Women are often at increased risk for depression during menopause, with approximately 8 to 15% of menopausal women experiencing some form of depression. Depression peaks at times of hormonal fluctuations: the premenstrual phase, postpartum phase, and the perimenopausal phase. While there is no single cause of depression during menopause, there are treatments available that help women cope with the effects of depression. Read on to learn about treatments to help combat depression during menopause.
What Are Symptoms of Menopausal Depression?
The first step to treating menopausal depression is to identify its symptoms. Common menopausal depression symptoms include:
- Continual sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness and guilt
- Lack of interest in activities
- Low energy
- Physical problems (e.g., headaches)
- Problems with decision making
- Weight loss or gain
- Suicidal thoughts
- Chronic fatigue
- Change in appetite
What Changes Can I Make to My Lifestyle?
Many doctors recommend making simple lifestyle and dietary changes to combat depression symptoms before considering herbal remedies or pharmaceutical options. These are considered safe alternatives to medical treatment. Some changes you can make include:
Finding support. A good support system is important in order to balance between home and work. Ask for help from your partner with the housekeeping, meals, and other daily tasks. Delegating these tasks can take away some of the stress you are feeling.
Getting regular exercise. For improving mental and physical health, one of the best treatments is exercise. For best results, experts suggest thirty minutes of exercise five times a week. Choose cardiovascular exercises such as running, skiing, or even a brisk walk to help elevate your mood.
- Reducing stress. Stress can make symptoms even worse. Common stressors include children leaving the home, problems at work, relationship problems, and loss of a loved one.
How Can I Treat Menopausal Depression?
If you're experiencing one or more of the symptoms of depression and considering medical treatment, the following options are available:
Hormone therapy. Used primarily to treat hot flashes and night sweats over a short period of time, research has shown hormone therapy to be effective in alleviating symptoms of depression for women approaching menopause.
- Medication. Antidepressants are often used as a treatment option, and some clinical studies have shown that it is more effective in combination with hormone therapy. Be sure to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
For most women without a history of depression, mood swings and sadness are transient episodes. However, depression can go undiagnosed and untreated in women who think these problems are a natural progression during aging. If you're feeling any of the symptoms and believe you're suffering from depression, talk to your doctor about possible treatments. Click on the links below to learn more about menopause and depression.