Women in their forties and fifties may experience symptoms of anxiety and depression without being able to identify the causes or develop coping strategies. Menopause or other hormonal changes related to a woman’s menstrual cycle is a common cause of depression. Read on to understand more.
Symptoms of Depression During Perimenopause
Clinically diagnosed depression refers to a condition caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain which leads to prolonged fatigue, sadness, irritability, agitation, insomnia, and restlessness. For women, shifts in hormones during perimenopause (i.e. the time leading up to menopause when the body makes a natural transition) can trigger such a chemical imbalance in the brain.
During perimenopause, the menstrual cycle becomes irregular. The same hormones that influence the menstrual cycle can affect the brain’s serotonin levels—the chemical that promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. So, when a woman’s hormone levels drop, her serotonin levels also decline, leading to increased irritability, stress, and anxiety.
Meanwhile, the body’s estrogen and progesterone levels also fluctuate, triggering mood swings that can make perimenopausal women feel not themselves. For some women, these hormonal shifts can begin a depressive episode. The risk is higher for women who have had major depression in the past.
Midlife Events Can Affect Sleep Patterns
Women in the menopausal age range might be facing many other challenges such as aging parents, career pressure, and children at difficult life stages. These external sources of stress can all contribute to poor sleep patterns. Although sleep disturbances are common for women in this phase of life, it is not recognized as a problem that is worth much attention.
Sleep is the foundation of emotional and mental health, not to mention physical health. Getting a full night’s sleep can help one’s immune system get the rest it needs to fight off whatever comes its way. Sleep specialists emphasize that proper sleep can boost a person’s immune system.
Further, sleep is a time when the body produces ghrelin, a hormone that helps one lose weight. It is when the brain processes memory from the previous busy day. Lack of quality sleep may prevent the body from maintaining a healthy weight and the brain from forming or maintaining the pathways that let people learn and create new memories. As a result, one’s concentration decreases, and one is at higher risk for mental breakdowns.
Risk of Depression During Perimenopause
Medical research has documented the association between menopausal transition and a higher risk of mood disorders among women. This time is viewed as a “window of vulnerability” for developing psychiatric problems. For example, the risk for depression increases with the beginning of the menopausal transition and stays elevated through early post-menopause, even after accounting for other risk factors.
Despite the scale and continuity of this problem, family physicians often fail to diagnose around half of the women who suffer from perimenopause-related depression. Primary care providers need reliable methods for assessing and treating patients. These may include hormone level measurement and estrogen replacement therapy.
Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster of Menopause
Women who experience perimenopause-related mood disorders may feel that they are in a state of perpetual premenstrual syndrome with everyday mood swings and unexplained anxiety. This often gets in the way of how they play other roles as spouses, parents, and professionals.
The first step toward self-care is to be aware of the reality of reproductive aging and the influence of hormonal shifts in one’s life. Women in all stages of menopause should treat themselves with kindness when balancing different tasks in life. If problems become difficult to manage, they should seek professional help. There is no shame in getting prescription antidepressants to cope with the chemical changes in your body.
This may also be a time to make some lifestyle changes by building relaxation and de-stressing rituals into one’s routine. There are many self-soothing practices to try, be it yoga, mindfulness, art therapy, or meditation. At this time, women should avoid stressors such as substances and difficult relationships.
Creating a Support System
Depression can cause social isolation, but everyone needs a community to flourish, even during this time. Menopausal women can find ways to stay connected with their families and communities, such as joining a support group for women who are making the same transition. Invest time in close friendships. Trails can bring people closer just as easily as they can distance people from each other.
Most importantly, remember that menopause is a natural part of life. Embrace the reality of aging and celebrate life. Rejoice in the many facets of positive personal growth to replace self-critical habits. If necessary, find treatment for continuous and bothersome symptoms such as insomnia, memory loss, and depression.
If you experience mental health issues that correlate closely with your menstrual period, you should know how to practice self-care as well as when to seek professional help. Women going through menopause are at heightened risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, many women go through this journey alone, which can worsen the condition. Seeking professional advice as soon as possible is critical. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we have licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists who know how to coach you in coping with menopause-related depression symptoms. If you or a loved one is struggling with the triple conditions of menopause, depression, and substance addiction, our residential facility is the place to be. Here we offer a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and treatment plans. Call us at (866) 906-3203 so we can help you start a new journey toward healing.