Is Our Anxiety Connected to Our Hormones?
Anxiety is a symptom of PMS, which affects 30–80% of people who have periods. But anxiety doesn’t just plague us while we have a consistent cycle. A 2020 study in Brazil found that 58% of women aged 45–55 who were experiencing perimenopause had anxiety symptoms. That same study also revealed that 62% experienced symptoms of depression.
Are Fluctuating Hormones to Blame for Your Anxiety Symptoms?
Psychological and physical symptoms are often exacerbated during the late luteal/premenstrual and early follicular phases of the menstrual cycle when estradiol and progesterone are declining or low. Here’s a quick recap of hormone levels during the four phases of your cycle:
- Menstrual – Estrogen and progesterone are both low.
- Follicular – Estrogen is starting to ramp up. Progesterone is still low.
- Ovulatory – Estrogen continues to rise and reach its peak. Progesterone is just starting to rise.
- Luteal – Progesterone is ramping up toward its peak as estrogen takes a dramatic dip.
If your PMS symptoms are more extreme, you may actually have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD is a more severe condition than PMS that afflicts roughly 5% of menstruators. It causes emotional and physical symptoms similar to PMS, but they tend to interfere with your daily life. If you’re calling out of work every month, canceling plans because you can’t bear to leave the house, or having spats with loved ones you normally wouldn't, PMDD could be the culprit. Common symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Anger or irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Lack of interest in activities normally enjoyed
- Increased appetite
- Insomnia or feeling very sleepy
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
Another possible cause of hormonal anxiety is PME or Premenstrual Exacerbation. PME refers to the worsening of symptoms of a pre-existing mental condition, such as generalized anxiety, during the luteal phase. This may be easy to confuse with PMDD, so it’s important you talk to your doctor to distinguish between the two. Other conditions that can prompt PME include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Suicidal tendencies
- Alcohol use disorder
- Eating disorders
If you’re in perimenopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels are declining. The changing levels of estrogen have been linked to feelings of anxiety. This could be due to estrogen being linked to serotonin and endorphins. Higher levels of estrogen equal higher levels of serotonin and endorphins, lower estrogen leads to the opposite. Additionally, the other symptoms that accompany perimenopause like hot flashes and night sweats can cause a lack of proper sleep which can cause anxiety.
What Can We Do to Support Our Hormones to Lower Anxiety Levels?
There are some lifestyle changes you can make to ease your symptoms, so before you resign yourself to anxiousness, try a few of the tips below. The best part? Most of the changes overlap whether you’re menstruating or perimenopausal so once you establish the habits, you won’t have to change much during your next phase!
Tips for Reducing PMS/PMDD Symptoms
- Get regular movement in. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can be effective in reducing PMS symptoms. Find something that brings you joy that you want to do. The goal is to make it feel less like a chore and more like a stress reliever. And yes, dance counts!
- Prioritize getting adequate sleep. There is growing debate about how many hours to aim for so take the eight-hour-per-night rule with a grain of salt. If six feels great for you and you have energy and feel rested, then stick with that. But if you feel groggy every morning, try and adjust until you find that perfect number. Your body does all its repair and healing work while you sleep, so it’s important to find that balance.
- Avoid smoking. I think we’re all aware of how bad smoking is for us but a 2019 study found that those who smoke are more likely to develop PMDD and PMS.
Talk to your doctor, who may prescribe one or more of the following:
- Hormonal birth control. This involves shutting down your body’s hormone production of estrogen and progesterone and instead relying on synthetic hormones. There are several options under this umbrella, some of which don’t contain hormones or just contain progesterone. You may have to try a few to find what works best.
- SSRIs. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are a widely used type of antidepressant that is sometimes used to treat PMS.
- Anti****anxiety medication.
- Grab the Balanced Cycle Bundle. The Daily Hormone Balance helps balance hormones, stabilize moods, curb cravings, and smooth skin. PMS & Period Support tackles bloating, cramps, and mood swings. Chronic inflammation has been linked to depression, so we formulated PMS & Period Support with that in mind. The bundle saves you some money and can be conveniently shipped to your door monthly, so you never have to worry about reordering in time!
Tips for Reducing Menopause Symptoms
- Get regular movement in. Exercise boosts endorphins which if you remember, are also boosted by estrogen, which is declining. It can also be a great stress reliever.
- Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine can affect you in several ways such as hindering sleep and stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and triggering adrenaline release. All that sounds like a recipe for anxiety to us!
- Reduce alcohol intake. Research suggests that there is a link between alcohol consumption and anxiety. This is because heavy drinking can interfere with neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for positive mental health.
- Try acupuncture. Some studies are promising on acupuncture’s effects on generalized anxiety disorder and your medical plan may cover partial or full cost of treatments.
- Prioritize getting adequate sleep. As we said earlier, this number might look different for everyone but it’s important you find out what works best for you.
- A nutritious, balanced diet. What you eat affects your hormones, namely insulin, cortisol, and estrogen. Keep fruits, veggies, and whole foods high on the list and you should be off to a great start.
- Learn self****relaxation techniques. This may look different for everyone, but here’s some inspiration: go for a walk in nature, curl up with a good book, snuggle with a loved one or pet, turn off your phone for an hour, enjoy a cup of herbal tea and watch the sunrise or sunset. Whatever helps you relax, aim to do it every day!
- Grab the 40+ Essentials Bundle. The Daily Hormone Balance helps balance hormones, stabilize moods, curb cravings, and smooth skin. Menopause Essentials reduces hot flashes and night sweats and helps with mood swings. The bundle saves you some money and can be conveniently shipped to your door monthly so you never have to worry about reordering in time!
Anxiety can be a result of hormonal fluctuations, but it could also be due to an underlying condition. If you experience anxiety on a regular basis, not just related to your menstrual cycle or perimenopause symptoms, reach out to your healthcare professional.