What is hormonal anxiety?
Hormonal anxiety refers to anxiety that is linked to fluctuations in hormones during certain times in a woman’s menstrual cycle or key life stages. Hormone changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause can all trigger or worsen anxiety in some women.
The main hormones that influence anxiety are estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and thyroid hormones. Shifts in these hormones due to monthly menstrual cycles, pregnancy, perimenopause or other factors can throw off the delicate balance in the body and brain chemicals, leading to anxiety symptoms.
Some key facts about hormonal anxiety:
- It’s estimated up to 23% of women experience anxiety symptoms before their period when estrogen and progesterone levels drop.
- Around 13% of women have moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS), with anxiety as a key symptom.
- Hormone changes during perimenopause and menopause, like dropping estrogen, may heighten anxiety in some women.
- Postpartum anxiety after giving birth is also tied to radical shifts in estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones.
- Women are overall twice as likely as men to develop anxiety disorders, partly due to hormone fluctuations.
So in summary, hormonal anxiety is when hormonal imbalances exacerbate anxiety symptoms like excessive worrying, panic attacks, irritability, insomnia and restlessness in women.
There are several key causes of hormonal anxiety in women:
1. Monthly Menstrual Cycle
The fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone during a woman’s menstrual cycle can trigger anxiety symptoms about a week before her period begins. This is known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Estrogen peaks in the middle of the cycle during ovulation, while progesterone peaks during the luteal phase after ovulation. The drop in these hormones before your period causes chemical changes in the brain that can heighten anxiety.
2. Perimenopause and Menopause
As a woman approaches menopause, usually in her 40s and 50s, her estrogen levels begin to fluctuate and drop significantly. This transition time is known as perimenopause. Lower estrogen levels can lead to hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, mood swings and increased anxiety.
After menopause when estrogen production ceases altogether, some women may continue to experience anxiety symptoms. The loss of estrogen’s protective effects on brain chemicals like serotonin puts some women at risk for anxiety disorders.
3. Postpartum Anxiety
After giving birth, a woman experiences a crash in progesterone and estrogen levels. Thyroid hormone levels also drop suddenly after delivery. These abrupt hormonal changes may increase her risk for postpartum anxiety as her emotions try to balance out again.
4. Puberty and Adolescence
Hormonal surges during puberty can trigger anxiety and worrying in teenage girls. The brain is still developing so it may have trouble adapting to the influx of estrogen, progesterone and stress hormones like cortisol.
Hormones like estrogen and cortisol rise steadily during pregnancy to support fetal development. The spike in hormones and stress hormones may worsen anxiety in susceptible women. Physical stresses on the body like morning sickness, fatigue and aches can also increase anxiety.
6. Thyroid Issues
The thyroid gland controls metabolism by releasing hormones like triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). An overactive or underactive thyroid can cause hormonal imbalances that heighten anxiety symptoms.
If your anxiety seems to correlates with specific hormonal events like your period, here are some effective ways to prevent and manage hormonal anxiety:
- Reduce stress through yoga, meditation, massage, or counseling.
- Get regular exercise to boost feel-good endorphins.
- Try regulating blood sugar through a healthy, low-glycemic diet.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking, which can exacerbate anxiety.
- Get enough sleep and rest, at least 7-9 hours per night.
- Take magnesium, vitamin B, and vitamin D supplements to support mood.
- Birth control pills may help stabilize hormones and reduce PMS/PMDD symptoms.
- Antidepressants like SSRIs can ease hormonal mood and anxiety symptoms.
- Anti-anxiety medication like benzodiazepines can provide temporary relief for panic attacks.
- Hormone therapy with bioidentical hormones may help menopause-related anxiety.
- Try herbal remedies like chasteberry, evening primrose oil, or St John’s Wort.
- Acupuncture can rebalance hormones and reduce anxiety.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) gives coping strategies for anxiety.
See your doctor if hormonal fluctuations are significantly impacting your mental health. Keeping a symptom journal over a few months helps identify hormonal triggers for anxiety. Medical tests can also check for thyroid problems or reproductive issues contributing to hormone imbalances and anxiety.
What are the symptoms of hormonal anxiety?
Some common signs and symptoms of hormonal anxiety include:
- Excessive worrying or dread – Worrying constantly about everyday issues or life events.
- Panic attacks – Sudden episodes of intense fear with physical symptoms like racing heart, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath.
- Insomnia – Difficulty falling or staying asleep through the night.
- Restlessness – Feeling wound up, on edge, unable to relax.
- Irritability – Increased reactivity and sensitivity to stress.
- Fatigue – Feeling drained, lacking energy due to poor sleep and heightened stress.
- Depression – Persistent low, sad mood and lack of interest or pleasure in activities.
- Trouble concentrating – Difficulty focusing or making decisions.
- Muscle tension – Tight, sore muscles especially in the shoulders, neck and back.
Symptoms tend to fluctuate with the menstrual cycle, getting worse in the days before your period when estrogen and progesterone decline rapidly. Some women only struggle with hormonal anxiety symptoms sporadically.
For others, symptoms are severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or PMDD which is a more extreme form of PMS.
Keeping a calendar tracking symptoms each day can help identify patterns and hormonal triggers. Symptoms that interfere significantly with work, relationships and daily life indicate a high need for treatment.
Key Signs It’s Hormonal
Here are some clues that anxiety may be linked to your hormonal cycle:
- Symptoms begin or get worse about 1 week before your period.
- Symptoms improve shortly after your period starts.
- You have no anxiety for most of the month except before your period.
- Your anxiety is related to reproductive stages like puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause.
- Your anxiety flares randomly throughout the day.
When anxiety follows this pattern of correlating with hormonal fluctuations, it suggests hormones play a role in driving the anxiety.
What home remedies help hormonal anxiety?
Here are some natural remedies you can try at home to manage anxiety related to hormonal shifts:
- Exercise – Aim for 30 mins per day to boost mood-enhancing endorphins.
- Healthy diet – Eat more veggies, protein and complex carbs to stabilize blood sugar.
- Stress management – Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing, journaling, or talking to a friend.
- Good sleep – Prioritize 7-9 hours nightly for emotional balance.
- Socialize – Make time for fun activities with supportive friends and family.
Supplements and Herbs
- Magnesium – Take 200-400 mg daily to ease anxiety and PMS symptoms.
- B complex – B vitamins like B6 support anxiety regulation in the brain.
- Vitamin D3 – Low vitamin D is linked to increased anxiety.
- Omega-3s – Fatty acids EPA and DHA have anti-anxiety effects.
- Chasteberry – Helpful for PMS and perimenopause-related anxiety.
- Evening primrose oil – Provides fatty acid GLA to balance hormones.
Consult your doctor before taking new supplements, especially if you take medication or have underlying health conditions. Herbal remedies can interact with other drugs or cause side effects in some cases.
- Meditation – Calms anxiety and refocuses thoughts away from worry.
- Yoga – Combines physical postures, breathing and mindfulness.
- CBT – Change negative thought patterns contributing to anxiety.
- Journaling – Express emotions and track hormone-anxiety links.
- Therapy – Work through anxiety triggers with a mental health pro.
Learning stress management and coping strategies can help defuse anxiety when hormones are in flux. Apps, online tools, books and in-person classes can all teach valuable skills.
When to see a doctor for hormonal anxiety
Seek medical advice if hormonal anxiety is:
- Severely interfering with work, school or relationships
- Causing withdrawals from normal activities
- Leading to depression or suicidal thoughts
- Causing physical symptoms like chest pain, dizziness or nausea
- Happening along with other mood/psychiatric disorders
- Not improving with lifestyle remedies after 2-3 months
Your doctor can check for underlying health or hormonal problems and provide appropriate treatment. They may recommend:
- Medication – SSRIs, anti-anxiety meds, hormonal therapy.
- Blood tests – Check hormone, blood sugar and thyroid levels.
- Pelvic exam – Assess reproductive health issues.
- Mental health referral – Counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Ongoing work with both your medical doctor and mental health therapist provides the most comprehensive treatment approach.
Shifting estrogen, progesterone and other hormones during a woman’s menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause and other stages can trigger anxiety for some women. Hormonal anxiety often follows a pattern where symptoms flare up around 1 week before your period when hormones plunge.
Lifestyle remedies like exercise, stress management and a healthy diet can help balance hormones and keep anxiety in check. For moderate to severe anxiety, prescription medications, hormone therapy and mental health counseling teach effective ways to manage symptoms.
Tracking your daily anxiety patterns over a few months helps identify hormonal triggers. See your doctor to rule out other health issues if lifestyle remedies aren’t providing sufficient relief. With the right treatment plan tailored to your needs, hormonal anxiety can be overcome.