There are many things that can provoke mood swings, such as chemical imbalances in the brain, side effects from medications, everyday stressful events and, in the case of women in menopause or men going through andropause, fluctuations within the hormonal system. Rapidly changing moods can present quality of life issues and may be a symptom of a larger problem. Even the emotion of joy, when taken to the extreme, can lead to an unhealthy and exhausting expression of mania.
Andropause affects men as they grow older due to a waning in the production of testosterone. It is a gradual process, with symptoms being less evident when compared to the condition of menopause, which happens at a faster pace and often produces more dramatic symptoms in women. Women enter menopause when the ovaries slow down and eventually cease production of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone. In both cases, for aging men and women, there may be a decline in energy levels, decreased libido and mood swings.
From the perspective of a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, symptoms of menopause/andropause reflect the changes in an individual’s level of yin and yang. Yin is the manifestation of the feminine principle and embodies qualities such as cold, contraction, night, intuition, and the moon. Yang, on the other hand, represents the masculine principle and is associated with the qualities of warmth, action, daytime, outward movement, and the sun. Together they reflect the belief that the universe consists of two opposing, yet complementary energies. The interplay of yin and yang is the process that maintains balance in the world.
This philosophy of yin and yang can help explain the condition of a menopausal woman who is suffering from severe mood swings and hot flashes. In this example, the fluids and cooling factors, which represent yin forces, are said to be drying up as a woman undergoes the process of menopause. This means the yang forces, manifesting as excess heat in the body, become stronger, which ultimately may be experienced as hot flashes and mood swings.
While menopause and andropause are perfectly natural conditions for aging men and women, for some, the severity of symptoms may need to be mitigated. A study published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, owned by the British Medical Journal, brings good news about the use of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in treating these issues.
The study included 53 postmenopausal women who were administered acupuncture treatments twice a week for a total of 10 weeks. The term “postmenopausal” refers to women who have ceased menstruating for at least one year. The study participants were divided into two groups: one group received acupuncture treatments appropriate to their condition, while the other group received what is known as sham acupuncture. Sham acupuncture means the needles were inserted into points on the body that do not directly treat the condition.
Before the treatments began, and then again after the completion of the 10-week trial, patients were asked to evaluate the severity of their symptoms. The patients receiving proper acupuncture treatments received a statistically significant reduction in mood swings and hot flashes, as compared to the sham acupuncture group. The authors of the study were able to conclude that acupuncture could be a viable therapy to treat symptoms of menopause.
If you experience mood swings due to menopause or andropause, and they interfere with your well-being, consider making an appointment with a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. In the meantime, avoid hot and spicy food, which can exacerbate angry moods. If feelings of sadness or anxiety prevail, try sitting with your eyes closed, both hands over your heart and focus on your breathing for a couple of minutes.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.