It’s not just you. Many women experience mood swings and increased irritability, edge and outright rage during midlife and perimenopause.
This, frankly, freaks a lot of women out. We’ve been conditioned from a young age to avoid anger at all costs. That it’s up to us to make others feel good. To stay positive. Don’t get hysterical, no one likes a bitch, put on a smile, you’re getting crazy, and why are you so angry?
Maybe this period of rage is nature’s way to break from all that.
Maybe it’s a biological push to confront reality, awaken to feelings we’ve been taught to deny and override and to center our own truths.
Or maybe it’s just the hormones. Let’s dig in.
How perimenopausal anger can feel
Anger in perimenopause is a thing and it may hit quite differently than everyday frustration.
Irritability/On edge - Fast triggers, high RPMs and lower thresholds for irritation and patience may become a norm. Up and down. On and off.
Middle rAge - True feelings of rage where you want to (or do) scream, yell, want to act out—hit something, throw something. Short, sudden, super intense.
Seething—You may feel dark, angry moods, the "mean reds" or find it harder to let go of these feelings than before.
But what happened? You used to be such a nice girl.
Yep, there's that conditioning again. Getting angry has not historically been OK or even safe for women. As author and podcaster Elise Loehnen wrote, " Censure for appearing visibly angry has deep roots: There is no realm, private or public, where women and girls get to work with their anger."
So a guilt, shame and even fear hangover can come with this irritability.
But why does midlife rage happen?
You may feel some, one or all of these things. They may phase in and out as hormones fluctuate. Each phase of change and decline will throw off the balance progesterone-estrogen-serotonin (and sleep!). Irritability over 40 is frankly natural.
Think of Anger as a Message
Often anger is a productive emotional signalling that a boundary has been crossed or a need unmet. It may be fear or sadness, coming out in a more "active" form. You may have learned to manage stress or other emotions with anger vs tears or vulnerability.
Regardless, always check in with yourself. What are you feeling? Do this before you squelch it down—even before you reach for our Un-Anger tincture!
The Biological & Hormonal Roots of Perimenopausal Anger
Some researchers believe strong PMS throughout life may make you a more likely candidate for perimenopausal rages and irritability, just as earlier bouts of depression may make you more prone to perimenopausal depression.
At Wile, we always say, “is it perimenopause? Or is it life?” Because the stress of midlife is real. But first, let’s look at the hormonal aspects of perimenopausal anger.
Irritability & your hormones after 40
Hormonal fluctuations on their own create plenty of anger, but they also affect neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the messengers of the brain, chemicals which regulate mood and emotions. And right now, they are often screaming obscenities.
There are chemical reasons for that over-40 rage:
Progesterone decline — progesterone is the calming hormone, and it often begins to decline first. When a naturally calming and relaxing chemical starts to drop, of course anger would likely rise.
Estrogen fluctuations — Estrogen is up and down in this era. Yet because progesterone is declining first, you may be more estrogen dominant at times than usual. Estrogen is a power hormone, so surges and dominance can make you go red.
Serotonin decline — Serotonin is a feel-good neurotransmitter. As estrogen drops, serotonin follows. Lower serotonin can bring that anger but also feelings of sadness and occasional depression.
Norepinephrine fluctuations—Estrogen also affects this neurotransmitter, which is linked to triggers, arousal and stress reactions as well as attention and cognition. And those oops moments that occur when you’ve overlooked something or made mistakes can anger us, too. (Lower levels lead to the sads so there’s that on the other side.
So the chemicals are swirling, creating a perfect environment for anger and irritability. When stress happens, perimenopausal hormones mean we’re more easily triggered, more intensely bothered and likely set off by things that perhaps would not have bothered us much before. Like someone else's breathing or everybody else's driving.
That Over-40 Life: The Swirl
Hormones aside, there are plenty of other reasons to feel the rage of this age. We call it the “swirl” and it hits hard around 40.
Ageism, Beauty Culture & Culture
Aging as a woman in this culture is no joke. Our research shows women struggle with fear of aging intensely around 40. Closer to 50, we have more acceptance personally but the actual consequences may be hitting us harder.
Many of us don't confront these issues when we're younger because we simply don't have to. With age can come a new reality.
Women bear a disproportionate amount of caregiving in our society, particularly in heterosexual relationships, elder care and child-rearing as well as invisible labor at both home and work. We know this. But we feel it—hard—in this life phase. There's a lot of stress and not a lot of stress relief for women.
Sleep Issues after 40
Sleep is notoriously elusive in this life phase, driven by both hormones and stress. And with no sleep comes plenty of edge. When we're sleep deprived, we're easier to anger, as well as make mistakes, be forgetful, feel pressured—all of which can really tick a person off.
The collective effect of all this—feeling it in your body, under-slept, the accumulated brunt of several decades of expectations and responsibilities, all turbo charge those outbursts and internal flares.
What to do about it?
There’s a lot to unpack with women and anger. Rather than simply covering it up, we believe in processing it, accepting it and working with it.
There is a difference between consciously working with anger and giving into it. Irritability and rages can be hard on you, on loved ones and on your working and personal relationships.
In the meantime (and even after, because life will continue to provide stress and irritants regardless, we have Un-Anger.
Our Un-Anger tincture is, to our knowledge, one of the few products designed to acknowledge and productively provide stress relief for women’s anger. It blends kava, lavender, milk thistle and hawthorn berry withhormone-balancing chasteberry (aka Vitex). It's fast, in-the-rage-moment relief to refind your center. Un-Anger keeps you aware of your emotions (with vodka and weed, not so much) without being flooded by them. Regain calm and control.
Tinctures work more quickly than drinks, pills or edibles (mood gummies included) because they go into your bloodstream quickly through the mouth. No digestion required.
Perimenopausal Irritability Becomes Menopausal whatever
Over-40 rage is not forever. As estrogen levels taper off and the body adjusts, the rage and irritability—if hormonal—will subside. Women often enter a more carefree period than in the past, but that’s another blog post.
Get good and mad. It’s time.
This article is intended for informational purposes and is not intended to replace a one-on-one medical consultation with a professional. Wile, Inc researches and shares information and advice from our own research and advisors. We encourage every woman to research, ask questions and speak to a trusted health care professional to make her own best decisions.