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#MenoWellness: Suffering from social anxiety? Menopause might be the culprit!

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

Reviewed by Irisha (BA Psychology, Hons), Kwang Yong (Counselor-in-Training), Joyce (Counselor-in-Training) from A Kind Place

Anxiety levels of the global population is becoming more common as our society moves forward and our lives become more stressful.


It is natural to think that our fast-paced society (and capitalism) are the main culprits of this. However, our bodies are fickle creatures that are susceptible to the minutest of changes in ourselves. One such cause for mood changes is menopause.


Menopause is a natural transition that marks the end of a woman's reproductive years, typically occurring in her late 40s to early 50s. While it is commonly associated with physical changes, such as hot flashes and mood swings, menopause can also have a large impact on mental health. A big mental aspect that may be affected by this transition is social anxiety.


You may feel out of place in areas of your life where you were normally fully confident before. Perhaps you feel lost during a presentation, with everyone's eyes drilling holes into your psyche. And you're kept wondering if something bad is happening to you. All of these may be traced back as symptoms of menopause. In this article, we will investigate such effects of menopause, and the steps you can take to mitigate these changes.


Hormonal changes and neurotransmitters


The decline in estrogen and progesterone during menopause can impact neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a role in regulating mood. Without these mood regulators floating in your brain, your mood becomes more unstable, fluctuating at the snap of a finger.


These hormonal fluctuations can contribute to increased vulnerability to anxiety disorders, including social anxiety. Yet, before we do a deep dive into how to mitigate anxiety, we have to understand the symptoms of anxiety first. After all, we have to realise we have it before we can take steps to address the problem.


However, not all of these symptoms are caused ONLY by menopause. Many other factors can also contribute towards or even worsen the effects of social anxiety, such as the ones described in our article here!


Common Symptoms of Anxiety


These symptoms usually present themselves when in a public setting, such as at a workplace or at a housewarming party.


Intense fear of judgment and embarrassment

Individuals with social anxiety often have an intense fear of being negatively evaluated or judged by others.


Avoidance of social situations

People with social anxiety may actively avoid or experience significant distress in social situations, especially those involving unfamiliar people or potential scrutiny.


Physical symptoms of anxiety

Social anxiety can trigger a range of physical symptoms, including rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea, known as a "flight-or-fight" response.


Negative self-perception and self-consciousness

Individuals with social anxiety tend to have a negative self-perception and may excessively worry about their appearance, performance, or how they come across to others.


Limited social interactions and impaired functioning

Social anxiety can significantly impact daily life and functioning. Individuals may experience difficulty initiating or maintaining conversations, forming new relationships, or participating in social activities.


Other forms of anxiety

Menopause can also trigger other forms of anxiety, such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and panic attacks. Finally, menopause is also associated with an increase in other forms of mental disorders, such as depression and sleep disorders.


Social Support and Communication


One of the best tried and proven methods of combating social anxiety is through social support structures. Having a friend or family member to talk to can go a long way in improving our mental health and mental fortitude as well.


By sharing our negative experiences and emotions, these serve as a healthy outlet to vent our frustrations and anxieties, while receiving reassurance and comfort at the same time. These help greatly in alleviating feelings of isolation or judgment.


Exercise and Stay Active


Being physically active naturally produces chemicals like endorphins and serotonin in your brain which can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety symptoms. Some studies have even shown that short-term cardio exercises can desensitise one's anxiety sensitivity by increasing their tolerance for symptoms typically caused by anxiety such as rapid heartbeat, sweating or breathlessness since these same sensations typically occur when exercising.


If the thought of going to the gym already stresses you out, consider searching up simple workouts to do at home. Yoga and pilates are both relaxing activities you can do to keep you on movements and breathing and enhance your overall mental awareness.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)


Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely used and evidence-based therapeutic approach that focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is a short-term, goal-oriented therapy that helps individuals identify and modify unhelpful patterns of thinking and behavior that contribute to their difficulties.


One of the most effective forms of therapy, this helps you to adopt better, healthier and more adaptive forms of thinking about situations, thereby alleviating the root causes of social anxiety within you. It empowers individuals to take an active role in their treatment, provides practical tools for managing anxiety, and promotes long-lasting changes in thinking and behavior patterns.


These help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety.


Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)


Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a medical treatment that involves the use of hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, to alleviate the symptoms associated with menopause. It is an effective and easy treatment option as it immediately tackles the root physical issue of menopause (especially anxiety), which is the lack of hormones within your body itself.


By targeting the hormones in your body, it provides symptomatic relief and improves your mood and well-being. However, it comes with many risks as well, such as increased risk of cancer and risk of blood clotting and strokes. Consulting your doctor on what your best course of action is should be your top priority.


Worried? Not to worry, we've got your back!


Menopause is a complex life stage that can impact a woman's physical, emotional, and social well-being. The hormonal changes are no joke, and can cause a usually confident woman to fall victim to self-doubt and anxiety.


However, not all hope is lost. Advances in the medical and mental healthcare field have done wonders in allowing us to mitigate the bad effects of menopause. Locally, we have counselling services such as A Kind Place that have professional psychologists and counsellors available to help you.


 

Important Notes:


This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional for specific advice on your health.


This article has not been reviewed by any medical professionals or legal bodies.


 

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