Menopause Depression | What is it and How Do You Treat It?
Most of us have heard the word depression before, and most of us have at least a general idea of what it is. If you have experienced depression in the past, are currently experiencing depression or know someone who has, you are aware of the devastating impact depression symptoms can have on a person’s life.
The effects of depression can be significant, painful and unfortunately, permanent. Menopause depression is a form of depression that occurs during a specific period in a woman’s life. You may have women in your life who have gone through menopause and heard them talk about symptoms like hot flashes, mild mood changes, and difficulty sleeping. What many women also experience during menopause is menopause depression.
Fortunately, there are many readily available tools that everyday people use to manage both regular depression and menopausal depression – including the 8fit Pro App.
What is Menopause and Menopause Depression?
Menopause marks the time in a woman’s life when they are no longer fertile; it marks the end of menstruation. Menopause begins within 12 months after a woman’s last period. The average length of the menopausal transition is roughly seven years; however, it can last up to 14 years, and it usually occurs in women between the ages of 45–55 years old. Many women also experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings for years before their last period––this is called perimenopause.
Like postpartum depression, menopause depression can be caused by extreme changes in hormone levels. Depression generally affects up to 25 percent of women at some point throughout their lives, which is a much larger rate than in men.
Researchers believe that depression is caused by biological and chemical changes in the body and brain. Hormone levels and genetic factors can contribute to developing depression, and lifestyle habits can influence your depression symptoms.
Studies indicate that your risk of developing depression is doubled (and in some cases, even tripled) during your transition into menopause. Symptoms of clinical depression can be debilitating and can have a major impact on your overall health and wellness. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of menopause depression so you can effectively manage and treat them. Menopause depression is clinical major depression with the distinction being that the symptoms appear during the menopause transition.
Common symptoms of menopause depression include:
Anhedonia or loss of pleasure in once enjoyable activities
Lack of energy and fatigue
Feeling depression most of the day, almost every day for at least two weeks
An increase or decrease in your psychomotor activity or the way you walk, talk and move
Thoughts of suicide and death
Sleeping too much or difficulty falling or staying asleep
Problems with focus and concentration
Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt
Risks for Menopause Depression
Lifestyle habits, family history of depression, hormonal changes, major life changes and a history of trauma are some of the most common risk factors associated with depression. If you are going through the transition of menopause, you may be at greater risk of menopause depression if you:
Developed postpartum depression after childbirth
Have been diagnosed with depression in the past
Experience an increase in depression around the time of your menstrual cycle
It is important to note that some women develop depression for the first time during their menopause, although it is unusual, as most women experience depression in their twenties or earlier.
Another factor sometimes associated with menopause depression is the “empty nest syndrome,” which is an assumed syndrome and not a clinical diagnosis. “Empty nest syndrome” refers to a transitional time in a woman’s life where she may be more vulnerable to feelings of sadness and emptiness because her children have grown up and moved away. This compounds other feelings of loneliness, as well as physical changes in the body.
Risks if Menopause Depression is Left Untreated
There are many risks associated with untreated depression, and this applies to menopause depression as well. Risks to your physical, mental, and emotional health are possible. Behavior changes also can occur if your menopause depression is left untreated and it can impact your ability to effectively function in many areas of your life. You can experience problems in your relationships with friends and family, your career and your physical health if your symptoms are not treated.
According to the Mayo Clinic, untreated depression can lead to:
Significant weight loss or weight gain
Behavioral changes such as irritability and anger reaction
Excessive tearfulness, feelings of hopelessness and emptiness
Increase cravings for carbohydrates, overeating and poor appetite
Feeling fatigued, tired and difficulty processing information
Physical issues such as backache, muscle tension and headaches
Thoughts of suicide and self-harm
Suicide attempts and acts of intentional self-harm
If you find yourself experiencing any of the above symptoms, talk to your OB-GYN as soon as possible. Clinical depression symptoms, including menopause depression, do not have to be something you simply tolerate. Going through this life transition is hard physically, mentally and emotionally, and asking for help can be a key factor in reducing symptoms and getting through it effectively.
You also can begin to take control of your daily habits to help make you less vulnerable to your depression symptoms through exercise, healthy, eating and other lifestyle habits. To learn more about what you can do now, download the 8fit app.
You and your doctor can work together to identify appropriate treatment options. Make sure to be honest about the frequency and intensity of your symptoms so your doctor can help design a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Your doctor will most likely conduct a physical exam and blood test to rule out any other medical causes such as a low thyroid. Your doctor may also ask you about current life stressors, whether you have experienced depression in the past and family history of depression. Your doctor may recommend a variety of treatment options such as:
Medication, such as an antidepressant
Researchers are constantly striving to find new treatments and menopause depression is no exception. A study conducted from 2010–2016 involving 172 early postmenopausal and perimenopausal women found that hormone therapy may help prevent clinical depression symptoms.
In fact, the study found that of the 172 women, only 17 percent of women who received hormone therapy developed symptoms of clinical depression whereas 34 percent of those receiving a placebo reported symptoms of clinical depression. Hormone therapy is controversial, so if you are considering it as a treatment option, be sure to talk to your doctor.
There are options available to you to help you target, manage and minimize your menopause depression. Talk to a medical provider to see what treatment options are available based on your symptoms and your needs.
Here are more tips on how to overcome depression.
Featured photo by Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash