Our columnist talks about the link between menopause and anxiety, and how to feel better
How do you define anxiety? Feeling a bit wound-up? Maybe a bit worried – a bit like pre-exam nerves but all the time? If, like me, you’re a menopausal woman whose biggest symptom is increased anxiety, you might recognise some of the following statements:
‘I feel like a bath bomb; a mass of stinky chemicals that will dissolve into mush the second it hits the water. Only the water is my life’.
‘I just feel so angry, like wasps are buzzing in my head and every noise or interruption unleashes a storm of mini stings to the brain, driving me mad. I’m so angry with the kids and any kind of request just sets it off’.
‘I want to hide. Just disappear under a duvet. I keep cancelling friends I’ve known for years, and I know they’re worried; it’s not their fault, I just can’t do it right now’.
‘I can’t breathe. I can’t concentrate. I can’t sleep. I just can’t’.
Menopausal anxiety can look like anger, a loss of enthusiasm for new things, clinginess or social withdrawal. This can lead to loneliness, confusion, issues at work and a loss of connection with family. It’s certainly more than ‘a bit worried’.
During menopause, as our levels of oestrogen and progesterone drop, we are much more likely to experience anxiety symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, dry mouth and panic attacks than we would normally do. Doctors sometimes suggest that severe anxiety is not common during the menopause, but anecdotally, I would suggest it certainly can be for many of us, especially those who cannot tolerate hormone replacement.
Lockdown has given me some time to catch up with some reading, and this topic is one of my favourites, so I dived into Sam Baker’s new mid-life manuscript The Shift. Of all the many elements that resonated with me, it was her experience of anxiety that stuck with me the most.
As the former editor of Red, Cosmo and founder of The Pool, it’s hard to imagine such a successful woman experiencing anxiety in the way she did, but it’s true. She was an insomniac, stressed in the day and hard to live with and, she even considered that she had dementia (as did I).
What she and I found is that this is not forever. The average time for menopausal symptoms to pass is three to five years. There are so many incredible new treatments available now and with so many of us sharing our stories, you no longer need to face it feeling like the only one.
If suitable, treatments like Black Cohosh may help. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is also known to be immensely successful. There is also a wonderful community online now that makes seeking advice and support accessible. I’ve found my tribe there and I urge you to join us.
I still get days where it can be challenging to manage. But if you’re still in the perimenopause stage or worried about when it happens, I have to say this: ‘stop’. Yes, it’s hard, yes it can be a challenge. But the post bit – the next stage, is amazing. I’ve more freedom, confidence and, dare I say it, wisdom than ever before.
So, when the bad days hit, remember it will pass. And what’s coming in your next act makes every minute worth it, I promise.
Patsy Kensit Her beauty range, Preciously Perfect, is available from Ideal World. Search idealworld.tv to discover the full collection.
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