Menopause and Depression: A Very Real Side Effect

You can expect lots of changes when entering menopause. Mood swings, erratic periods, hot flashes, and night sweats just to name a few.

But did you know that there’s a connection between menopause and depression? Thanks to drastic spikes and dips in your hormone levels, feelings of anxiety, fear, and sadness are more common during menopause than you might think.

Keep reading to learn what causes depression during menopause, if it’s normal, and how to deal with it.

Is Depression During Menopause Normal?

In general, women are more susceptible to depression than men. Depression affects up to 25% of women at some point in their lives, usually starting in their 20s.

Emotional changes and internal triggers are often to blame. Women who’ve experienced depression in the past are more likely to experience intensified symptoms during menopause.

As you age, your body goes through countless changes, both physically and emotionally. For many women suffering from depression, symptoms are perimenopausal.

Similar to PMS (premenstrual syndrome), perimenopause presents symptoms in women approaching the age of menopause.

The average woman enters menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. Some women will experience it sooner depending on their medical history. For example, a hysterectomy, cancer, or genetics may send you into early menopause.

Symptoms include:

  • Irregular periods

  • Fatigue

  • Hot flashes

  • Urine leakage

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Low sex drive

  • Breast tenderness

  • Mood swings

Now, let’s take a look at the role depression plays in menopause.

Why Menopause Causes Depression

The main cause of depression during perimenopause and menopause is an extreme shift in hormones. As your body produces less estrogen, you may experience insomnia, sadness, anxiety, and irritability.

Some theories claim that depression begins during perimenopause because of several external life changes. Women with older children may experience empty nest syndrome at or around the same time as perimenopause symptoms set in.

The thought of “losing” their children and loneliness are two major causes of depression in aging women.

The physical changes, alone, are enough to cause depression in some women. Hot flashes, fatigue, and breast tenderness can cause emotional distress. Lack of sleep can also affect your mood.

Perimenopausal women may also struggle with the idea of aging. The mere thought of entering menopause can cause feelings of sadness and depression.

While mild depression and mood swings are common during menopause, major depression isn’t. Let’s discuss the differences.

Three Types of Depression

There are three common types of depression women can experience during menopause – some are more serious than others.

Depressed Mood

Everyone feels depressed or sad from time to time. Depressed moods quickly come and go. They’re completely normal and are often described as brief periods of sadness.

Many perimenopausal and menopausal women will likely experience a depressed mood from time to time. As your estrogen levels dip and spike, you may have moments of extreme happiness followed by sadness and tears. These symptoms can appear seemingly out of nowhere and leave as quickly as they come.

The medical term for this condition is dysphoria and it’s completely normal as your body enters menopause.

Depression as a Symptom

Depression as a symptom is usually associated with major life changes including death, divorce, and menopause. This condition is also known as an adjustment reaction.

Most cases of depression as a symptom don’t require treatment or intervention. But women experiencing these symptoms during perimenopause or menopause should be aware that they could develop into major depression. It’s important to monitor your feelings and behavior.

If your depression symptoms occur more often than not or last for more than two years, you may be diagnosed with dysthymia.

Major Depression

Also known as clinical depression, major depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Major depression disrupts everyday life and requires treatment.

This type of extreme depression isn’t normal during menopause and shouldn’t be ignored. Symptoms include a lack of interest in activities, hopelessness, social isolation, and excessive fatigue.

A medical professional can help diagnose major depression and provide treatment options which may include medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.

How to Handle Menopause and Depression

Now that you recognize the symptoms and causes of depression during menopause, let’s discuss treatment options.

Practice Self-Care

Some forms of depression are triggered by stress. If you’re struggling with sadness during menopause, it’s time to practice some much-needed self-care.

Think about the things you enjoy doing most, what makes you happy and feel good. Exercise, yoga, and meditation are popular choices. Physical activity releases endorphins in the brain which trigger feelings of happiness and relaxation.

Self-care is as simple as enjoying a good book, taking a walk outside, or meeting a friend for lunch. Invest time in yourself and you’ll be shocked at how much better you feel.

Supplements and Medication

Since most forms of depression during menopause are caused by imbalanced hormones, using a hormone supplement might help. Supplements can help regulate your estrogen levels and reduce drastic mood swings.

The best part is, hormones come in all different types and forms including pills, powders, and patches. You can learn more about your options here https://www.patchmd.com/menopause-supplements-symptoms.html.

If your mood swings have already developed into clinical depression, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressant medication.

Psychotherapy

Therapy has long been praised as a healthy way to deal with emotional distress. Talking out your issues with a professional can help get to the root cause of your depression.

Both cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy can help. The latter focuses on changing your negative thought patterns. Interpersonal therapy focuses more on changing relationships and how these dynamics may cause feeling of sadness or unrest.

Explore different options and discuss depression treatment with a medical professional before adopting a treatment plan.

Recognizing and Coping with Depression During Menopause

Menopause is a natural part of life. Whether you’re forced into it early due to a medical condition or it happens naturally with age, it poses unique challenges for every woman.

Feelings of sadness, irritability, and mood swings are common links between menopause and depression. These emotional changes are accompanied by unpleasant physical ones as well, including night sweats, hot flashes, and fatigue.

Recognizing the warning signs of depression and knowing how and where to seek help are the first steps in conquering your demons.

Looking for more tips, tricks, and advice on all things health? Check our blog regularly for valuable information and resources on living your best, healthiest life!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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