Many women – more than 50% – suffer from depression during menopause. The changing level of hormones during menopause has a great impact on the body and mind. Some studies suggest that the neurotransmitters in the brain may be influenced by the rapidly dropping levels of estrogen and progesterone. Depression during menopause is not exactly a fatal condition, but it should be treated seriously. Depression itself can be a risk factor for other health conditions as well. Plus, no one should have to live in depression even if it is because of menopause. Fortunately, depression during menopause is easily treated. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at what the symptoms of depression are and when you should seek help for depression during menopause.
Symptoms of Depression during Menopause
Depression during menopause manifests itself not just mentally but physically as well. Following are the most common symptoms of depression, not just during menopause but at other times of your life as well.
- Deep, endless sadness is one of the first signs of depression during menopause.
- Sadness is not the only emotion you feel will if you are suffering from depression during menopause. Other negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety also strongly come to the fore.
- Irritability is another symptom of depression during menopause. Imagine PMS and multiply those feelings by one hundred and you have all the emotions associated with depression during menopause.
- You may feel that life is hopeless and not worth living anymore.
- These feelings may be accompanied by thoughts or plans of suicide or death. Many women who suffer from depression during menopause have thoughts of suicide or feel like they just want to die and get it over with.
- Depression during menopause can also lead to an actual suicide attempt.
- You may no longer enjoy the things you once loved doing like spending time with family, or indulging in hobbies and creative pursuits.
- You may not even enjoy your favorite food any more. In fact, you may not enjoy eating or drinking at all. This may be the reason that loss of appetite is another symptom of depression during menopause.
- You may put on too much weight or lose a lot of weight. The weight loss can be explained by the other symptom of depression during menopause – loss of appetite. The weight gain may occur due to compulsive eating patterns that you may develop in an effort to ‘fill’ feelings of emptiness or to dumb down feelings of anger and sadness. However, depression can also affect your metabolism, which can affect your weight. And menopause does make you more prone to weight gain anyway.
- Concentrating may become difficult as you fall more deeply into depression caused by menopause.
- Depression during menopause can also affect your sleep. You may suffer from merciless insomnia or spend too much time sleeping.
- Fatigue is another symptom of depression during menopause. This may be a result of your erratic sleeping patterns.
- Crying spells are common in women suffering from depression during menopause.
- Menopausal depression can also manifest physically in the form of headaches, stomach aches, general aches and pains, and problems with digestion.
- You may also be put off sex if suffering from depression during menopause. If you do have sex, you may have a harder time achieving orgasm.
When to Seek Help For Depression During Menopause
Feelings of sadness can affect anyone at any time. It is common to feel a little off during menopause because of the other menopause symptoms that hit you daily. Some women feel down since menopause reminds them that they are getting older. So there may be conflicting feelings and negative emotions during menopause which are completely natural and do not need to be treated. So how do you know when it is actually depression? How do you know when it is more than just a couple of bad days?
First, you should look at the symptoms of depression during menopause and if you relate to more than a couple of them, you should see a doctor just to be on the safe side. If you are reading this article, then you are looking for answers to your depression and that in itself is a pretty good indicator that you are in dire straits and need help. Apart from these obvious signs, you should consider getting help for depression during menopause if any of the following scenarios sound familiar to you.
- You are definitely suffering from depression during menopause if your family and work life are negatively impacted by your emotional upheavals. It’s no longer just a tiff with the hubby or irritation with your friend for not showing up on time again. It’s not just a bad day at the office. You realize deep down, albeit vaguely, that you are the common factor in all these situations and that you are unable to manage interactions with people without blowing your top or getting annoyed. Seek help before things get out of hand.
- Your negative feelings last for weeks and it seems like you have always felt this way. Things just seem to be getting worse and worse, and no amount of time seems to make life better.
- Thoughts and feelings of suicide, even in the absence of other symptoms of depression during menopause, are usually a cry for help and you should pay heed.
- Everyone has negative feelings at some point. Talking to someone about them is what gets most people through the toughest times. If you have no one to talk to about how you feel, then it is time to get help. Who knows? Perhaps you are in the earlier stages of depression during menopause and the worst of it can be avoided with psychotherapy.
Treatment for Depression During Menopause
Depression is a treatable health condition. But there is no one remedy. Sometimes, depression can be treated simply with some medication, but most of the time it will have to be a combination of the two or more of the following before any satisfactory results are seen.
Medication For Depression During Menopause
There are today several anti-depressants on the market for all kinds of depression cases whether mild or severe. The medication prescribed for depression during menopause can help to balance biochemical changes that occur during menopause. However, medication may not be right for you. Your doctor may want you to try out other remedies before resorting to medication to treat your depression during menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy or HRT – a common treatment for other severe menopause symptoms – can also help with depression during pregnancy. However, this has some side-effects that you can live without. Like anti-depressants, HRT should be a last resort.
Counseling for Depression During Menopause
Talking to a professional about your depression during pregnancy can make a big difference to the recovery process. Psychotherapy is a better alternative than medication. Or it can be used in combination with medication to accelerate recovery from depression during menopause.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is known to increase the production of endorphins or happy hormones in the body. It releases toxic buildup when you sweat. It is also a wonderful stress-buster – an added bonus considering that managing stress is an important part of dealing with depression during menopause. Exercise will also help you sleep better at night provided you do not exercise two to three hours before bed time. So if one of your menopause depression symptoms includes insomnia, exercise will help. Lastly, exercise will help you lose those stubborn fat deposits that are an inevitable part of menopause. This one change in your life will help you battle not just depression during menopause but other menopause symptoms as well.
- Your food choices can also have a significant impact on your depression during menopause. See a nutritionist about formulating a balanced diet plan for you. Let him or her know that you are changing your diet to treat depression during menopause so that they can customize a suitable diet.
- You should quit alcohol, drugs and smoking as they are known to aggravate depression during menopause. Keep your intake of caffeine to a minimum too.
- Supplements can help to battle depression during menopause if the cause of your depression is a lack of nutrition. Although you can try getting all your nutritional needs met through food alone, there is a high probability that you will not succeed. Depression, especially during menopause, is no time to fool around or experiment with your nutrition anyway. So take a supplement if you have to.
- Sleep is an important part of any recovery. So make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep. Ask your doctor for sleeping aids if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Do not watch TV at least two hours before bed time. Try having a glass of warm milk before you sleep. Let your last meal for the day be done four hours before you go to bed. Take a relaxing bath or hot shower to help you relax. Concentrate on taking deep breaths as you fall asleep. This has a calming effect. Do whatever you have to to make yourself relax way before it is time to actually fall asleep.
- Stress management is a very important part of treating depression during menopause. When you are suffering from depression, it can be harder than ever to not stress out. The smallest of things can get to you. So you have to be proactive in managing your stress. Learn to let things go. Avoid stressful situations if you cannot deal with them in your vulnerable state. They’ll be right where you left them when you feel better. If you are unable to manage stress on your own, speak to your doctor about some stress management techniques. There are even several stress management classes that you can sign up for.
- Start something new. Join a short-term class that teacher yoga, dance, pottery, cooking, painting, skiing, sky-diving or whatever interests you. There are hundreds of workshops that teach you new skills. The sense of accomplishment you get when you complete a class or understand something new can help to overcome mild cases of depression during menopause. The interaction with new people will help too.
- Develop a reliable support system to help you through your depression during menopause. Tell a few of your close friends and family members about your depression during menopause. You do not have to go into great detail if you do not wish to. But you can let them know that you are going through a hard time and would like them to be there for you. No one who loves you would say no to a plea for help. This could also be a great opportunity to strengthen your relationships. Deep bonds are usually forged in the midst of hard times.
- Maintain a journal that chronicles your thoughts and feelings. You can even note down your dreams if you want to as they often reflect your state of mind. This form of expression is very therapeutic. Over time, you will also come to see a pattern to your thoughts, which can help you or your counselor (if you have one) to identify the triggers for your worst days.