Many women have experienced mood shifts that co-occur with their menstrual cycles.
Furthermore, those that care about them may have witnessed that their loved ones were a bit “off” during “that time of the month.”
So, you’ll likely not be surprised when I tell you that sex hormones have a powerful influence on the brain.
Did you know that hormonal changes can sometimes cause mood shifts so severe that one can experience extreme irritability, anger, or rage?
In this post, I want to discuss why and how “perimenopause rage” (and other emotional issues) may occur.
Though I’m going to be specifically addressing mood disorders in perimenopause, my hope is that everyone will take the time to understand how sex hormones impact brain processes and our moods.
Can Hormones Really Affect Your Mind-Body That Much?
Though they are only present in minute amounts in our bodies, hormones are potent.
In my previous article, I explored specifically how hormones impact your physical wellness, mental health, and emotions.
This included how hormones:
(1) have wide-reaching effects on our mind-body
(2) intricately communicate with our different organs
(3) are tightly regulated and have various influencers
(4) affect our brain signaling and processing patterns (highlighting interactions with estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, testosterone, and oxytocin)
(5) can’t just be replaced with pills and lotions
(6) can be balanced using a naturopathic and functional medicine approach
If you missed it, you may want to skim over that post for a more thorough overview of how hormones impact your brain and body.
No worries if you don’t have time though, it won’t be necessary to follow along here.
Now, I want to focus specifically on how fluctuations in these mighty chemical messengers can drive extreme emotions.
I originally wrote this piece for Rupa Health.
I will highlight the key points and give an overview below.
To get all the details, make sure to review the original article.
A Female’s Changing Hormonal Landscape
According to WebMD:
“As many as 90% of women experience unpleasant symptoms before their periods.”
Unfortunately, those who have a history of pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS) may be more likely to experience mood swings throughout perimenopause.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause encompasses the period between the onset of irregular menstrual cycles and the last menstrual period (menopause). This is a time marked by fluctuations in reproductive hormones, which can lead to physical, emotional, and social changes.
As stated in my article on Rupa Health:
Perimenopause is a natural process when your ovaries gradually produce less estrogen throwing your hormonal balances out of whack. During this transition, it’s common to experience symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes.
Literature suggests that perimenopause holds the highest risk for psychological disorders in women compared to pre-and post-menopause.
One of the most common mood disorders in perimenopause is irritability.
Why Would Emotional Outbursts Occur in Perimenopause
Most of the research on mood swings in perimenopause and the menstrual cycle has suggested hormonal shifts are mainly responsible for them. However, there are other factors that can precipitate and contribute to these emotional outbursts as well, including:
- Structural brain changes
- Lifestyle factors
- Predisposing conditions
- Socioeconomic factors
Due to the fact that hormones are the main driver of irritability and emotional issues in perimenopause, the rest of the article details specifics about this.
- How hormonal changes in estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause can impact mood
- The role of estrogen on brain functioning and brain structure
- How fluctuations in estrogen can impact several brain areas that can lead to various perimenopausal symptoms. These include:
- the hypothalamus, a brain region that regulates body temperature (and other vital functions), and is likely responsible for those pesky hot flashes
- the brainstem, impacting sleep and wake cycles
- the amygdala, the emotional and memory center, affecting both mood and cognitive function
- How to recognize hormonal imbalances in the perimenopausal transition (symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes/night sweats, uterine problems, sleep issues, and memory and mood issues)
- Using functional lab tests to look for the root cause of perimenopausal rage (i.e., hormonal panels, a thyroid panel, measuring neurotransmitters, and assessing gut function)
- Treatment options (conventional HRT, lifestyle modifications, mind-body therapies, aromatherapy/essential oils, herbs, and nutrition)
You can read the full article here.
My editor took the liberty of adding in additional information about Chinese herbals and formulations in the treatment section. Although I do not have experience with them, they are supported in the literature for assisting with hormonal balance.
One herb that I do have experience with clients, and which wasn’t mentioned in the article (I forgot!), is pueria murifica. I found this herb to be very helpful for perimenopausal issues related to lowered estrogen levels.
Note: Please be advised that any intervention which impacts hormones should be overseen by a physician. I have seen some herbals, including pueria murifica, influence estrogen levels and this should be monitored due to estrogen’s impact on the uterus and breasts.
One of My Favorite Hacks for Hormone Health
Well, you probably guessed what my favorite intervention is to assist women with hormonal harmony.
To me, these aromatic volatiles are one of the most powerful, yet gentle, interventions for all my female clients, regardless of where their hormonal cycle is.
In the Rupa Health article, I reviewed lavender, clary sage, geranium, rose, and neroli due to how they affect estrogen levels.
In a previous article, I shared additional research on how various essential oils affect several hormones including:
- estrogen (as mentioned above)
- testosterone (sandalwood, clary sage, and rose having indirect effects)
- cortisol (lavender is one of my favorites for this)
- thyroid hormones (based on underlying conditions, but oils modulating cortisol, blood sugar, and estrogen are usually key players)
- oxytocin (clary sage and combination blends)
Summary on Mood, Hormones, and Perimenopausal Rage
The variations in sex hormones that occur with perimenopause profoundly affect the brain and mood. Estrogen and progesterone impact neurotransmitters, neurosteroid signaling, and overall brain functioning. This can result in irritability and lead to rage.
Understanding the underlying mechanisms and using a functional medicine approach that focuses on lifestyle, including balancing stress, mind-body approaches, aromatherapy, nutrition, and herbal support, can help balance the hormones and improve brain health and overall mood. (From Rupa Health)
Click here for the full article and references.
Naturopathic Medicine and Holistic Resources for Hormonal and Mood Support
Free resources and more education on essential oils and mind-body wellness are available to you here.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, please seek professional help: National Mental Health Hotline
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Access the 50 references listed at the end of this article on Rupa Health.
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.