Hormonal Mood Swings
When the brain’s major mood and emotional regulators (mainly estrogen and progesterone) are in a harmonious, natural balance, a woman is much more likely to have an appropriate emotional response to an event that evokes a certain mood. However, because of the decreased production of these mood-regulating hormones during menopause, the body’s natural equilibrium of emotions is thrown incredibly off-balance, resulting in intense mood swings and inappropriate emotional responses. These wild, often uncontrollable mood swings, can deeply confuse and worry the menopausal woman, and can often endanger personal relationships.
Estrogen and Serotonin
Scientists have concluded that serotonin, the brain’s neurotransmitter that regulates one’s mood, is heavily influenced by estrogen, a vital female hormone that experiences a decreased output during menopause. An interruption or imbalance of estrogen production directly influences serotonin production as well, causing a woman to experience mood swings and other disturbances (such as depression), as serotonin is the brain’s mood regulator. Although estrogen’s influence on serotonin is widely believed to be the major cause of menopausal mood swings, experts say that wild emotional responses and mood swings may also be caused by other symptoms of menopause. Estrogen’s effects on serotonin include:
• Increased sensitivity of serotonin receptors
• Increased levels of serotonin receptors
• Overall increase in the production of serotonin
Mood Swings Caused By Other Menopausal Symptoms
Even though mood swings are believed to be regularly caused by a hormonal imbalance in a woman’s brain, other menopausal symptoms can also have an influence on one’s mood and emotional responses. Night sweats and nocturnal hot flashes can often interrupt sleep and sometimes cause insomnia, which can result in irritability and sensitivity during waking hours. While often already experiencing stress as a result of both home and work, many women’s lack of sleep due to these symptoms can lead to seemingly exaggerated emotional responses and mood swings.
Other physical problems that occur during menopause can similarly trigger a mood swing. Migraine headaches, vaginal discomfort due to dryness, weight gain, and daytime hot flashes can all cause a woman to experience an increased level of irritability and an increased chance of having a mood swing.