The 2018 Perimenopausal Depression Guidelines explain that perimenopause is a vulnerable time where depressive symptoms and major depressive episodes can develop.
The risk of symptoms is higher during perimenopause. Women who have poor health and are constantly exposed to stress with a history of depression are at higher risk.
Does Menopause Affect Your Mental Health?
The quick answer to that is yes. Who wouldn’t find the transition from midlife out of the reproductive years to be quite traumatic? It’s because it doesn’t occur with ease.
Women have to put up with fluctuating hormone levels, which seriously affect the quality of their lives.
For decades on end, women have just had to put up with and deal with vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
Fortunately, other important aspects like the emotional consequences are being considered today.
Don’t forget, every woman has estrogen receptors throughout her body and brain. When estrogen levels change, women can expect repercussions all over—particularly in how they feel and think.
Scientists, during menopause and after menopause, have noticed significant brain changes happening. These brain changes affect everything.
Menopause and depression symptoms can trigger mood swings, temper tantrums, and depression. Many women have reported saying they don’t feel like themselves anymore.
Shocking as it sounds, it’s normal as we age to have what one scientist describes as tiny, little strokes that aren’t clinically visible. When they build up, these little strokes do affect our thinking.
Fortunately, hormone replacement therapy helps with the symptoms of menopause and depression.
How Are Menopause and Depression Connected?
Declining estrogen levels can leave women feeling like they are forever in the state of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) where they can experience these emotional changes:
- Extreme sadness
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
These symptoms are linked to menopause and depression – sadness and irritability are the most common ones though.
Even though depression might not be caused by menopause directly, some women exhibit symptoms of depression.
It would be very wise to see a doctor if you are experiencing severe depression. They could recommend medication for you, like antidepressants or therapy.
Depression is found during the perimenopause years and straight after menopause. Some theories exist as to why women with menopause and depression symptoms experience double the rates of depression during perimenopause.
Many women ignore the tension and stress, often finding it difficult to take time to address them. But recognizing the problem helps you find ways to cope.
Only just recently, the medical community has created guidelines for the evaluation and treatment of perimenopausal depression.
What Are the Causes of Menopausal Depression?
During perimenopause, the causes of depression are related to several factors. These include hormonal changes and the vulnerabilities to menopause and depression symptoms, among others.
Any hormonal shifts that occur during a woman’s reproductive life can also be due to an increase in depression and mood symptoms.
Women will experience declining estrogen levels from perimenopause towards menopause, and this can greatly contribute to emotional changes with the signs mentioned above.
Still, there isn’t evidence that menopause causes depression.
The same hormones that control a woman’s menstrual cycle will also influence serotonin in your brain.
Serotonin is a brain chemical that promotes feelings of happiness and well-being. When the hormone levels drop, the serotonin levels also fall.
Therefore, the feelings of happiness and well-being fall. This contributes to feelings of anxiety, irritability, and sadness.
Any dips in hormonal levels can set off depressive episodes for some women, particularly for those who have suffered from major depression in the past.
What Are the Symptoms of Menopausal Depression?
Menopause is not easy for most women. It can cause mental and emotional symptoms, as well as physical symptoms.
Sometimes even suicidal thoughts occur. A lot of changes happen during perimenopause before the end of the menses.
Some women can think of suicidal thoughts without the desire to act. When these thoughts become obsessive, a woman needs to seek support from a mental health professional. There is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and also Crisis Text Line.
Physical Symptoms of Menopausal Depression
- Hot flashes causing intense sweating
- Tiredness with low energy
- Irregular periods
- Urinary incontinence
- Loss of interest in sexual activities with changes such as vaginal dryness or pain during sex
- Thinning hair and skin
- All-over pain and aches in the body
- Weight changes
Emotional Symptoms of Menopausal Depression
These can be caused by life changes such as impending retirement, empty nest syndrome, career shifts, financial problems, worrying over aged parents, relationships, and more. The results of these are a drop in happiness and well-being.
- Feelings of grief, sadness, or loss
- Feelings of helplessness
- Feelings of death and fear
- Feelings of isolation
- Diminished self-esteem
How To Manage Depression During Menopause
1. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT refers to replacing sex hormones in women in the menopausal period.
This will help them to control the symptoms. Your doctor will prescribe HRT in its different forms, according to your circumstances.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) effectively treats many menopausal symptoms. HRT is not suitable for every woman. It does come with some risks, which your doctor will discuss with you.
2. Vitamins and Supplements
There are wonderful natural remedies for depression during menopause through the power of dietary supplements. Plant-based formulations will do the job as well – and the benefit of these is that there are usually no side effects!
3. Natural Treatments such as Acupuncture and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medication)
Acupuncture for women is one of the natural remedies for depression during menopause.
It also has stable and long-term effects than using antidepressants and HRT. Acupuncture is often recommended as a clinical treatment for perimenopausal depression.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views menopause and depression as distinctive to each individual. Chinese medicine therapies are most beneficial.
They include herbs, dietary therapy, tai chi, and qi gong, which are all effective in improving the quality of life.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is recognized as a complementary therapy by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Women struggling with menopause symptoms such as mood swings and sleep problems often find it hard to budge from the couch. It is important to get active.
Physical activity helps to alleviate the doldrums of today and protects you from postmenopausal health risks.
Getting into a balanced program that includes agility, flexibility, strength training, and mobility benefits your overall health all around.
5. Mindfulness and Meditation
The practice will prove very beneficial if you are fraught with stress and anxiety during menopause. Mindfulness has proven to be one of the most excellent natural remedies for depression during menopause.
It alleviates stress, improves memory and sleep, and elevates pain tolerance. Mindfulness is a way of being – it’s being aware of and focusing on the present, narrowing it down to the moment.
It is not fretting about the past or the future. Meditation makes the brain silent; it is learning about you. Watching yourself, noticing what you do and say – that is part of meditation. Discover the Bible and walk in nature. These are healing ways of meditating.
6. Talking with A Therapist
Even though it is essential, women often battle to talk to a therapist about all the negative biological changes they find happening in their lives during menopause.
Talking with a therapist can help women see not only their losses associated with menopause but also the opportunities that are waiting.
A therapist helps you deal with your depression to enjoy exploring and discovering the next phase of your life. A therapist will show you that there is life after menopause.
7. Lifestyle Changes
During both perimenopause and menopause, it is vital to consider your lifestyle and wellbeing. That means seeing your diet is balanced and healthy, like the Mediterranean-style diet.
Don’t forget to reduce your intake of take-away foods and processed foods. Consider limiting your alcohol and smoking habits and do regular exercise if you are not doing so already.
Other tips include practicing relaxation and deep breathing exercises, doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, talking to your friends and family about their own experience of menopause, or joining a club that does volunteer work, etc.
Conventional treatments your doctor will discuss with you, and there is help from nature itself.
All of these will help in relieving the symptoms and providing conventional as well as natural remedies to cope with the changes.
Each woman has her individual experience of menopause. Estrogen, the primary hormone, gets reduced in a woman’s body during menopause.
Symptoms of which can last for many years and even decades. Sometimes the symptoms can be mistaken for depression, but your doctor will discern whether your symptoms are depression or typical menopausal symptoms and treat you accordingly.
That’s the first part of the good news. The second part is that researchers say that women get happier again between the ages of 50 and 70 – can we drink some red wine from the Mediterranean diet and say cheers to that?