Menopause and Depression

You may find yourself feeling quite blue during menopause. It is not uncommon for women to feel frustrated with their bodies and sad at the loss of their ability to carry children. On top of that, menopause comes with a host of symptoms that can try any woman's patience. However, sometimes menopause can make you feel more than a little sad; often it can make you downright depressed.

What is Depression?
Depression is a disease that is caused by biological factors. Hormones in the brain, specifically serotonin, regulate your mood. Sometimes, serotonin levels can drop, causing fluctuations in mood and severe episodes of depression. Someone suffering from depression will experience intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and melancholy for prolonged periods of time (at least two weeks). Depression can lead to a variety of symptoms and can have disastrous effects on a person's life, including physical ailments, isolation, and even suicide. It is important for a woman suffering from depression to realize that it is not her fault. The onset of depression cannot be controlled. 

Depression During Menopause
Menopause can trigger feelings of sadness and episodes of depression in a number of women. It is thought that somewhere between 8% and 15% of menopausal women experience some form of depression. Menopause depression is most likely to hit during perimenopause, the phase leading up to menopause. Causes of menopausal depression are under debate, but a variety of theories have been suggested as to why so many menopausal women experience mood disorders.

One theory asserts that the stress of menopause symptoms leads to depression. You may be finding that your symptoms of menopause are simply too difficult to manage on your own. You already have to deal with family, friends, work, and finances, let alone this huge physical change. Menopause may just be that straw that breaks the camel's back, causing the onset of depression.

Another theory links menopause depression with fluctuating levels of hormones in the body. Throughout menopause, levels of estrogen, progesterone, and androgen are constantly changing. These hormones are thought to be linked with the mood centers in your brain. As hormones drop, especially estrogen, you can experience periods of sadness and hopelessness. Some women experience a severe drop in mood, resulting in depression.

Risk Factors
You are at an increased risk for developing depression during menopause if you have a history of mood disorders. Women who have been depressed before, especially during their 20s, are more likely to see their depression reoccur. Women who have gone through surgical menopause are also at increased risk for depression. Surgery causes a dramatic drop in estrogen levels not to mention increased anxiety and symptoms. If you are a smoker, have young children, or are under a lot of stress, you are also more likely to develop some form of depression during this time.

Treatments for Depression During Menopause
If you are experiencing menopause depression you should seek help immediately. You do not have to go through this alone. A number of options are available to you that may help reduce your symptoms and help you get enjoyment out of life again. If you have contemplated thoughts of suicide, please visit a hospital immediately for treatment. Things can get better. You can begin living life after menopause.

Estrogen Therapy: Estrogen therapy is a relatively new therapy for depression in menopausal women. It operates on the theory that decreased levels of estrogen affect the mood negatively. Estrogen supplements can help to revive your mood dramatically. In a study reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 80% of menopausal women reported a positive change in their mood as a result of oral doses of estrogen. This therapy may work best when combined with an antidepressant.

Antidepressants: A variety of antidepressant medication is now available to treat depression. Millions of North Americans use prescription antidepressants to boost their moods. Menopausal women may also find that antidepressants can help cure their depression. New antidepressants called Selected Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) work to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain (serotonin is the hormone that regulates mood). Other types of antidepressants have also been clinically proven to help menopausal depression.

Psychotherapy: On its own, or when combined with medical treatment, psychotherapy is an excellent way to fight menopausal depression. Trained social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists can help you to learn how to frame negative thoughts in positive ways. They can also recommend helpful resources to help you overcome depressive behaviors and thoughts.

If you find yourself feeling sad for prolonged periods of time, contact your health care provider; you may be experiencing menopausal depression. It is important to seek the appropriate treatment for depression, as it can have serious physical and emotional side effects.


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