What's happening to me: emotional symptoms of menopause

Mood swings, sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness... The emotional and psychological symptoms that accompany the onset of menopause can be just as challenging as the physical symptoms.

"Every woman experiences perimenopause and menopause differently," says Marilyn Darr, MD, PharmD. "The good news is, what you are experiencing is normal."

Before you rip into another bag of M&Ms® or shriek at your loved ones, check out these options that can help control both physical and psychological changes.

Effects of fluctuating hormone levels

Perimenopause is the two-to-eight year phase before menopause, and fluctuating hormone levels are common during this period. The declining levels of estrogen have an impact beyond physical changes. There also may be psychological and emotional symptoms, such as:
  • Mood swings or panic attacks
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleeplessness
  • Forgetfulness, fuzzy thinking
  • Lack of interest in sex
"Talk to your healthcare provider about your physical and your psychological changes, and look for patterns in your symptoms," recommends Dr. Darr. "Some emotional symptoms occur both with PMS and with perimenopause. The difference is in their regularity. For example, if your symptoms increase before your period and diminish after your period, they are probably due to PMS. But if they are regular or persistent no matter where you are in your cycle, they may be due to perimenopause."


Your healthcare provider may recommend any number of treatment options, ranging from birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy to vitamins or herbal remedies. Taking care of your health with nutritious meals, regular exercise, and lots of water is also important. Relaxation techniques such as meditation can calm your nerves and soothe your spirit. And try to get extra sleep, too. As you discover what helps your well-being, both inside and out, your transition into menopause will become easier.

Published September/October 2009, Southwest Health
Marilyn Darr, MD
Family Medicine of Southwest Washington
100 E. 33rd St.
Vancouver, WA 98663
(360) 514-7550