Depression and menopause

Depression and menopause
Mood swings during menopause and peri-menopause are normal, but how can you tell the difference between mood swings and depression? Know what to look for and understand the impact that mood swings are having on you during menopause.

Note that this article is written for general advice only and should not be considered a complete professional assessment. Talk to your health care professional and discuss any concerns that you may have.

Mood swings or depression?
Mood swings occur during menopause and peri-menopause because of the imbalanced hormone levels. Moods can change quickly and can feel very intense; feeling more impatient or angry than usual. Moods can also vary in extreme going from very happy to very sad or irritable. Generally, by the time a woman has completed menopause and is post-menopausal the mood swings have less impact or even virtually disappear. Mood swings are a normal part of menopause and do not usually indicate a more serious issue.

Depression is something very different from simple mood swings. While mood swings can be annoying and confusing, they usually do not impose a severe impact on a woman’s well-being. Any feelings of being down are usually temporary and are often combated through a plan of stress relief, diet, exercise and support.

Depression is a more serious medical condition that requires a doctor’s care. Unfortunately the stigma of weakness still lingers and may prevent many women (and men) from seeking the help that they need. But depression cannot and should not be ignored in the hopes that it will go away. A proper diagnosis by your doctor can determine if you might have depression and help you explore options for treatment.

Depression can occur during menopause because this is a time of intense physical and mental changes that are taking place. Menopause itself does not cause depression which was a common belief in the past. But if you feel that your menopausal symptoms are having a severe and negative impact on your life, it is best to seek professional help and learn the underlying causes of depression.

Signs of depression
•Sad moods that last for several days or weeks in a row
•Feelings of inadequacy or being useless; no matter what you do or accomplish it is never good enough
•Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy such as work, hobbies, friends or family
•Isolating yourself from friends and loved ones and refusing invitations to things you would normally like going to
•Loss of self-esteem and obsession with failures big or small
•Sleeping too much or too little
•Loss of appetite or overeating to compensate for negative feelings
•Low energy and feeling tired all the time
•Loss of interest in intercourse; having a low libido
•Inability to focus on daily tasks or make even simple decisions; being more forgetful than usual
•Thoughts of suicide, which can include believing you would be better off not being here, just wanting to end it all, or even researching/planning suicide methods

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is very important to talk to your doctor to learn more about how depression is affecting you. Contrary to some beliefs, depression is not just something you ‘snap out of’ or can chase away by thinking a few happy thoughts. Depression is a legitimate and serious medical condition. It does not mean you are weak or unable to cope with life because you are lacking moral fiber.

Think of when someone has a heart condition for which they need medical help. Just as a heart can be unhealthy, so can the mind. There is no shame in having a heart condition and there should be no shame in having depression, although overcoming negative attitudes towards depression are only slowly evolving.

Risk factors for depression
•History of depression in yourself or one or both sides of your family
•Postpartum depression you may have experienced
•Women with histories of severe premenstrual tension symptoms
•Recent major life changes such as death of a parent or spouse, divorce or separation, job loss or financial troubles
•Increased responsibility of caring for children and aging parents

Many people feel uncomfortable discussing depression for fear of ridicule and rejection. But leaving depression untreated can lead to increased health issues and continue to negative affect your life. The first step is the hardest to take, but by talking to your doctor you can find treatment options, usually temporary, that are right for you. You deserve to be in the best possible physical and mental health before, during, and after menopause. Depression is not a normal part of menopause and it does not have to take over your life.

If you find it too difficult to bring up the topic with your doctor, use the following quick downloadable file to bring on your next visit. Circle any symptoms you might be experiencing and show them to your doctor. Remember that there is no shame in maintaining all aspects of your health.

Menopause, Your Doctor, and You

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