is some evidence that increasing estrogen may reduce anxiety-like symptoms.
- Behavioral therapy.
- Deep breathing.
- Socializing, following pandemic guidelines of social distancing, masking and hand hygiene)
- Speaking with your health care provider.
Serotonin: Dubbed the "feel-good hormone," serotonin plays a key role in staving off anxiety and depression. In fact, the main class of drugs used to treat these conditions — SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) — increase serotonin levels in the brain.
Can hormone levels cause panic attacks? ›
Hormonal changes such as those in menopause or andropause have been associated with every sign and symptom discussed above. There is an increase in anxiety and frequency of panic attacks during PMS, post-childbirth, perimenopause and menopause and andropause.Does menopause anxiety get better? ›
Luckily, once the menopausal transition is complete and hormones begin to level out, most women will notice that their anxiety levels have begun to decrease. However, some women may still experience more anxiety than they did before due to other factors.