Menopause & Depression

Menopause & Depression

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by Lisa Larkin, MD, FACP, NCMP, IF

“I can’t seem to shake the blues.”

“I cry at the drop of a hat.”

“I just don’t have the energy or desire to do anything.”

Many midlife women experience mood swings, occasional depressed mood and even prolonged periods of depression. In particular, the perimenopause period is considered to be a “window of vulnerability” for depressive symptoms and major depression, for a number of reasons.

Fluctuating hormones, as well as other physiological changes during perimenopause, such as hot flashes, insomnia and low libido, can all contribute to a depressed mood. Additionally, changes associated with aging, such as “empty nest” issues or the stresses of caring for an aging parent, also may impact a midlife woman’s mental state. Women who experienced a depressive episode earlier in life are also more susceptible to experiencing depression during perimenopause.

Fortunately, there are treatments. For mild mood swings and occasional depressed moods, research suggests exercise, healthy diet, and stress-reducing techniques such as mindfulness and yoga or other activities can help improve moods. Research also shows that for some perimenopausal women, low-dose oral contraceptives (estrogen-progestin combination) can help stabilize hormone levels and help mood swings (smokers over 35 should not use oral contraceptives.) Lastly, for severe depression, anti-depressants might be effective.

Talk with your health care provider about your mental health, especially if your depression is prolonged and severe.