Women’s Mental Health in Menopause

Menopause is a time of many physical changes for most women. Before and during menopause, the body’s production of various hormones, including estrogen and progesterone dramatically decreases. This decrease in hormones can cause a wide variety of symptoms.

Telltale signs of menopause

The majority of people are familiar with the telltale signs of menopause:

  • Hot flashes
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Migraines
  • Insomnia

Mental health issues

These are the tangible symptoms of menopause, but the effects of menopause on your mental well-being can be every bit as life changing as the physical symptoms. The most common mental health issues that occur before or during menopause are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability

At any time of life, hormone levels can play a significant role in your physical and mental health, but the abrupt drop in estrogen is often only part of the problem during menopause. While the body is already off balance from fluctuating hormones, the physical symptoms of menopause may serve to exacerbate the mental health issues. One example is the physical symptom of insomnia. Lack of sleep alone can prevent the mind from functioning properly and lead to mental health issues. These issues are greatly magnified when combined with the decreased hormone levels.

On top of the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause, there are often other factors that can increase the risks of depression during mid-life. Things such as children leaving home and feelings of anxiety about getting or being less attractive can add to what is already a stressful situation. With so many upheavals happening in a relatively short span of years, even the most upbeat individual can experience at least periodic bouts of depression.

Taking Control

There is a much greater understanding of the effects of menopause than there was in the days when women just had to “deal with it.” Menopausal depression is addressed much like depression during any other period of life; through behavioral modification as well as medications. Before your depression is attributed to menopause however, speak with your doctor about ruling out medical reasons, such as a thyroid problem. If there are no underlying medical conditions, there are some things that you can do for yourself that may provide a more natural relief than medications.

  • Get enough sleep – Make an effort to go to sleep and get up at the same time each day. Keep your room dark and quiet to promote better sleep patterns.
  • Take time to relax – Mediation, yoga, exercise, and massage are all great ways to unwind. Try to set aside at least an hour each day for yourself. Turn off the phones and computers and do what you like: read, garden, paint, or simply go for a walk.
  • Stop Smoking – Studies suggest that women who smoke are at a greater risk for menopausal depression.
  • Seek Support – Sometimes just talking to someone helps tremendously. Whether it’s a friend or family member who is going through the same things or a trained therapist, knowing that you aren’t the only one experiencing these difficulties can help you to overcome them.

If these techniques don’t seem to be working, your physician may discuss other treatment options such as estrogen replacement therapy or antidepressant drugs. The first step to overcoming feelings of depression during menopause is to talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing and addressing the cause or causes of your difficulties.

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Latest update: July 28, 2016
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