She went on to explain that her life had begun to fall apart. Up until then she had been a smart, confident, able woman who could usually find the joy in most any situation. Suddenly, she was weepy, sad, and was unable find the joy in anything. She cried all the time. At the same time, her periods began to get very heavy. Her 26 year old marriage had almost ended in divorce ……..that’s how bad it had gotten.
In addition to finding a remedy for her situation, she also wanted to understand the cause of her depression during menopause.
I explained to Alice that depression, if it happens, occurs most frequently during the early part of perimenopause. The cause of menopausal depression has not been established, but researchers are working on the basis that there are 2 probable causes for it
- women are overwhelmed by the physical and emotional changes that they are experiencing during menopause. These come on top of life stresses that are common at this time of life
- The changes in the levels of the sex hormones in the body during menopause, results in a decrease in the levels of other hormones that keep moods stable
Research reveals that women whose menopause has been brought on by surgery… removal of ovaries or hysterectomy, are at a higher risk of depression than women who experience natural menopause. This is because surgical menopause brings about a sharp sudden decline of estrogen, which is associated with the production of the other hormones involved in stabilizing mood.
Also, women who have a history of a depression episode earlier in her life or who have a family history of depression or who have experienced severe PMS, are at risk of depression during menopause.
What Can I Do About My Depression During Menopause?
Before I addressed this question, I showed Alice an article that appears on the Epigree site. Here is an excerpt from it
Menopause can trigger feelings of sadness and episodes of depression in a number of women. It is thought that somewhere between 8% and 15% of menopausal women experience some form of depression. Menopause depression is most likely to hit during perimenopause, the phase leading up to menopause. Causes of menopausal depression are under debate, but a variety of theories have been suggested as to why so many menopausal women experience mood disorders.
One theory asserts that the stress of menopause symptoms leads to depression. You may be finding that your symptoms of menopause are simply too difficult to manage on your own. You already have to deal with family, friends, work, and finances, let alone this huge physical change. Menopause may just be that straw that breaks the camel’s back, causing the onset of depression.
Another theory links menopause depression with fluctuating levels of hormones in the body. Throughout menopause, levels of estrogen, progesterone, and androgen are constantly changing. These hormones are thought to be linked with the mood centers in your brain. As hormones drop, especially estrogen, you can experience periods of sadness and hopelessness. Some women experience a severe drop in mood, resulting in depression.
There are many researchers who believe that an imbalance in serotonin levels may influence mood in a way that leads to depression. Whether it does or doesnt has not been confirmed by research.
So ….. what can you do about depression during menopause?
Exercise, nutrition and stress management have all helped women to improve moods. They each also play a role in increasing the production of serotonin by your body.
Many experts suggest that 30 minutes of physical activity a day can help to lift depression during menopause, but as little as 10 minutes a day has been shown to be beneficial. Happily, the activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to make a difference. A brisk walk is all it takes.
Following a sensible and nutritious diet and doing yoga or a form of meditation to reduce stress, improves mood as well.