Dear Doctor Peri:
I have a genetics question: My mum was a rollercoaster of emotions for about 10 years when she was going through perimenopause, and became a pretty horrible human. Does that mean I'm going to experience it in the same way? If so, is there any way I can manage it?
Dr Peri says:
The idea that you will behave in the exact same way as your mother during perimenopause is, what I call genetically overdetermined.
What that means, is you're putting her behaviour during peri all down to genetics, and assuming the same will occur to you.
But there's actually no research to support the idea that a phase of life will change your personality.
So the answer is very clear: no.
Many assumptions made about behaviour can be misconstrued as genetic when, in most cases, behaviour and mood are most influenced by social factors.
Have you had the opportunity of asking her mother about all the social things that might have been going on in her life at that time?
So for instance, was she looking after elderly parents? Was there a transition in her work? Was her marriage breaking up? All these sorts of questions are far more important to understand why she was in such a bad place.
You see, there's a big difference between rage and experiencing the fluctuations of perimenopause, and that might explain your mother's behaviour.
So if you feel that you are raging, that is not normal and we need to find another reason of what else is going on.
Now, if you do feel worried that you might be going down this pathway, start preparing for it.
That means putting in some good health measures to allow for any emotional changes.
If you see mood swings, write them down. Keep a diary. Itemise objective information to see where your mood swings are tracking.
It might be a lack of sleep affecting your mood — I'd always recommending your first port of call being a discussion with your GP or psychologist.
Sandy Rea is a psychologist with over 30 years of experience. Her practice is multi-disciplinary, dealing with everyday issues. Holding multiple advanced degrees, Sandy is currently a PhD candidate at James Cook University. Further, Sandy regularly offers commentary on Channel 9 Today, Weekend Today, Today Extra, and 3AW. For 10 years, she was a weekly columnist at Herald Sun, providing her insights into mental health.
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