The Link between Menopause and Mood Swings

Ask most men about living with a menopausal woman and he’s very likely to tell you all about how irritable and cranky she is. “She’s impossible to live with! Nothing I do is right! All she does is yell at me!” Other men just shake their heads; they’ve been through it too. Menopause and mood swings – as Forrest Gump would say, “They go together like peas and carrots.”

Forrest is correct. Friends and family members often bear the brunt of menopausal mood swings; although women don’t want this to happen, they know it does. The fact that mood irritability isn’t intentional doesn’t take the sting out of words hastily and unpleasantly spoken. For women and their friends and loved ones, perhaps an explanation of the link between menopause and mood swings will increase understanding of this troublesome menopause symptom.

What Causes Menopausal Mood Swings?

The simplest and most accurate explanation for mood irritability lies with the very same culprit that causes hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, erratic menstrual periods and heart palpitations; the hormone, estrogen. For all women, estrogen is the guiding force in their lives. It’s estrogen that causes the onset of menstruation, it plays a role in pregnancy and childbirth, it affects the way our bodies look, and it plays a primary role in menopause. In fact, menopause is defined the cessation of the female body’s production of estrogen, signaling the end of menstruation and fertility.

Along with neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine, estrogen affects menopausal mood swings. Since the hormone levels are in constant flux, so are menopausal women’s moods; this explains the link between estrogen and menopausal mood swings. Irritability is the most commonly experienced mood of menopausal women. However, medical science continues a lively debate about whether depression is also a common symptom of menopause.

“Mood swings” is the term we normally use to describe an erratic cycling of moods, ranging from happiness, to irritability, to sadness and depression. It stands to reason that menopausal mood swings contain this entire mood cycling. What makes this phase of life difficult for women and those close to them is that menopausal mood swings are very unpredictable. A simple request to take out the trash may be delivered in a pleasant tone of voice or an ear-splitting scream!

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can regulate the estrogen levels in menopausal women, but many women are leery of HRT because of its possible link to breast cancer. More and more women are electing to cope with menopausal mood swings with antidepressant medication or natural herbal remedies such as black cohosh root and soy isoflavones.

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