Approaching middle age often brings increased stress, anxiety, and fear. This can partially be attributed to physical changes—decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone—as well as emotional changes—worries about getting older, losing family members, and parting with children.
For some women, menopause is a time of isolation and frustration. Your body is undergoing rapid change, and your otherwise normal life may seem completely interrupted. Family and friends stand off, often unclear of what menopause entails, and hot flashes, sweating, and other symptoms can interrupt your routine. If you’re having a difficult time dealing with these situations, you may develop anxiety or even depression.
Understanding The Risk
As with any other time in your life, during menopause, your hormone levels can affect your physical and emotional health. But the rapid drop in estrogen may not be the only thing affecting your mood. The following conditions can also make you more likely to develop anxiety or depression during menopause:
- negative feelings toward menopause and the idea of aging
- diagnosis with depression prior to menopause
- increased stress, either from work or personal relationships
- lack of exercise or physical activity
- discontent about work, living environment, or financial situation
- low self-esteem or anxiety
- not feeling supported by people around you
Depression during menopause is treated in much the same way depression at any other time in life is treated: with both behavioral modifications and medicines. Before attributing your depression to menopause, your doctor will first want to rule out any physical reasons for depression, such as thyroid problems.
Your doctor may suggest a few lifestyle changes to see if they provide natural relief from your depression or anxiety. They may suggest that you:
Get Adequate Sleep
Many women in menopause experience sleep problems on top of their other signs of menopause, but your doctor may recommend you make an effort to get more sleep at night.
Try Relaxation Techniques
Yoga, meditation, massage, and exercise are all forms of relaxation that may help reduce stress and also have the added benefit of helping you sleep better.
Research suggests that menopausal women who smoke are at a greater risk for developing depression compared to nonsmokers.
Seek Support Groups
Friends and family members who are also going through this time of change may provide a support system or help you connect to other women who can support you. You’re not the only person going through this change. You can reach out for help.
If these methods don’t bring relief, your doctor may look to other treatment options. For menopausal women, these treatments include:
Low-Dose Estrogen Replacement Therapy
Research suggests estrogen replacement therapy may provide relief to both physical and emotional symptoms of menopause. However, estrogen therapy may increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer and blood clots.
Antidepressant Drug Therapy
If hormone replacement therapy isn’t an option for you, your doctor may prescribe traditional antidepressant medications. These may be used in the short-term while you adjust to the changes in your life, or you may need them for a longer period of time.
Feelings of isolation may prevent you from sharing what you’re experiencing with friends or family members. You may find it easier to speak with a trained therapist who can help you see that although what you’re experiencing is challenging, it’s something you can overcome.