Feeling lonely in menopause is common ‒ so if this is where you’re at, know that you are by no means alone in your experience.
The reasons why are complex, and have to do with a number of interconnected factors that include the physical, emotional, and environmental changes that are common at this time.
Basically, there’s a whole lot going on, both within and outside of you, that can leave you feeling disconnected.
And because we haven’t spoken about the menopause transition nearly enough in the past, we may think this is something we just have to grit our teeth and bear in silence.
This is by no means the case.
It’s vital to form supportive social structures to help each other through this and reach out for medical care when we need it.
We’re going to take you through the details.
In this article: 📝
- What is menopause?
- What is the link between loneliness and menopause?
- Can menopause cause extreme sadness?
- Can menopause cause anxiety and panic attacks?
- Loneliness in menopause: the bottom line
What is menopause?
Menopause is defined as twelve months after you have your last period.
The average age to hit menopause in the United States is 51, but you may get there before or after that mark.
The time leading up to menopause (called perimenopause) is when you roll out the welcome mat for all those notorious symptoms.
(Hello, hot flashes!)
Often, menopause symptoms start to dissipate after you hit menopause, but for some people, they can continue right into their 60s and beyond.
Some people go through menopause early, often because they have to undergo certain medical procedures or have specific health struggles.
If you’re TTC, this can, of course, be devastating.
And even if you’re not, the early transition can have a very real impact on your emotional and physical health.
What is the link between loneliness and menopause?
The ties between loneliness and menopause are strong.
First, menopause-related symptoms can be all-consuming.
Vasomotor symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats, can leave you feeling at odds with your own body, let alone with the world around you.
Even if your friends are going through menopause at the same time as you, it can be difficult to explain exactly how you’re experiencing your unique symptoms in your unique body.
The research agrees.
This 2022 study found that there’s a very real link between loneliness and menopause symptoms.
Amongst the 200 women that participated, they found that loneliness increases with the severity of their menopause symptoms.
Symptoms can leave you feeling that the last thing you want to do is socialize ‒ or even leave the house.
Added to this, some people are more vulnerable to the hormonal shifts that occur at this time.
(Basically, your progesterone and estrogen levels go through a dance before taking their final bow.)
And these changes can trigger feelings of isolation.
It’s also common to be going through all sorts of life shifts right now.
Career changes, children leaving home, and financial stressors can all impact how we interact with the world.
Loneliness doesn’t just affect our mental health, but our physical health too.
According to the American Heart Association, social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 29%.
Loneliness in older adults has also been linked to all sorts of health conditions, including high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and cognitive decline.
Recent research has also linked social isolation to the risk of premature death.
And we don’t say any of this to scare you but rather to let you know how important it is to take feelings of loneliness and isolation seriously.
Can menopause cause extreme sadness?
The relationship between menopause and depression is real and complex.
For some, mood disorders can be triggered by hormonal shifts that happen during perimenopause and beyond.
If you have experienced mental health challenges in your life before, you may be even more vulnerable to them at this time.
You are also navigating a range of physical, psychological, and social transitions.
Added to this, sleep and menopause are not always the best of friends.
And poor sleep can have a very real impact on mood.
But even though this may explain why you may be feeling like you’re feeling, it doesn’t make depression any less serious or any easier to cope with.
If you experience any of the symptoms below for longer than a two-week period, it’s really important that you seek help:
- Sadness and emptiness that don’t go away
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
- Not finding pleasure in activities you previously enjoyed
- Trouble concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Aches and pains
- Digestive issues
- Thoughts of suicide
Can menopause cause anxiety and panic attacks?
The short answer is that there’s a strong link between anxiety and menopause.
Again, hormone fluctuations are a big deal here, as is the stress that goes with the life changes you might be experiencing right now.
There are also important ties between vasomotor symptoms and experiences of anxiety and depression.
This intricate web of factors can lead to social isolation, which can then lead back to feelings of anxiety and depression.
It’s a vicious circle.
But there’s hope.
We’ll take you through key strategies to navigate this time.
What to do about loneliness in menopause
1. Get professional help.
And that goes for both physical and mental health issues.
If you are struggling with your mental health, it’s vital to seek treatment.
It exists in the form of medication and talk therapy.
All sorts of complementary and alternative treatments are also being researched, many with positive results.
These include dietary supplements, acupuncture, and exercise.
And getting help for physical symptoms is important too.
Research shows that we tend not to seek treatment for vasomotor symptoms.
And these are intrinsically linked to experiences of depression, anxiety, and isolation.
So we cannot stress this enough ‒ see your doctor.
And if that feels too much, start by reaching out to a friend or family member so that you can get the conversation going.
2. Connect with others who are where you’re at.
Peanut is here to help.
We’re firm believers in building strong communities to help each other through life’s biggest transition.
Part of that is normalizing the conversation around the menopause transition.
The more we talk and connect and share resources, the easier it is for all of us.
3. Prioritize doing what you love.
With all the stressors in life, it can feel like there’s no time to invest in your passions.
We’re here to say: make them a priority.
Doing things you love can help you improve your self-esteem, make connections with others, and seriously up the joy factor in your life.
So go on.
Take that dance class. Join that ornithological society.
Or head up a book club.
Now’s the time.
4. That self-care thing? Do it.
Take time to prepare delicious meals, prioritize your sleep, and schedule coffee dates with friends.
Exercise is also vital for both our physical and mental health.
Expert recommendations are to include two and a half hours of aerobic activity a week, as well as some strength and balance training.
Try and do as much as you can of that with others.
There are some considerations when it comes to exercise and menopause and beyond.
The biggest of all?
Risk of injury.
So start small and slow, listen to your body, and check in with your doctor.
Also, do something you actually like doing.
That way you’ll stick with it.
Loneliness in menopause: the bottom line
Yes, it’s common to feel lonely in menopause, and there are so many reasons for it.
But that doesn’t mean you just have to grit your teeth and bear it.
Because feelings of isolation and loneliness are connected to a number of other mental health conditions, it’s really important to reach out.
Your Peanut community is here for you.