Yes, Your Menopausal Mood Swings Are Normal. Here’s How To Treat Them

Your hormones are in flux. You’re exhausted. Throw in your surly teens, work demands and taking care of your parents, blend and you’re a raging, sobbing smoothie.

An illustration of a woman holding a mask with a yellow smiley face over her own face, representing the mood swings experienced during menopause.

(Illustration: Nicole Rifkin)

Ready for my pitch? Working title: Safe House. Everyone going through peri/menopause gets a cozy private shed in some gorgeous wildflower-studded field. All meals are provided. Pets are welcome. Children and partners are not.

There’s a Rage Yurt, where you can put on a cute jumpsuit and goggles and smash the living shit out of stuff. And there’s a Crying Yurt, filled with tissues and gorgeous pillows and a lovely lady who comes and rubs your back while whispering things like “There, there, pet.”

No one blinks an eye as you shuffle back and forth between the yurts. There are no questions, no scrutiny, no requests, no judgment and no bewildered looks—only cookies and high fives and understanding.

Because, as those of you nodding and looking for the Safe House registration link know, the mood swings associated with menopause are crushing and real.

Related: How Can I Tell Whether I’m In Perimenopause?

“We know that about 50 percent of [people experiencing menopause] have symptoms of depression,” says Dr. Alison Shea, a menopause specialist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ont. “And 50 to 60 percent report irritability. I think irritability is the most-cited mood symptom in perimenopause.”

So why are you feeling so freaking on edge? “As your eggs start running out, you get huge fluctuations in estrogen levels, and estrogen is what regulates your serotonin, which is your happy chemical and helps regulate your mood,” says Shea. “In addition, we get decreasing progesterone levels.” That’s a bad thing because this hormone has an effect on our brains that’s similar to calm-down drugs like Ativan or Valium.

Not only is all that crap going on but your sleep has probably gone off the rails, too. Throw in your surly teens, work demands and taking care of your parents, blend and you’re a raging, sobbing smoothie.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Brain Fog During Menopause

So, what do we do? Start with lifestyle tweaks. “There is really good evidence that switching to a Mediterranean diet [with lots of healthy fats, whole grains, fish and vegetables] improves symptoms of depression and other psychological symptoms,” says Shea. “And make sure you’re exercising.”

Next step: Talk to your doc, and if they aren’t helpful, ask for a referral to a menopause clinic. “Hormone therapy can often improve a lot of symptoms,” says Shea. “Another option is gabapentin. It’s good for sleep, and we’re using it more and more for anxiety. It works on that calming area of the brain.”

Therapy can help as well, says Shea. And if you’re having dark, scary thoughts, please, please reach out for help.

In the meantime, hang in there, kittens. I’ll keep working on the plans for Safe House.

Read more: Everything You Need To Know About Menopause

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