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Diseases & Conditions > Menopause

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Social Anxiety & Menopause

Sheryl Kraft

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There’s a lot going on during menopause.

Your hormones are flip-flopping. Your sleep is disrupted. Your play off-and-on with your clothing, fighting hot flashes followed by chills. For many women, it signifies the end of fertility and the loss of youth.

Add it all up: hormonal fluctuations, sleep problems, body image issues, concerns about aging, fertility, our parents, our children and other significant life changes, in general, can contribute to anxiety during the menopausal years.

No, it’s not all in your head. Countless studies support the fact that menopause and anxiety are not an unlikely pair.

What is Social Anxiety?

The Social Anxiety Institute defines it as “the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, self-consciousness, embarrassment, humiliation and depression.”

And it’s more common than most people realize, they say. After depression and alcoholism, social anxiety is the third largest psychological disorder in the country, affecting about 15 million Americans each year.

A person with social anxiety usually feels nervous and troubled about things like meeting new people, being the center of attention, most social situations (especially if they involve meeting new people). Relationships (work and personal) can be difficult, as can having to speak up when called upon.

Knowing that they have social anxiety, and even knowing that it’s irrational and doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t stop people with it from feeling the effects of it, which can range from withdrawing from social situations, a racing heart, excessive sweating, a dry throat, and mouth, blushing, twitching or trembling. They might feel alone and helpless; fearing these feelings might never improve.

What Can Help

Even though you may feel helpless, there is help: through therapy with a professional who understands the dynamics of the condition. In particular, CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is considered the gold standard of treatment and has been shown to be successful in making significant changes and permanently alleviating social anxiety disorder. This type of therapy teaches you ways to change your old thinking patterns and habits and to think and behave in ways different from the past.

In addition, some healthcare professionals will prescribe medication, like antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). There’s also acupuncture and other lifestyle measures like yoga, meditation, tai chi and deep breathing. All of these can help quell the anxiety that bubbles up and follows some of us into social situations.

Reaching out to friends can also help; so, can activities that allow you to “indulge” your needs and create a sense of well-being and relaxation; like gardening, meditating, walking, knitting, reading or anything else that brings you joy.

And don’t underestimate the role of exercise in helping with anxiety; it’s a proven way to increase your brain’s secretion of endorphins, which - in addition to reducing your perception of pain – helps trigger a positive feeling in your body.

If you do suffer from social anxiety, it’s best to steer clear of too much caffeine and alcohol, both of which can make the anxiety worse, and to do all you can to get good-quality sleep.

And here’s another piece of news you should keep in your back pocket: Usually once your hormones level out, so does anxiety.

Download a complimentary Symptom Tracker here!