Menopause and depression
Depression is a low mood, feeling sad and/or numb that lasts for weeks or months and affects your daily life. This is different to feeling down, which usually lasts a few days. Having depression also means you might lack interest or pleasure from activities that you would usually find rewarding or enjoyable.
During menopause, our minds and bodies go through a lot and it’s no wonder that this can impact your mood. This might sound concerning but there is help out there and you do not need to struggle alone.
Depression affects people in different ways and can result in a variety of cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms. These symptoms can vary from mild to severe. They can also co-occur with other issues such as anxiety.
You may have depression if you:
- Are feeling sad or depressed for weeks or months at a time
- Lost pleasure or interest in activities that you once enjoyed or felt rewarding
- Changes in appetite – weight loss or weight gain unrelated to dieting
- Issues with sleep – trouble having a good night’s rest or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy and/or increased fatigue during the day
- Increased fidgety activities (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, hand-wringing) or slowed speech/movements (usually observable by others)
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking clearly or making decisions
- Thoughts about death or suicide
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CAN MENOPAUSE CAUSE DEPRESSION?
- Some might be more prone to depression or depressive episodes during menopause if they’ve experienced it at other points in their lifetime
- It’s during the perimenopausal phase that you are most at risk to develop depressive symptoms, even if you’ve never had depression before
- Stressful life events that are more common at this stage of life, such as divorce, job loss, or parental death may also trigger depression or depressive episodes
- Several other factors have been linked to perimenopausal depression, including a family history of depression, prior history of sexual abuse or violence, negative feelings towards ageing and menopause, and severe menopausal symptoms
Read more about the stages of menopause.
SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
Disrupts your sleep and appetite
Feeling tired all the time
Sleeping more or less, and waking up early
Difficulty concentrating, and possibly feeling anxious too
Causes of depression can be hugely complex and are usually a result of interactions between social, psychological, and biological factors
DEPRESSION AND MENOPAUSE
Research has shown that fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause may account for depressive episodes and depression during your menopause transition.
When oestrogen levels fluctuate, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine (hormones that make you feel happy) are also affected, resulting in mood dysregulation.
Specific menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and their impact on sleep have also been implicated in depression during menopause.
Symptoms of depression can have a profound effect on both mental and physical health. Most of the time these aren’t immediately noticeable, but if left unchecked can become issues in the long term.
Long-term depression can affect the following:
- Weight fluctuations
- Increased pain sensitivity (especially towards headaches
- Backaches and more general aches and pains)
- Weakened immune system, making it harder to fight off viruses like flu and common colds.
- Lower libido
If you feel that you might be depressed or have symptoms of depression that makes day-to-day living feel tough, it might be a good time to book an appointment with your doctor or speak to someone you trust about getting help.
There are many treatments including medication, talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy – and speaking to a trained therapist.
Walking at sunrise resets my melatonin, boosts serotonin and you never feel worse after a walk!”
- Cohen LS, Soares CN, Vitonis AF, Otto MW, Harlow BL. Risk for New Onset of Depression During the Menopausal Transition: The Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63(4):385–390. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.63.4.385
- Freeman, Ellen W. PhD Associations of depression with the transition to menopause, Menopause: July 2010 – Volume 17 – Issue 4 – p 823-827 doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181db9f8b
- Healthline, Perimenopause depression
- Mayo Clinic, Depression
- NHS, Overview – Clinical depression
- Psychiatry, Depression
- WHO, Depression