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Can Menopause Cause a Panic Disorder?

Menopause is a period of change in the body of women in their 40s and 50s that causes hormonal shifts similar to puberty in teens. Anytime the body goes through hormonal changes, it can cause physical and psychological symptoms that can be unpleasant. Depression and anxiety are common, as your body adapts to a new hormonal balance. 

In some cases, you may experience a panic attack, but can menopause cause a panic disorder? Learn more about the psychological effects of menopause and how it can cause anxiety and panic symptoms.

Does a Panic Attack Mean I Have a Panic Disorder?

Experiencing a panic attack can be unnerving, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a panic disorder. There are many potential causes for panic attacks and anxiety symptoms, especially when you’re going through menopause. Some people go through several panic attacks, and then they stop. Others have one panic attack and don’t experience another. Like other mental health issues, panic disorders can be complicated, especially when they overlap with menopause.

What Is Panic Disorder?

A panic disorder is difficult to diagnose. Though it is marked by panic attacks, several disorders and causes can lead to panic attack symptoms. Panic disorders are characterized by recurrent panic attacks that cause anxiety and behavioral changes. 

For instance, if you have a panic attack that comes on suddenly in public, you may have anxiety that it may happen again without warning. You may avoid public places or anything having to do with the circumstances of the first attack. 

Panic attack symptoms can be physical and psychological, including symptoms like:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Chest pains
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sense of doom
  • Numbness
  • Chills
  • Anxiety

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), to qualify as a panic disorder, attacks can’t be directly caused by medications or recreational drugs. They also can’t be better explained by another mental disorder, such as post-traumatic stress.

Can Menopause Cause a Panic Disorder?

If menopause can cause panic attacks, can it also lead to a disorder? It’s possible for menopause to trigger or worsen psychological issues like anxiety or panic disorders because of shifting hormones. As with puberty, some women also experience emotional distress associated with bodily changes, pain, infertility, and the idea of aging. Together, these factors can lead to psychological turmoil. Women with pre-existing anxiety may be more likely to develop a panic disorder because of menopause, and dormant panic issues may become a panic disorder.

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Treating Panic Disorder

Since a panic disorder is so challenging to diagnose, it’s best to get a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional. Panic disorders also come with physical symptoms, so it’s important to rule out certain severe medical issues like heart disease or strokes. 

Panic disorders are treatable for women who are going through menopause. In some cases, medications can be used to treat hormonal imbalances that cause physical and psychological discomfort. If anxiety, panic attacks, or other symptoms caused by menopause start to affect your life in significant ways, it’s important to seek help from medical or clinical professionals.

Sources

American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm

Cleveland Clinic. (2018, February 01). Panic Disorder Diagnosis and Tests. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4451-panic-disorder/diagnosis-and-tests

National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, February). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, July). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020, April 15). Panic Disorder. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/panicdisorder.html

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