Approaching middle age often brings increased stress, anxiety, and fear. This can partially be attributed to physical changes, such as decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone. Hot flashes, sweating, and other symptoms of menopause may cause disruptions.
There may also be emotional changes, such as worries about getting older, losing family members, or children leaving home.
For some women, menopause may be a time of isolation or frustration. Family and friends may not always understand what you’re going through, or give you the support you need. If you’re having trouble coping, it is possible to develop anxiety or depression.
Everyone feels sad once in a while. However, if you regularly feel sad, tearful, hopeless, or empty, you may be experiencing depression. Other symptoms of depression include:
- irritability, frustration, or angry outbursts
- anxiety, restlessness, or agitation
- feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- trouble concentrating or making decisions
- lapses in memory lack of energ
- sleeping too little or too much
- changes in your appetite
- unexplained physical pain
Changing hormone levels during menopause may affect your physical and emotional health. Also, the rapid drop in estrogen may not be the only thing affecting your mood. The following factors may also make developing anxiety or depression during menopause more likely:
- diagnosis with depression prior to menopause
- negative feelings toward menopause or the idea of aging
- increased stress, either from work or personal relationships
- discontent about your work, living environment, or financial situation
- low self-esteem or anxiety
- not feeling supported by the people around you
- lack of exercise or physical activity
Depression during menopause is treated in much the same way it’s treated at any other time in life. Your doctor may prescribe lifestyle changes, medications, therapy, or a combination of these options.
Before attributing your depression to menopause, your doctor will first want to rule out any physical reasons for your symptoms, such as thyroid problems.
After making a diagnosis, your doctor may suggest the following lifestyle changes to see if they provide natural relief from your depression or anxiety.
Get Adequate Sleep
Many women in menopause experience sleep problems. Your doctor may recommend getting more sleep at night. Try to follow a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool while you sleep may also help.
Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise can help relieve stress, while boosting your energy and mood. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. For example, go for a brisk walk or bike ride, swim laps in a pool, or play a game of tennis.
It is also important to include at least two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities in your weekly routine. Weight lifting, activities with resistance bands, and yoga may be good choices. Be certain to discuss planned exercise routines with your doctor.
Try Relaxation Techniques
Yoga, tai chi, meditation, and massage are all relaxing activities that can help reduce stress. They may also have the added benefit of helping you sleep better at night.
Research suggests that menopausal women who smoke are at a greater risk of developing depression, compared to nonsmokers. If you currently smoke, ask for help quitting. Your doctor can give you information about smoking cessation tools and techniques.
Seek Support Groups
Your friends and family members may provide you with valuable social support. However, sometimes it helps to connect with other women in your community who are also going through menopause. Remember, you’re not alone. There are others who are also going through this change.
If lifestyle changes don’t bring relief, your doctor may look at other treatment options. For example, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressant medications, or talk therapy may be recommend.
Low-Dose Estrogen Replacement Therapy
Your doctor may prescribe estrogen replacement therapy, in the form of an oral pill or skin patch. Research suggests that estrogen replacement therapy may provide relief for both physical and emotional symptoms of menopause. However, estrogen therapy may also increase your risk of 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 cope with the challenges you’re experiencing.
Depression during menopause is a treatable condition. It’s important to remember that there are several treatment options that may help to relieve symptoms and provide strategies for copying with changes. Talk with your doctor to discover what options may be the most effective.