Depression & Menopause Connected?

Hi L & K, I’ve been struggling on my own for some time now in coping with my menopause symptoms. I’m not very close to my immediate family and am widowed without children. My loneliness never really bothered me until recently where I have been having very dark and depressing thoughts. This is not normal of me and every day I wake up feeling less and less worthy or have no energy to even get out of my bed. The other day I really scared myself when I drifted into thoughts of suicide and started to cry about being left alone and having no one. I’m not sure how to cope with this and I’m not even sure if I am directing my concerns to the right place. But I’d really like some help in understanding if this is normal or if I should be getting professional attention for my condition.- J

Hello J, thank you so much for your courage and bravery to exhibit your concerns with us. It’s important to us that women like you find comfort in expressing their problems and seek aid for their situation. Thank you for coming forward and I hope we can help you during this hard time.

Attention Matters

It’s unfortunate that menopause is not completely understood to medical experts to this day. For the most part we have an understanding of its physical side-effects but the psychological aspect of menopause is often overlooked. Depression is a very real and very common symptom of menopause, in fact women in menopause are three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than the general population. It’s also the same time when a woman becomes more prone to suicidal thoughts or actions. This is all completely possible without any history of depression or vulnerability to mental illnesses.

Hormones and Your Mental State

Depression during menopause is most likely caused by the dramatic shift in hormone levels. Specifically, the reduction of estrogen and rise in testosterone in women. Increased testosterone has been correlated with the risk of depression in women (for men, the opposite – a decrease in testosterone causes depression as well). These sporadic fluctuations of hormones – especially the key sex hormones – can influence neurotransmitters in the brain causing mixed signals or a lack thereof and subsequently depression.

It’s not just hormones that act as a catalyst for depression. Disrupted sleep cycles can also increase your chances of depression as well as poor health and weight gain. Additionally, women who have a history of sensitivity during hormonal changes (PMS) are even more likely to develop depression during this transitional stage.

Identification for Prevention and Treatment

Identifying depression is a vital approach to treating it and it’s great that you looking for aid now. According to Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of joy or pleasure
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Chronic pain with no obvious cause
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Frequent crying
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you experience any of these symptoms then you are likely afflicted with depression. The next step would be to visit a doctor to receive proper physical and psychological attention. Depression is not something that most individuals can fix themselves and since you currently do not have the support of friends or family it’s in your best interest to seek professional attention.

There are a number of ways to treat depression. A primary approach is to correct hormonal imbalances through hormone therapy (we have written about hormone therapy here and here). By correctly your hormone levels you can help ease your depression along with the other debilitating symptoms of menopause.

Depending on the severity of your depression, some doctors might prescribe medications but that should only be administered in situations where your state of mind is life threatening. If you do not want to take the medical route for relief, you can definitely look into exercising or participating in activities that help relieve stress. Yoga, Tai Chi or even a simple full body massage can help ease your mind which can subsequently relieve your symptoms. A healthy diet and lifestyle are definitely recommended during this stage in life so that you can help your body get back on track as soon as possible.

Above all, keep your head high and seek help when you need it. Your mental health during this time should not be permanent and such you shouldn’t let it have long-lasting effects on your life.

Loren & Katherine

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/menopause/hic-what-is-perimenopause-menopause-postmenopause.aspx
Boyles, Salynn. “Nearing Menopause? Depression a Risk.” WebMD. April 2, 2006. (March 12, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/menopause/news/20060403/nearing-menopause-depression-risk
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Menopause/hic_Menopause_and_Depression.aspx
Mayo Clinic. “Depression in Women — Perimenopause and Menopause.” Sept. 1, 2010. (March 12, 2012) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/MH00035/NSECTIONGROUP=2

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