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Depression after Menopause

Unfortunately, for many women, the symptom of depression can continue into postmenopause - or arise for the first time - even after other menopause symptoms have disappeared. In fact, recent studies suggest that the risk for depressive symptoms in women increases in midlife and after the time of menopause, most likely because of the effects of reduced levels of estrogen. On top of this, some women experience a feeling of despair and sadness at the realization that they are no longer able to have children.

Being informed as to the changes that have taken place in your body can be extremely helpful in understanding depression after menopause. Read over the following paragraphs for more information and useful tips on handling this difficult stage after menopause.

What Constitutes Depression?

depression-sadness

Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness or anxiety for long spans of time, and it can lead to a variety of physical ailments along with thoughts of suicide. Depression needs to be seen as a disease caused by both environmental and physiological factors.

Women who are going through or who have just gone through menopause are particularly susceptible to depression. In addition to its other roles, estrogen influences the action of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which is responsible for regulating mood. Therefore, low estrogen levels after menopause can lead to depression. In addition, the menopause transition often coincides with the appearance of other risk factors in a woman's life, such as stressful life events.

Depression after Menopause Is Far More Common

How can I help a loved one experiencing depression after menopause?

  • Encourage her to visit a doctor: a physical exam will rule out other conditions besides menopause that could be causing depression.
  • Make sure you are consistent with your support and be patient.
  • Learn about her treatment and help her follow her treatment plan.
  • Suggest a qualified therapist: depression is often best tackled with a combination treatment of medication and therapy.
  • Be supportive and help her understand more about her symptoms so as not to play down what she is going through.
  • Invite her to join you in activities and exercise - physical activity should help make her feel better.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh performed an analysis on 221 women enrolled in the ongoing prospective Study of Women's Health Across the Nation. When the women originally entered the study, they were between the ages of 42 and 52, premenopausal, and taking neither hormone replacement therapy nor birth control pills.

Over the course of the study, more than 50% of the women (129) went through menopause and about a third (69) experienced at least one major depressive episode. It is important to keep in mind that those who had a history of major depression were more likely to have such an episode.

The results show that women are two to four times as likely to have a major depressive episode as they were going through menopause or shortly after menopause, compared to before menopause.

Based on this analysis, the authors of the study concluded that the risk for major depression as women go through the menopausal transition is doubled.

How Can I Deal with Depression after Menopause?

depression-after-menopause

There are many ways you can improve mental health and help to avoid depression after menopause. First, it is important that depression caused by a psychological disorder be treated in the first instance by a medically certified practitioner. If, however, the depression is being caused by lifestyle stresses, such as overwork and lack of sleep, these are problems that can often be handled with changes in lifestyle habits.

If depression after menopause is the result of physical changes in the body, balancing sex hormone levels may help. Naturally, the optimum results are achieved with both a healthy lifestyle and hormone-balancing treatments.

Click on the following link for more detailed information on treatments for depression.

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Sources:
  • Bromberger, J.T. et al. (2011). Major Depression During and After the Menopausal Transition: Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Psychological Medicine, 41(9), 1879-1888. doi: 10.1017/S003329171100016X
  • Bromberger, J.T. & Kravitz, H.M. (2011). Mood and Menopause: Findings from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) over ten years. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America, 38(3), 609-625. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.011
  • National Health Service UK. (2014). Worried someone is depressed? Retrieved October 22, 2015, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/signs-someone-is-depressed.aspx