I’ve been always a bit anxious. However, now that I’m 57 years old and dealing with the symptoms of menopause I’ve realised I’m getting more nervous than usual making hot flushes worse and more recurrent. I wonder if there is a connection: does stress trigger hot flushes or vice-versa?
Samantha J. – Bridgeport, Connecticut (USA)
Answer by Gynecologist Rosanna Palmiotto
Dear Samantha, Menopause is often described as a roller coaster ride. Changes in your hormones during this stage of life can impact on your mental and physical health.
In particular, anxiety levels can peak and trough as your body’s hormone production fluctuates: it occurs because falling oestrogen levels change the way your brain functions, interfering with your overall hormone balance.
What’s important to remember is that anxiety is a normal human response to stressful situations: it can trigger a hot flush, and the opposite is also true – a hot flush can lead to feelings of anxiety. Hence, if in the past your response to a stressful situation was easier to manage, now you may experience the same thing with a more dramatic effect.
Many women don’t make the connection and just think that they aren’t coping like they used to. One thing is sure: it’s a good idea to keep your stress and anxiety levels in check during menopause, especially because the more intense and frequent hot flushes, the higher the risk of developing cardiovascular disease later.
Hot flush symptoms and anxiety can also occur in women who are beginning perimenopause. I’d suggest talking to your gynaecologist to find a multifaceted treatment approach to resolve symptoms, ease your transition and re-establishing your hormone levels.
Mindfulness and diaphragm breathing exercises are also very useful to help tackle anxiety symptoms as they produce a relaxation response, which leads to a reduction of the neurochemicals produced by stress.