Can My Anxiety Be Related to My Hormones?
Here is an email we received that is very typical of many of our readers. Read it and see if you can relate:
“Can you help me? About 2 years ago I started to get increasingly anxious, right around when I started into perimenopause and skipping periods. My body started feeling like I was jumping out of my skin. Then I would start worrying about every little thing. Then I got crabby at my husband and kids and everyone wanted to avoid Mom. Now I feel it is getting worse. If I go to the grocery store I can feel panicky in the store and sometimes I am too anxious to even think about what I want to buy. I have NO reason to be so anxious and I feel it is something wrong with my hormones. Nothing like this runs in my family and my sisters keep telling me to calm down, but that is not easy. I refuse to take anxiety medications because I am afraid of them and I think this is something I can help. What can I do? I’m so tired of being nervous & anxious.”
You all know the symptoms of anxiety….irrational or intense fear, muscle tension, jaw-clenching, teeth-grinding, insomnia, restlessness, nervousness, a choking sensation or nausea, jumpiness, irritability, shakiness, sudden sweating….you may have some of these or all or even ones I did not mention…pulling on your hair for instance.
Mild to moderate anxiety or generalized anxiety is very widespread and common among women today. Even women who say they were never anxious before in their lives can develop anxiety and/or panic attacks as they experience hormonal changes. It is ESPECIALLY common during peri-menopause. As a matter of fact, it can be the first sign that you are entering this phase.
Other periods of hormonal change that can trigger anxiety in women are: Puberty, PMS, and following childbirth. Personally, I did not have any post-partum depression, but I definitely had post-partum anxiety. I was absolutely convinced that if I lay my baby down, something awful was going to happen when I was not looking. It was both irrational and intense at the same time! Hysterectomy also can cause anxiety due to the dramatic decrease of hormones that ensues.
Medication for anxiety is prescribed freely. In fact, women who simply complain of hot flashes are often given Xanax, Ativan or Valium. Our email writer is afraid to take anti-anxiety meds and she has a valid point. They can be highly addictive and do not correct the root cause of the anxiety. They simply mask the symptoms so that you can function. Also, it has been found that these drugs can actually make symptoms worse in older women. Others say they will feel calm, but also like a “zombie” while taking them.This is not to say that all people do not need anti-anxiety medications. However, there are ways that you can naturally, to reduce your symptoms or even to eliminate them.
Most of the anxiety in women appears to fall into two categories: Hormonal and Brain Neurotransmitter dysfunction. There are natural ways to address both of these.
You have heard me say that natural progesterone is a natural anti-anxiety agent. How does it work? Progesterone is known as a neurosteroid, because it is synthesized in the central nervous system. It distinctly affects nerve function and therefore mood and calmness.
Progesterone is known to enhance the calming effect of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) by activating the GABA receptor sites and it also suppresses the brain’s excitatory response.
The anti-anxiety affect has been noticed very quickly in some people with reports of as little as ten minutes. The anti-anxiety response has been compared to that found with benzodiazepine drugs, but without the risk of addiction. Isn’t that wonderful?
GABA in itself is a calming neurotransmitter. If progesterone and GABA are used together the calming affect is enhanced. The recommended does of progesterone is between 40-80mg per day. You can use more during an anxious episode.
In my experience, relief from perimenopausal and menopausal anxiety and panic attacks can be gained when hormone balance is restored.
“IT’S IN YOUR HEAD” ANXIETY
For years women have been told that their anxiety is “all in their head”. Guess what? This is not entirely untrue! If your neurotransmitters are not balanced, your brain makes you more prone to a high level of excitability and more prone to a fearful response to events. Constant high levels of the excitatory neurotransmitters (adrenaline, epinephrine) and low levels of the calming neurotransmitters (GABA and serotonin) can alter the circuitry of the brain. Your stress response never recedes keeping you in a chronic state of adrenalin-fueled feelings and behavior. In other words, a “nervous wreck!”
The messages from the brain are designed to be sent in a calm, rhythmic fashion. When the neurotransmitter balance is disrupted the signals are sent in a jerky fashion and often too many at once. Then you become anxious…and no wonder! Your entire body feels restless, your heart can be beating faster, emotions are heightened, mental focus becomes very narrow, you can’t breathe deeply and you can experience sheer panic. You will definitely have problems sleeping as well. This can be helped! You are NOT alone. There are literally thousands and thousands of people in your shoes probably at the same time you are experiencing YOUR anxiety!
What are the recommendations for this type of anxiety:
GABA: is involved in the production of endorphins, the brain chemicals that create a feeling of well- being.
L-Theonine: a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea. It is involved in the formation of GABA
5-HTP: raises serotonin levels which promotes a sense of calm focus.
Vitamin B12 & Folic Acid: I especially like Rodex Forte or a sublingual Vitamin B-12
Melatonin: good sleep promotes good brain chemistry.
These supplements work to calm you without drowsiness and will also increase mental clarity. GABA and L-Theonine seem to work the fastest.
Of course, if you have a severe anxiety disorder, including OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder or social phobias, you should contact your healthcare practitioner. However, these conditions afflict only a small minority of people who suffer from anxiety. The rest of you might want to give GABA and progesterone a try. You could add the other supplements as needed. You can be DELIVERED!