Menopause is the natural shift in a woman’s life when she stops menstruating and is unable to conceive anymore. Menopause occurs after 12 consecutive months without a period. The transitional time leading up to that day is called the perimenopause stage.
The transitional years leading to menopause are marked with drastic shifts in hormones, leading to physical and psychological symptoms.
During this transition, women commonly report experiencing depression or sadness. This shift in mood and behavior during the life change is called menopausal depression.
While there is much speculation around what exactly causes menopausal depression, research has yet to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. But one thing is certain: there is a risk of developing depression during the time leading to menopause.
You might wonder: how long does it last? There is no right answer to this question. You might experience depressive episodes from time to time. Or you might experience a consistent depressive state. It varies with each individual.
Can Menopause Cause Depression?
You might be wondering whether menopause can cause depression. The answer is that it might – or it might not. There is no conclusive evidence linking the two conditions. But some things are worth considering.
Hormonal fluctuations due to menopause are the main culprit behind mood changes. But, as mentioned before, no conclusive evidence exists behind the link between menopause and depression. Some factors worth considering are as follows:
Hormones are known contributors. Mainly, the rapid decline in progesterone and estrogen levels in females undergoing this transition trigger mood swings. These hormonal shifts are seen in the 8 to 10 years before menopause. Some women might be more sensitive to these hormonal changes and develop depression.
Additionally, women with a history of postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or a personal or family history of depression are more likely to develop menopausal depression.
How a woman thinks and feels about this phenomenon could also affect her mental health. If the feelings are negative, then the mental state also becomes negative.
Women who view this as a natural change in the course of life might not be so severely affected. Some misconceptions females suffering from menopausal depression have may be that:
- It makes them less feminine or attractive
- It makes them too old to enjoy life
- It will make their sex drive disappear
- It will cause inevitable weight gain
All these worries are baseless and untrue. Menopause is a natural part of life for women. It will not make you less attractive, nor will it cause definite or irreversible weight gain. Women going through this transition can manage the physical changes through proper diet and exercise.
Also, women bonded by gender roles might also feel that their inability to reproduce diminishes their worth as a woman.
Some other factors that might contribute to the development of depression during menopause:
- Lack of a social support system. Lack of support from friends and family can have a huge impact on a person’s mental state. Women going through this period of their life might be under stress. Due to stress, they might face difficulty in their role as a caregiver or working woman. Help in managing these responsibilities might make a difference in experiencing menopause.
- Unhealthy lifestyle. People who are physically inactive and smokers are more likely to develop depression. These habits paired with menopause might put you at a greater risk of becoming depressed.
- Medical procedures. If you have undergone a surgical procedure for the removal of one or both ovaries, you enter menopause more quickly. Same is the case with cancer treatment. The treatment, as well as the consequence, might be a source of stress leading to depressive episodes.
How do you know you are entering perimenopause or menopause? Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Irregular periods for 12 months in a row
- Lighter or heavier periods than usual
- Sleep irregularities
- Hot flashes and sweating during the night
- Weight gain
- Tender breasts
- Trouble focusing or becoming forgetful
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle aches
- Loss of sex drive
- Depressive or anxious feelings
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
If you identify with most of these symptoms, it is time to consult with your doctor.
Additionally, you might also want to understand and identify depression. Depression is a mental illness marked by a loss of interest in usual activities or hobbies and persistent feelings of sadness. Other symptoms of depression are:
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Too much or too little sleep
- Low self-worth
- Clouded mind, difficulty thinking
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you are experiencing at least five of these depressive symptoms, it is time to consult a mental health professional.
Visiting your gynecologist is important to find out where you fall in the menopausal stages. The doctor can assess and evaluate your symptoms to help you better understand your body’s reactions. The professional can also propose possible treatment options for menopausal symptoms.
However, if you are struggling with the mental strain this change has put on you, the next step is to visit a mental health professional. A therapist will help you navigate and embrace this change for a healthier you.
If your healthcare provider has diagnosed you with menopausal depression, seeking treatment is the next step. There are many treatment options available for managing depressive symptoms.
The general rule of thumb is to treat depression with medication (antidepressants) and psychotherapy. Simply taking antidepressants without any form of therapy does not prove effective in treating depression. If you are not comfortable with face-to-face consultations, online therapy is a good option.
Online therapy is a convenient and more affordable option for people seeking therapy. You can book an appointment online and connect with a capable therapist on the same day.
For online counseling, you can choose to communicate through messages, audio or video calls, or messaging sessions. You can select a therapy plan with your desired mode of communication.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used psychotherapy for treating depression. Through CBT, the therapist aims to modify your negative thoughts into more positive ones. Behavioral interventions are also involved, which can help improve physical activity and sleep patterns.
How to Cope With Menopausal Depression?
Along with therapy, you can take action to cope with menopausal depression. Doing so requires determination and dedication to carry out the activities for your betterment.
We understand that the physical and mental effects of menopausal depression and anxiety can be overwhelming. But making a few small adjustments in your lifestyle can go a long way. Some things you can try are:
Exercise and physical movement release endorphins, also called “feel-good hormones.” This hormone helps improve your mood and makes you feel happy. Regularly exercising can help you manage your weight and even the bothersome hot flashes.
We know it can be difficult getting started, but once you do, you won’t want to stop. Establishing an exercise routine can help develop reassurance during all the confusion you must be facing.
If you would like to have a more natural treatment approach, you should consult a specialist in Eastern medicine. There is some evidence for acupuncture for treating perimenopausal depression.
Supplements with fish oil or folic acid also have some weight. But before taking supplements, it is best to talk to a professional.
There is solid evidence in support of meditation for managing depression and anxiety. It is a good practice to connect with your mind and soul. You can reflect and deal with your thoughts and actions calmly.
Estrogen therapy involves introducing estrogen hormone into your system. The goal is to normalize estrogen levels and reduce sudden hormonal changes causing uncomfortable symptoms.
But, there are some risks associated with this therapy and must be discussed at length with your doctor.
There is no magical diet that will instantly rid you of your depression. The important thing is to watch what you eat or drink. It goes without saying that smoking is not helpful for your well-being.
Eating a balanced diet is what you should aim for. Try to avoid processed food as much as possible. Try to reduce your caffeine and alcohol consumption.
The Bottom Line
Menopause is a natural part of every woman’s life. But some women are susceptible to becoming depressed during this stage of life. While there may be many factors, changes in hormonal levels are considered the main reason behind menopausal depression.
We hope this article gave you a clearer understanding of the symptoms and possible treatments for depression due to menopause. If you are considering online therapy, we at DoMental are happy to help you overcome your depressive stage.