Menopause and Depression: What You Need to Know NOW

Many people think it is a myth that it is a normal phenomenon to have depression during the menopausal years. Mild depression can happen to just about every woman in menopause but severe depression is not normal and should be treated like any other kind of depression.  Please read what you need to know NOW about menopause and depression. 

Depression increases during the Christmas season. This is due to additional pressures and expectations that we have on ourselves and that is put on us by others. Family issues that might have been lingering and where kept in check during the year tend to flare up during this intense time. Often fueled by consuming more alcohol than we normally would and also spending more time with people than what we normally would do. 

Depression affects up to 25% of all women at some time in their lives. This is a much higher number than is seen in men. Depression can be extremely debilitating, interfering with activities of daily living, similar to other physical disorders like depression and heart disease. 

While depression usually begins during a woman’s 20s, some women will develop their first episode of depression during menopause or even after menopausal symptoms have passed. This means that a woman can have depression at any point in her life.  

In some cases, the symptoms are more progressive and can lead to major depression, which is a more severe mood disorder. This is defined as having low mood, guilt, and other depressive symptoms that last for a minimum of two weeks. 

Women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder are at a higher risk of having an episode of major depression in the premenopausal years. Women with postpartum depression also carry a higher risk of menopause-related depression.  

Some women will have an episode of depression for the first time in perimenopause. There are several theories that have been identified that explain the increases in depressive symptoms during menopause. Traditional psychologists blame the increase in depression things like “empty nest syndrome” or other changes that occur in the middle age years.  

I have been dealing with “empty nest” syndrome myself and have found it very hard to let go of my children. Although I did raise them to spread their wings and follow their dreams, I was not prepared for the big emptiness that I felt within me. 

In recent times, researchers have changed their focus to include the biological effects of the fluctuation of emotions that occur when the ovaries begin to make less of the hormones estrogen and depression. 

Estrogen in particular interacts with neurochemical in the brain that affect a woman’s mood. Many women in my  Menopause Support, Love & Humour Facebook Group report for no reason at all. It’s a fantastic group of like-minded women from all over the world seeking natural solutions to menopausal symptoms and new vision of our life. 

The decrease in estrogen in the premenopausal years can result in depression. Things like insomnia and hot flashes may also contribute to emotional distress.  

There have been many depression treatments proposed for depression during menopause but many of the research studies have not been done or have not been done correctly. Even so, many experts have their own methods of treating depression during menopause that work for most women.

What is Major Depression?

Major depression is a mood disorder that negatively affects an individual’s ability to have a normal mood. Mood disorders are generally not considered to be psychological but are believed to be changes in brain chemistry. 

Basically, there are biological illnesses. Heredity can play a big role in who gets depression in menopause and who does not. It can also be related to emotional stressors or to physical illnesses. Hormonal changes are a part of menopause that can similarly affect the mood. 

Please download your list here to check out if you or someone you love shows primary symptoms of major depression.

These mood disorders, such as major depression, are not a part of having a weak personality or being unstable. Instead, they are treatable illnesses for which psychotherapy and medication scan be prescribed. And there are also many natural solutions that can help when you feel depressed.

Major depression however needs to be treated under the supervision of a trained health care provider. Please find yourself someone that really listens to you and that takes care of your needs. I am a big fan of integrated medicine providers, which means that they look at all aspects of your life and treat you holistically. It may take a while for you to find someone that is right for you and it might cost you money too. However, if you can afford it, please get the best provider that is available. 

How is Depression Identified during Menopause?

If you find yourself feeling depressed during the premenopausal or menopausal years, you should fist consider seeing a gynecologist to see whether or not your symptoms are related to hormonal changes during menopause. 

You may also need to see a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist (or even your own family doctor, integrative GP, naturopath etc.); especially if you think you are suffering from a severe depression.  

As a part of the evaluation process, the doctor will likely do the following: 

  • He or she will take a careful history of any past depressive episodes you have had in the past and any symptoms you are currently happening. This includes physical and emotional symptoms. 
  • Do a physical examination and possibly run blood tests to see if the ovaries are working. Other blood tests, such as those of the thyroid gland, may also be taken.  
  • Ask you about life stressors that may be causing the depressive symptoms to be worse.

Treatments of Depression in Menopause

The treatments used for depression depend on the severity of your symptoms and whether or not you have had previous depressive episodes. If the symptoms are found to be severe, antidepressant medications may be prescribed. You may end up on an SSRI antidepressant (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) as well as on estrogen and possibly progesterone (depending on the status of your uterus). 

If your symptoms are somewhat mild and you have not been depressed before, there may be several treatment options. Antidepressants alone may be used to control the symptoms and relieve depression. Some natural remedies that help would be this St. Johns Worthor also, one that has helped many of my clients and myself in the past is a herb called Ashwanganda. This product is organic and helps with mood, anxiety and also enhances your memory.  

If you suspect at all that you or a loved one suffer from major depression please don’t forget to download my checklist to know for sure.  Forward to blog to someone that might need it too. Please contact a health care provider immediately or ring one of the many 24 helplines available if you or a loved on needs help. You are not alone and there is help available! Please reach out to someone and also join our Menopause Support, Love & Humour Facebook Group for additional support. 

Lots of Love 

Susanne McAllister

Menopause Coach

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