Menopause is a life changing event that will affect all women in the world, there is no race or ethnicity that is excluded from the onset and upheaval that menopause can cause in a woman’s life. One of the most devastating things encountered for some women during the change is menopause and depression. This is not simply the occasional feeling of sadness that some women may experience due to thoughts of never having another child or becoming older. Depression is a serious and possibly life threatening side effect of menopause.
The clinical definition of depression is that it is a disease that is caused by biological changes and factors that affect the mood of a person. Men and women can be depressed and while the “change of life” is one of the causes for some women it is not the only cause for menopause depression.
Depression affects many people all over the world and is usually caused by drops in levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the main hormone in the brain and gives a general feeling of being okay in life. This with depression can make a person feel strong feelings of melancholy, sadness and hopelessness. Depression is diagnosed usually when a person experiences these feelings for more than two weeks at a time
Menopause and Depression – How Common is It?
Depression in women caused by menopause is a common occurrence; it is thought that around 15% of menopausal women experience depression to some degree. Menopausal depression usually takes it first toll during perimenopause; this is the first stage of menopause and is marked by signs such as spotting, irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats and mood changes.
This stage of menopause can last for a very long time, up to 15 years in fact, however most women experience around 2 – 5 years of perimenopause before moving on to the second stage, which is menopause.
When many women start to experience menopause or the first stage of menopause called perimenopause they will undergo so many difficult changes that depression for some is a severe symptom. There are many different reasons that depression is prevalent in menopausal women and depending on the circumstance the reasons may differ for different women.
This can create a lot of stress for women, not only are they experiencing many side effects and symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes and irritability they are also dealing with the added stress of changes in their bodies that they cannot control. All of these changes can add up when combined with the normal stresses of life and cause depression in menopausal women.
Hormone fluctuations in menopausal women are a natural process of menopause. As a woman starts the first stage of menopause levels of estrogen, progesterone and androgen are in a constant state of upheaval. Estrogen is the main hormone that is in constant change due to menopause.
When estrogen plummets many women will feel strong and uncontrollable feelings of despair and hopelessness this is often attributed to a main cause of menopause and depression.
The risks of developing depression during menopause are higher for some women than for others. If you have a history of mood disorders in your family or have been diagnosed with a mood disorder yourself, your risk of experiencing depression during menopause is greater than of a woman that has none of these predisposing factors.
I’m Depressed – What do I do?
The best course of action to take when feeling depressed, hopeless or suicidal during the onset of menopause is to talk with your gynecologist first. These are doctors that are well acquainted with the symptoms and recognizing depression in this stage of life for women.
Your doctor will then be able to refer you to the correct professionals to help you with the feelings you are trying so desperately to cope with. Many depressed menopausal women find comfort in just knowing that this is a natural and normal part of menopause.
It is also helpful to know that this is a symptom of menopause that is not in your control and it is vital that you have the necessary help of professionals to adjust to this dramatic change in your life.
The onset of menopause symptoms and perimenopause are key factors in depression for women at this stage of life and you may not realize that the reasons you are feeling depressed is due to such a natural change.
Because the side effects of depression can be very serious it is important to educate yourself as well as getting the professional help necessary for depression of any kind including depression caused by menopause.