Ever since my mom gave me the talk when I was a young girl, the world of female health and taking care of my “lady business” has always centered around periods and pregnancy.
Uncomfortable annual visits to the OB/GYN have always been just a normal part of life. But I never thought much about what would happen with my health—and the changes that would come—once that season of my life was over.
I am now in my 40s and reaching the end of my baby-making years, and that means things are happening with my body that I wasn’t prepared for. I’m officially in perimenopause, a naturally-occurring transition process caused when your ovaries gradually stop working.
This experience can last anywhere between two to ten years, and it’s marked by changes in the menstrual cycle, with ovulation becoming erratic and then eventually stopping altogether. The menstrual cycle lengthens—with more time between periods—before the flow becomes irregular and then you ultimately get your final period.
Hormone levels are also changing, with high levels of estrogen causing PMS-like symptoms, and low levels of estrogen cause hot flashes and night sweats. But these are just some of the numerous physical and emotional symptoms of perimenopause.
Because every woman is different, none of us experience perimenopause in the same way. But most likely, you’ll experience at least one of these common symptoms at some point during perimenopause:
- Mood changes
- Changes in sexual desire
- Trouble concentrating
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Trouble with sleep
- Joint and muscle aches
- Heavy sweating
- Having to pee often
- PMS-like symptoms
- Brain fog
One of the lesser-known symptoms of perimenopause is rage, and it can be confusing and frustrating to deal with.
No, you’re not crazy. If you are in your 40s and experiencing bouts of anger, lashing out, and making enemies out of lifelong friends and family members, it’s possible you are suffering from perimenopause rage.
Let’s take a look at some of the experiences women have shared and find out how to spot it in yourself.
You’re Not Alone
Given the infuriating lack of knowledge and resources when it comes to perimenopause, many women often don’t know where to turn for support. The popular community-based site Reddit has been an outlet for many to share their own experiences.
A 37-year-old woman started a thread in the menopause subreddit talking about her perimenopausal rage. She explained that she had always been kind, compassionate, and giving, but her emotions and temperament did a 180 when she entered perimenopause.
“I have found myself being very impatient, short-fused, having horrible angry and hurtful outbursts, wanting to cry one minute and then angry the next moment. The worst part about this is that my angry outbursts really hurt those I love so dearly,” she wrote.
“Once I realize I’ve had one of those perimenopausal rage outbursts, I experience an extreme amount of guilt and self-hatred and always wonder why I got so upset in the first place when what I was upset about was such a minor thing,” she continued.
The poster commented on how it has deeply affected her relationships, and she was desperately looking for a solution.
The range of replies from trying various supplements to getting back on birth control to changing one’s diet further shows how lost many women feel when it comes to how to deal with these changes in their bodies.
In a separate thread about perimenopausal rage, a 50-year-old shared that she realized something was “terribly wrong” when she “laid into a friend for something innocuous.” After having a conversation with her boyfriend, she realized that her perimenopausal rage had caused a pattern of behavior.
“He made me realize it’s been a pattern of mine for the last year that I’ve been dating him. I’ve also blown up at my siblings and my adult children over things I can’t even recall. Most of my close-knit family is barely speaking to me at this point. My perception was that they had all turned on me. Now I’m not sure what the reality is,” she wrote.
The replies to her post echoed the same frustration. “I’m pretty much experimenting with stuff but when I figure this out more I will certainly share,” one woman replied.
Is It Perimenopause Rage? What Can Be Done?
Mood changes are much more common in perimenopause compared to menopause, which is reached one year after the last normal period. Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, medical director of Midlife Health Center, says that perimenopause is a time of vulnerability for women because of hormone fluctuation. The overwhelming rage some women experience may be related to the body’s changes in estrogen levels in combination with stressors.
While estrogen levels fluctuate, that can affect other hormones like oxytocin and serotonin, and your body can be left with either too few or too many hormones at a given time. Your body’s sensitivity to those fluctuations can cause mood swings. The constant shift, says Dr. Pinkerton, can cause feelings of rage.
Left untreated, anger during perimenopause can transition to an increase in the risk of developing depression. But the good news is there are a number of treatments available.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and low-dose antidepressants could be an option for restoring mood and reducing hot flashes. Other treatment options include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but these options don’t work for everyone.
To find what’s best for you, talk to your OB/GYN if you are experiencing rage from perimenopause. It’s also a good idea to identify your triggers and use mindfulness tools like meditation to tame those negative emotional reactions.
“Mindfulness and the ability to step back are really important,” Pinkerton said.
Consider meditation, exercise, and creative outlets to decrease your stress and irritability, but don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.