Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On Menopause and Depression

It is not at all uncommon for women to feel down during menopause. You are most likely already dealing with a great deal of stress - like many of us these days - and the symptoms that come with menopause can themselves be more than enough to test the limits of any woman's patience.

For a significant number of women, however, all of this can lead to more than just a case of "the blues". Evidence shows that between eight and fifteen percent of menopausal women suffer some form of clinical depression.

Like any other time in your life, emotional and physical symptoms are tied to hormone levels. During menopause your hormone levels (especially estrogen, but also progesterone and androgen) are constantly fluctuating. Hormones - such as serotonin - in your brain regulate your mood and when their levels drop to a certain point you are likely to experience feelings of hopelessness and sadness for extended periods of time.

There are three things you need to know: it is not your fault, it can be treated and you are NOT alone.

Clinical depression is not something you should be trying to deal with on your own. For one thing, it is important to rule out any other possible medical causes for your depression, such as thyroid problems. Once your doctor has ruled out any of these issues, she/he can discuss possible ways of treating your depression.

Menopausal depression can sometimes be treated in the same manner as depression that occurs during other times in life - such as the use of antidepressants - but there is growing evidence to support certain "menopause specific" treatments.

One of these is estrogen treatment. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that eighty percent of menopausal women experienced positive changes in their mood resulting from oral doses of Estrogen. (As an added bonus, estrogen treatment can also help prevent osteoporosis)

Another treatment that has been shown to improve the symptoms of depression in menopausal and perimenopausal women is hormone therapy - often used to treat hot flashes.

It is also very important to take some time out of each day to focus on hobbies or activities that make YOU feel good. This is not about your family, your friends or co-workers or anyone else, it is about YOU. Perhaps you have a creative hobby that gives you a sense of achievement (knitting, for example)...perhaps there is a self-calming activity like meditation or yoga that you have always meant to try but have never gotten around to. Now is the time to get around to it.

There are also many vitamin supplements available that are formulated especially for menopausal women. We have provided links to several in our recommended products section under "menopause" and, if you are interested, there is an entire section in our bookstore devoted to menopause.

The most important thing you can do for yourself if you are experiencing menopausal depression symptoms is see your doctor as soon as possible to discuss what treatments are right for YOU.


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