Much has been written about menopause, which typically hits women in their 40s. Many women, already dealing with stressful work and home responsibilities, find the additional symptoms of fatigue, hot flashes, and night sweats may heighten mood swings, which are considered another typical side effect of menopause.
“After my mother passed away, my father’s health began deteriorating rapidly,” said 49 year-old Jennifer Alrick-DeFiglio of Chicago. “The same week we decided my dad needed to move in with us, I received a note from my son’s high school that he had been skipping classes. The stress in our house was at a fever-pitch for days and I was arguing with my husband constantly about how to handle our teenager.”
For a few weeks, Jennifer wrote off the fact that she was exhausted and experiencing hot flashes, but after missing her period for three consecutive months, she made an appointment with her family doctor. The physician confirmed that menopause had begun and initiated a nonhormonal prescription treatment to relieve hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.
“By then, my mood swings had really taken a toll on my relationship with my husband,” said Jennifer. “I wasn’t handling the chaos in our household well and he had moved out temporarily. Now that I know there was an additional imbalance going on, I am more willing to stop and think before reacting. We are in counseling now, and I am hopeful we can repair the damage done to our relationship.”
Any relationship issues, whether at home, with friends or at work, can increase the risk of mood swings during menopause. Clinicians recommend lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet as possible ways to reduce risk. Generally, women suffering from poor health are more likely to suffer from menopause-related mood swings. Loneliness, isolation, low self-esteem and pessimism can also provoke mood swings during this time.
Laura Olry, 48, of Hawthorn Woods, a suburb northwest of Chicago, just recently began experiencing early symptoms of menopause. “Three years ago, I was re-entering the dating scene and was shocked when my then-boyfriend assumed he didn’t have to worry about birth control because he was certain I was of menopausal age,” she said. “I was insulted, but handled it pretty well at the time. If I was experiencing the mood swings during that relationship that I am going through these days, he wouldn’t have made it through the night with me!”
Laura added that she knew her moods were shifting when she found herself crying while watching nostalgic television commercials and being overly-critical to her co-workers on weekly conference calls. While her kids had laughed with her about the reaction to watching television, when her supervisor addressed her attitude at work Laura knew she had to make changes. These days, she is making a concerted effort to be physically active, avoid over-indulgence and be well-rested.
The vast majority of women will experience their menopause in a two- to 10-year window of time, usually from their mid-forties to their mid-fifties. What is considered a “normal” healthy menopause varies from woman to woman. While some women experience all symptoms of menopause, including mood changes, some never experience any mood swings at all. What is important to note is that, once menopause begins, women need to be alert to all changes in their body and consult with a medical professional for guidance to continued good health.