Menopause can take an emotional toll on women and cause symptoms that may make it more challenging to face everyday situations, make decisions, and participate fully in life. One of those symptoms is social anxiety.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety (aka, social phobia) is a chronic mental health condition in which individuals experience irrational anxiety, embarrassment, fear, and self-consciousness in social interactions. It is the third most common psychological disorder in the United States.
Generally, risk factors and causes of social anxiety disorder can include stress, genetics, past emotional trauma (e.g., bullying humiliation, abuse, family conflict), temperament (shyness, timidness), an overactive amygdala (brain region that controls fear response), or an overactive thyroid. It is also sometimes seen among women in menopause.
How is social anxiety associated with menopause?
Fluctuating estrogen levels can contribute to social anxiety. In fact, changing estrogen levels is the main cause of social anxiety among middle-aged women. Other hormones, including testosterone and oxytocin, also may have a role, as these hormones have a calming effect, and reduced levels can take away this protection. A hyperthyroid can make high levels of hormones that can cause anxiety.
Stress hormones may also be important in social anxiety. The release of cortisol and adrenaline in stressful situations, which can range from hot flashes to feelings of being out of control, pain, depression, to digestive problems, can increase social anxiety.
How to manage society anxiety naturally
A combination of lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, and therapy can help reduce and manage social anxiety.
- Release good chemicals. That’s a sly way of saying to exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals. Physical activity also boosts energy and mood and can help with sleep problems.
- Try phytoestrogens. Foods such as flaxseed, oats, sesame seeds, and soy exert a weak estrogenic effect, which in turn can help reduce anxiety while promoting hormonal balance.
- Take minerals. Both magnesium and zinc can help with brain function, including the mood-controlling neurotransmitter serotonin (magnesium) and aiding with anxiety and depression (zinc). Great food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, avocado, nuts, and seeds, while zinc is found in pumpkin seeds, cashews, asparagus, and oysters.
- Get essentials. We’re talking about omega-3 fatty acids, which can help regulate mood and balance hormones. Fish oil supplements, as well as flaxseed and walnuts are good sources.
- Balance your diet. Focus on whole, natural fruits and vegetables, lean and plant-based protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods.
- Have a cuppa. Herbal teas that can help induce calm include chamomile, valerian, lavender, passionflower, and rose. You can combine enjoying a cup of tea with some aromatherapy, utilizing lavender, clary sage, sandalwood, and jasmine.
- Practice stress reduction. Along with teas and aromatherapy, a daily stress-reducing routine can be most productive. Meditation, deep breathing, visualization, and progressive relaxation are suggested.
- Get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours of restful sleep every night is essential for managing anxiety. Establish a healthy sleep routine and stick with it for best results.
- Talk it out. Talk therapy, whether you join a therapy group, go one-on-one with a therapist, or seek out a support group in the community, such efforts can provide much moral support and a sense of community and caring.
When to call your doctor
If you social anxiety is getting out of hand and you are unable to function in your daily life, contact your healthcare provider immediately.