In today’s world, there is often a societal focus on the effect of menopause on women’s mental health. But what is not often talked about is perimenopause, and the effects of perimenopause on mental health.
Menopause – the end of a woman’s natural fertile period – is typically between the ages of 45 and 55. It is marked by often drastic changes in hormonal levels that, at least during the transition period, affect how a woman feels both physically and emotionally.
But perimenopause begins much earlier. Perimenopause is when the body begins to have hormonal shifts related to menopause but are still often many years away from menopausal onset. Some women experience perimenopause as young as their late 30s, and most women will experience it by the age of 40 to 44.
During this stage, women are still able to have children and still having periods, but their bodies are experiencing hormonal shifts and changes behind the scenes as it prepares for menopause later in life.
Perimenopause Effects on Mental Health
Because perimenopause begins at a younger age – sometimes as much as 12+ years before menopause begins – many women have no idea that they’re experiencing it, and many doctors do not talk to women about their changing bodies. Perimenopause remains an often silent part of the culture.
So it can be surprising to women in their mid 30s to mid-40s when they begin to have mental health symptoms they did not have before:
- Trouble Sleeping
- Mood Swings
The degree and severity of these symptoms differ from person to person, and lifestyle and experiences still play a role. But if a young woman in her late 30s/early 40s starts to notice that they’re feeling more anxious, or they’re having hot flashes, or they simply do not feel as emotionally healthy as they did before, it is possible that perimenopause may be to blame.
Other Factors to Consider
Now, during this same phase, women may be undergoing changes in their lives that may also have an effect on mental health. Many women have children by about 40 which adds stress to one’s life, and that is an age when there could be stresses with marriage or career that might be affecting a person’s mental health. Similarly, changing bodies can come with their own stresses, as reminders of aging and decreased fertility can affect health and wellness as well.
The Perimenopause Age and Mental Health
It is not always clear if anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues are the result of perimenopause, affected by perimenopause, or developed entirely independently. But what is clear is that it can be a stressful time, and those same mental health issues can affect someone’s ability to feel comfortable and confident within themselves.
Even mental health issues that are caused directly by hormonal changes can be addressed using psychotherapy, which is why it is so important for anyone that feels like they’re struggling to control their emotions, no matter their age, consider working with a trained psychologist or counselor. No mental health issues need to be permanent, and while it is useful to be aware of what perimenopause can do, it is also useful to treat it.