3 pre-menopause symptoms that will put you on an emotional roller coaster
Before we get into those 3 pre-menopause symptoms, let's level-set around the word menopause. Menopause is two things, really. First, it's a point in time that marks 12 months consecutively without a period. Second, it is also the multi-year journey that women go through transitioning from their reproductive years to their post-reproductive years. A physiological and life change comparable to puberty. And, the word is used in both ways. It’s critical to pay attention how it’s used and its context.
Now, let’s talk about pre-menopause. What is pre-menopause? It's really just any time before women stop having periods. Technically, their entire life before that would be pre-menopause, right? However, it’s mostly used for a reasonable time period (5-10 years) before periods are expected to end. And with the average age of menopause of 51, that means a woman’s 40 is basically pre-menopause.
But there’s a twist here. The twist is perimenopause. Women often think that pre-menopause is perimenopause. But it is not necessarily. This is because we have been under-educated when it comes to menopause and perimenopause, i.e., so many women don’t even know what perimenopause is (I didn’t!).
So, what is perimenopause? Perimenopause is the phase before periods stop, where things start to go haywire. Hormonal levels and hormonal cycles start to change. They get a little (or a lot) volatile, they get a little (or very, very) unpredictable, and this is where we can appropriately apply the phrase that “all women will experience this differently”. When symptoms arise, you’re basically in perimenopause (Pro tip: there is no actual test to determine the status of perimenopause. You gotta rely on your own experience with changes and symptoms to identify it) (Pro tip #2: technically you are still pre-menopause but now also in perimenopause.) Still with me?
Now that that is clear. Let’s talk symptoms. Especially the emotional ones. When it comes to emotions, we all know that the menstrual cycle and PMS can have emotional fluctuations (#understatement). They can be severe or can be mild, but they happen. It’s related to normal, cyclical hormone fluctuations. The same thing happens in perimenopause but because fluctuations (i.e., volatility) of estrogen and progesterone are increased and less predictable, emotional swings related to hormonal swings are amplified!
Three perimenopause (pre-menopause!) symptoms that involve emotions are anxiety, depression, and anger. Let's break them down.
Symptom #1 Anxiety.
Women report very high (like SUPER high) bouts of anxiety during perimenopause. They can kind of come out of nowhere and can be very extreme and troubling. And, tbh, women don't know what to do about it. Why does this happen? Anxiety feelings are tied to drops in estrogen. Remember that estrogen levels are volatile and unpredictable now. Up and down. This is the emotional roller coaster part. Estrogen levels go really high, and then go really low so the drops are big. There are more “downs” and more dramatic “downs” now. Hence, anxiety worse than ever before. #hangontight
Symptom #2 Depression.
Let's talk about depression. So, there are times where depression is understandable. And there are times when it's tied to (or exacerbated by) hormonal changes. Depressive feelings are related to low levels of estrogen. And as described earlier, in perimenopause, the estrogen levels are going up and down. With lots of “downs”. Those lower points are when women can feel depressive symptoms. #whatgoesdownmustcomeup
Symptom #3: Anger.
We all have heard about the rage that women have in menopause. Anger, short fuse, and quick temper is very common through this transition. Women use the word “rage” to describe. Need I say more?
Why? Because estrogen is very highly involved in the regulation of mood, in the different parts of the brain, in the amygdala, in particular, which helps control emotional responses. And so, when estrogen levels are fluctuating and they're low, it impacts the brain's ability to regulate emotions. Hence the thin skin, hence the short fuse, hence the anger and rage. Understanding the hormonal fluctuations is important. Managing them is going to be more valuable (if not crucial) to your daily life (for yourself and those around you!). #justifiablerage
What to do about it?
Basically, it comes down to this: to HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or not to HRT.
HRT is the use of synthetic estrogen sometimes with a synthetic progesterone (sometimes just estrogen alone) to help regulate and keep the estrogen levels and progesterone levels steady as over time. There have been positive aspects: many women report that HRT is very effective and offer quick relief of symptoms. However, there are risks and we are still in the process of understanding what they are and how it pertains to what to take, how much to take, how often and how long. It still remains very controversial, and we're still working on more sophisticated and deeper research to determine how safe and effective this treatment is.
If you're like me and really would prefer to avoid HRT, there are herbal and plant-based remedies, too. There are many centuries-long traditions in cultures around the world to heal with herbs and plants, especially when it comes women’s reproductive and hormonal health.
Specifically for high estrogen levels for perimenopause (pre-menopause) symptoms, there’s a phytochemical called I3C that is in kale and brussels sprouts that help get rid of (metabolize) estrogen. So, to get off that emotional roller coaster, eat your kale! (or try MIGHTY Formula 4|5 here).