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An Overview of Menopausal Depression

During menopause, there are many changes taking place in both your body and your mind. This can be a time when you suddenly feel unhappy either with yourself or your life. Feelings of loneliness can become stronger, self-esteem can go down, and you can feel an overall lack of enthusiasm for life.

Although the grip of depression can seem impossible to escape, it is possible. During those moments of sobbing or deep sadness, you may not realize that you can achieve happiness again. Understanding more about your condition is essential to rising above it.

Constant sadness and hopelessness are signs of depression in menopausal women.

Types of Depression

Depression is more than a simple mood swing or bad mood that comes and goes. It is an ongoing condition that is far more common in menopausal women. Here are some common types:

Major Depression

Major depression is when you experience extreme sadness that can affect your ability to enjoy life. Working, sleeping, eating, and spending time with others can all be disrupted, and it lasts for more than two weeks.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Also known as dysthymic disorder, this form of depression can last for two years or more. The symptoms are not as severe, however, as those in major depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This occurs during the winter months because you are exposed to less natural sunlight. It is more common for individuals to become depressed with reduced exposure to the sun.

Signs of Depression

There are many clear signs of depression that are hard to miss. Some of them are more internal and can torment your mind, while others rise to the surface and can affect your interactions with others. Symptoms include:

  • Constant sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Restlessness
  • No interest in your favorite activities
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Fatigue
  • Overeating or not eating enough
  • Thoughts of suicide

Though many of those are manageable, thoughts of suicide require immediate help from a family member or doctor.

Causes

The main cause for depression during menopause is hormonal changes. The drop in sex hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone can directly affect your brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters that are typically responsible for feelings of happiness, support, and relaxation reduce dramatically. These include serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin.

An extremely important factor to consider during this time, and in general, is lifestyle choices. During menopause, you become much more sensitive to depression triggers such as unhealthy eating patterns, a sedentary lifestyle, and stress. You may also be inclined to consume more caffeine or alcohol to ease fatigue or anxiety, but this only worsens mood. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to depression and may want to take more preventative measures.

Solutions

Although you may not believe it at first, through all your sadness and self-doubt, there are ways to treat depression. Start by healthy eating. Try to shy away from processed, sugary, or fatty foods, as well as caffeine and alcohol. Instead, have plenty of whole grains, fruits, dark leafy greens, nuts, and lean proteins (such as fish, chicken and tofu). Also, make sure to get 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, as this boosts serotonin levels and endorphins.

In addition, you can try using herbs that are known to fight depression such as St. John's wort and ginkgo. You can also try an omega-3 or B vitamin supplement.

If you are depressed, the first step is to understand and acknowledge what you are going through, so you can start on a healing path. Understand that there is always a way to rise above negative emotions, and there are always people who care and can help you move forward.

For more information on depression and how to manage it, follow the links below.

Fatigue and Depression

Depression can be a serious medical condition that impacts people of all ages, including menopausal women. Fatigue is often a symptom of depression.

Depression after Menopause

Depression can continue from perimenopause into postmenopause or appear for the first time in postmenopause. Women are at a higher risk.

Q&A: How Does Chocolate Benefit Women Suffering From Depression?

It's rich, sweet, and in moderation can be good for your health. Chocolate has a solid reputation for being a mood-lifter. Learn more here.

Sources:
  • National Institute of Mental Health. (2011). What Is Depression? Retrieved March 26, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml#pub1
  • Office of Women's Health. (2010). Menopause and mental health. Retrieved March 26, 2014, from http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-mental-health/