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Menopause and depression

Riddle Hospital May 17, 2016

For many women, menopause can be an emotional roller coaster. In addition to the physical changes your body endures—like night sweats, weight gain, and hair loss—it’s not uncommon to experience emotional changes, too.

“It is very common for women to be more irritable, stressed, or see general changes in their mood during menopause,” explains Daria Yanez, MD, OB/GYN at Riddle Hospital. “Many women who have a history of depression or anxiety will find that their symptoms come back—or worsen—during menopause, while other women may be experiencing it for the first time.”

Menopause and your mood

Although changes in estrogen and serotonin levels can be to blame for the emotional ups and downs of menopause, there are other factors at play, too. During their forties and fifties many women are also dealing with issues in their personal life that can cause stress and anxiety, like a change of career, children leaving the house, caring for an aging parent, or their partner’s emotional and physical well-being.

With so many physical and emotional factors at play, a bad day is bound to happen. But how can you tell if your bad day, or your bad mood, is cause for concern? Is your bout of the blues something serious?

Depression vs. a bad day: What’s the difference?

A bad day is one thing, but if you’ve had a streak of bad days that you can’t seem to shake, it might be cause for concern. Long-term sadness or irritability is one of the telltale symptoms of depression, but it’s not the only one. Dr. Yanez encourages women to talk to their primary care physician or Ob/Gyn if they’re experiencing symptoms like:

  • Loss of interest, antipathy, or loss of energy
  • Excessive sleepiness, or trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite or excess weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Poor memory is often a side effect of menopause, and could affect your ability to concentrate. If you’re not experiencing any of the other symptoms of depression, this could just be a sign of menopause. However, if you’re experiencing any memory loss, or having severe difficulty concentrating or remembering things, talk to your physician.

If any of the above symptoms persist for two to three weeks, it could be a sign of depression. Make an appointment with your primary care physician or Ob/Gyn to discuss your symptoms, and they can recommend some lifestyle changes or treatment options for you.

Depression during menopause: What can I do?

Fortunately, like many of the symptoms of menopause, there are treatment options available to help treat feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.

“Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you can work with a doctor who can prescribe a treatment option for you,” says Dr. Yanez. “Lifestyle changes and therapy are usually a first resort, but there are other treatment options available for women who have more severe symptoms.”

Those lifestyle changes include—above all—exercise and eating right. In addition to helping regulate feelings of depression and anxiety, a healthy diet and regular exercise can also help manage the physical symptoms of menopause. It’s also healthy to find a hobby that you might enjoy, as staying socially and mentally active is especially important during aging and in fighting the symptoms of depression. Look for a local class or club that you might enjoy, and make sure you have regular plans with friends or family.

Your physician may also recommend a psychiatrist who you can talk to about your symptoms. Often, having an objective party to talk to about the issues going on in your life can help with symptoms of depression or anxiety.

When treatment options like these do not work, your physician may recommend antidepressants or other therapies. Whatever route is best for you, what’s most important is speaking up.

“Although emotional changes during menopause are normal, they don’t need to be an accepted part of the process,” says Dr. Yanez. “Don’t let depression and anxiety become part of your daily life. Speak up and tell your health care provider that you’re suffering, and you can work together to find an answer.”

Main Line Health gynecologists provide expertise in a wide range of services, including contraceptive services, care during perimenopause, and preventative care in the post-menopausal years. If you’re concerned about emotional changes during menopause, talk to your gynecologist. Visit our website for more information on coping with the challenges of menopause, or to find a Main Line Health gynecologist in your area.