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Menopause and mind health

Many women experience mood changes, anxiety, depression and trouble concentrating around the time of menopause. Changes in hormone levels and other midlife pressures can affect your mind health. It’s good to know there are many practical things you can do to feel mentally well during this time.

What is menopause?

Menopause is your final period. You know you’ve reached menopause if you have not had your period for 12 months. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. Women can experience menopausal symptoms a few years before menopause (perimenopause) and after menopause (postmenopause).

Anxiety and depression

Midlife is a common time for women to experience anxiety or depression.

You might experience anxiety or depression due to hormonal changes associated with menopause, or other work and life pressures.

If you had anxiety before reaching menopause, some menopausal symptoms (e.g. hot flushes and sleep problems) could increase your anxiety.

Some research suggests that women who have a history of depression or premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are more likely to develop depression around the time of menopause.

Women who go through premature or early menopause can be at greater risk of mood changes, anxiety and depression.

Brain fog

About two-thirds of women going through menopause experience brain fog.

Brain fog describes a group of symptoms that happen around the time of menopause, such as:

  • trouble concentrating (i.e. losing your train of thought)
  • being easily distracted
  • misplacing things (e.g. keys)
  • difficulty remembering things (e.g. words)
  • forgetting why you are doing something (e.g. why you came into a room)
  • forgetting appointments and events.

These symptoms can impact your quality of life, self-esteem and work. But they are usually quite mild and will improve after menopause.

While symptoms of brain fog are similar to early signs of dementia, it’s uncommon to have dementia in midlife. But if you are worried about these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Mood changes

It’s normal to experience mood changes around the time of menopause. You may feel more angry or irritable than usual. You might also feel sad or teary.

Symptoms of menopause can affect your mood. For example, night sweats can affect your sleep, causing you to feel tired and emotional.

What you can do

There are many practical things you can do to look after your mind health around the time of menopause. For example:

  • get help to manage your menopausal symptoms, which may improve the way you feel
  • have a healthy lifestyle (e.g. a healthy diet and regular physical activity)
  • learn new skills to challenge and exercise your brain
  • get enough sleep
  • reduce or stop drinking alcohol, smoking and other drugs.

You can also:

  • take time for yourself and do things you love
  • practise relaxation, mindfulness and meditation to relieve anxiety and stress
  • talk to someone you trust about your feelings (e.g. a friend, family member, doctor or psychologist)
  • use a diary or write lists to help you remember important things
  • keep a record of your symptoms to discuss with your doctor if needed.

Some women who use menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) to manage menopausal symptoms find it also helps with their mind health (e.g. brain fog, mood and anxiety).

When to see your doctor

Everyone experiences menopause differently. Talk to your doctor if:

  • you are experiencing strong emotions
  • you think you have anxiety or depression
  • menopausal symptoms are impacting your quality of life
  • your brain fog is long lasting or stopping you from doing daily activities.

For more information, resources and references, visit the Jean Hailes menopause web page.