Reviewed by Dr Lee Smith, Associate Professor of Public Health
A recent survey by Anxiety UK reveals that 98% of women report feelings of anxiety during the menopause and perimenopause, and that 61% of these women have been recommended anti-depressants to treat their anxiety.[i]
New research conducted by Anxiety UK and Kalms has revealed an overwhelming association between the menopause, perimenopause, and symptoms of anxiety. 85% of women surveyed believe that their anxiety was triggered by the menopause and an alarming 61% of these women have been recommended anti-depressants as a result.
Anxiety UK CEO Nicky Lidbetter comments:
“Anxiety is a prevalent symptom of the menopause, but awareness amongst women and indeed healthcare practitioners, is low. Societally, most of us are familiar with hot flushes and weight gain as being symptoms of the menopause; this survey however shows that we need to get much better at recognising anxiety as being a key symptom. Indeed, Anxiety UK want all women experiencing perimenopausal and menopausal anxiety to have fast access to accessible support and to have access to a wide range of treatments.”
Anxiety occurs when your bodies ‘fight or flight’ defence works continuously. An ‘imbalance’ in the way the body processes environmental and sensory stimuli leads to a disproportionate ‘excitatory’ response, and excessive release of neurotransmitters between nerve cells in the brain. Leading to overstimulation of the nervous system and feelings of anxiety.
During the menopause and perimenopause, changing hormone levels contribute to this imbalance in the brain and heightened levels of anxiety.
Immediate Past Chair of the British Menopause Society Kathy Abernethy explains:
“When you start the menopause, oestrogen levels begin to decline and fluctuate. Your body also produces less progesterone.
Both of these hormones influence the production of a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is a mood-regulating transmitter.
Alongside these emotional changes, coping with physical symptoms, such as sleeplessness and hot-flushes, can leave women feeling worn out, frustrated and of course anxious.”
According to a new Public Health England (PHE) report, women are 1.5 times more likely to be prescribed drugs, such as benzodiazepines, than men.[ii]
As a habit-forming drug, benzodiazepines are highly addictive; withdrawal symptoms include sweating, nausea and anxiety, creating a vicious dependency cycle.
It’s essential to advocate for yourself and to understand the symptoms of menopause in order to receive the right care and support for your lifestyle, mind, vocation and body.
A holistic approach to your health and to menopause, a mix of techniques, medical interventions and personal triage, along with resources that your employer can use to better understand your health and support you are more effective than a single prescription for pills.
Ask your GP about menopause resources and speak to your employer about menopause policies and provisions at your workplace.
You can also explore our video courses and written resources on understanding and navigating menopause and speak to likeminded women in our private Facebook group.