We’ve long known that the hormonal changes of menopause can affect a woman’s health, and that diet, exercise, and sometimes adjustments to the body’s hormone balance can be necessary. But now we are learning that menopause affects mental health, too. In fact, after menopause your risk of depression rises.
As with other conditions, everyone’s body does not work the same. Researchers have found that in the absence of the hormone progesterone, variations in estrogen signal a greater chance of a woman developing clinical depression. Those who have already experienced depression in the past are also more likely to suffer at this time.
In fact, as many as 10 t0 20 percent of women will experience depression during and after menopause. This signals a need for greater awareness of the symptoms, so that women over 50 know what to look for.
For many, depression is not as obvious as you might believe. Depression isn’t always about feeling sad all the time, or bouts of crying (although these can certainly be strong indicators of the condition). Other symptoms can include:
- Cramps or other digestive problems with no clear cause
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling restless/trouble sitting still
- Feeling hopeless
- Change in appetite
- “Brain fog”
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Strong emotional reactions
- Preoccupation with death
Your primary care physician should screen you for depression later in life, but you should also be aware of symptoms yourself. Luckily, the same treatments that work at other life stages tend to work about the same in perimenopausal and post-menopausal women, too. So, treatments are definitely available to get you through this challenging time.
Often, once the body adjusts to changed hormones, depression goes away. But you don’t have to suffer in the meantime; talk to your doctor about treatment for depression.