Menopause is often more than changes in mood and night sweats. It may also impact your mental health and can be linked with depression.
Menopause is a natural developmental process for people who get a period. It causes a drop in estrogen and other hormonal changes.
When you face this milestone in life, you may experience physical symptoms like hot flashes. But menopause can also impact you emotionally.
Although there’s no clear cause for menopausal depression, how the body changes during this period may play a role.
The first stage of menopause is perimenopause. It starts when you begin to see changes in your menstrual cycle.
When your body stops producing eggs, it will no longer release eggs during ovulation. As a result, you’ll start to have fewer periods and may notice changes in your period.
This transition period can last anywhere from 2 to 8 years before you officially enter menopause.
At this stage, your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level will begin to increase. This can cause the following changes:
- decreased bone density
- increased body weight
- low energy
- reduced physical activity
Because physical activity can help boost your mood, a dip in energy can limit your activity levels and may make you start to feel depressed.
Inconsistent hormone levels may trigger perimenopausal depression.
In addition, as hormones levels begin to shift, you may experience higher levels of stress in response, leading to depression.
Also, as your estrogen levels decrease, your testosterone levels rise, and your chances of experiencing symptoms of depression may also grow. But more research is needed on the relationship between testosterone and depression.
How those around you view menopause may also impact whether you experience depression as you enter menopause.
Or, you may have preconceived notions about this transition period. For example, you may see it as a sign of getting old and feel reluctant to embrace the change.
One 2018 study of Turkish women found that 54.1% held a negative attitude about the transition. It further concluded that those with a more positive outlook were less likely to experience symptoms of depression.
At this stage of menopause, your period won’t have happened for at least 1 year. Your FSH level will be stable, but your estradiol will decline. Estradiol is another hormone that can impact your likelihood of developing depression.
According to a 2020 study, if your mood is sensitive to changes in estradiol levels, you may be more likely to develop depression during this transition period.
Depression and menopause may share some similarities.
Most people start experiencing symptoms around 50 years of age.
Symptoms may include:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- urinary incontinence
- vaginal dryness
You may not experience all of these symptoms. But depression is a symptom you might want to consider keeping an eye out for.
Some signs of depression include:
- appetite changes
- thoughts of harming oneself
- aches or pains
- upset stomach
Symptoms shared by menopause and depression
When you experience depression during menopause, it can be hard to figure out the cause of your symptoms. Both depression and menopause may lead to similar symptoms, including:
Treatment for depression during menopause may involve managing your menopause symptoms. A doctor may also treat menopause and depression symptoms separately.
Hormone therapy can help improve symptoms like low sex drive. When your hormone levels are better regulated, you may feel less depressed.
Hormone replacement therapy is available in:
Medications may reduce the number of hot flashes and other menopause symptoms while helping boost your mood.
Having a positive attitude about menopause may make you less likely to develop depression.
Some benefits of menopause you may consider include:
- No more periods. You’ll no longer experience menstrual cramps or bleeding every month.
- Birth control isn’t needed. You won’t have to worry about getting pregnant when engaging in sexual activity.
- Say goodbye to premenstrual symptoms. No more breast tenderness or mood changes each month.
You may also find it helpful to join a support group for people going through menopause. Having the support of others and knowing that you’re not alone may help you cope with complicated feelings.
Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. We use “female” and “male” in this article to reflect the terms assigned at birth and the language used in studies. However, gender is solely about how you identify yourself, independent of your physical body.
When you experience menopause, you may be particularly vulnerable to depression. Although it’s unclear why depression is common during menopause, hormone changes and social stigma may play a role.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression during menopause, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor about your symptoms. They can help determine the best course of treatment.
You may also find it helpful to prioritize your emotional health during this challenging time. Additionally, consider looking for ways to manage your stress while renewing your self-confidence.
Most importantly, understand you’re not alone. If you’re interested in locating a menopause support group near you, check out Healthtalk.org’s support networks.