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Emotional Aspects of Menopause

Is there a link between menopause and depression?

The transition into menopause may be a turbulent time for some women. Rapid changes in hormone levels may influence neurotransmitters in the brain. The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause can lead to hot flashes that disturb sleep. This can lead to anxiety, fears and mood swings. Depression during perimenopause and menopause is treated in much the same way as depression that strikes at any other time.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, be sure to talk to your doctor about finding a treatment that will work for you. In addition, your doctor will try to exclude any medical causes for your depression, such as thyroid problems.

What are the symptoms of depression?

If you have a number of the following symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day for two or more weeks, you may be depressed. If you think that you may be depressed, be sure to see your doctor or a mental health specialist.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Irritability
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • A change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempting suicide

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

  • apprehension
  • irritability
  • panic
  • impatience
  • feeling of imminent danger
  • restlessness
  • fear
  • inability to relax
  • difficulty concentrating
  • trouble sleeping
  • lack of enjoyment

Depression and anxiety can sometimes cause physical symptoms, such as:

  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Digestive problems
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Frequent urination
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sweating, especially in the palms
  • Muscle tension

Can hormone therapy ease my emotional problems?

While there is growing evidence to suggest that hormone therapy can relieve emotional symptoms, HT alone is not effective in treating more severe depression. Antidepressant drug therapy and/or psychotherapy may be necessary.

How do I know when to seek help?

When depression or anxiety is negatively affecting your life -- such as causing difficulties with relationships, work issues, or family disputes -- and there isn't a clear solution to these problems, then you should seek help to prevent things from getting worse. More specific reasons to seek help include:

  • You have suicidal thoughts or feelings. Suicide is an irreversible solution to problems and causes permanent harm to you as well as your family members and friends.
  • Your negative feelings persist for any length of time.
  • You don't have anyone in whom you can confide. If you don't have anyone to share your thoughts with, it's hard to know if what you're thinking makes sense. A good therapist will offer invaluable perspective on the issues most important to you.

What are some other options for dealing with emotional concerns during this phase of my life?

In addition to antidepressant therapy prescribed by a doctor, the following suggestions may help you lessen some symptoms of depression:

  • Exercise and eat healthy.
  • Engage in a creative outlet or hobby that fosters a sense of achievement.
  • Seek emotional support from friends, family members or a professional counselor when needed. Stay connected with your family and community. Nurture your friendships.
  • Take medicines, vitamins, and minerals as prescribed by your doctor.

I have a hard time concentrating and I'm forgetful. Is this a normal part of menopause?

Unfortunately, difficulty with concentrating and minor memory problems can be a normal part of menopause. Doctors don't understand why memory changes occur with menopause and there are currently no treatments available to relieve these symptoms. If you are having memory problems, talk to your doctor. He or she can at least provide some reassurance. Also, activities that stimulate the brain can help rejuvenate memory, such as doing crossword puzzles, longhand mathematics, and reading books. Make sure to minimize passive activities such as watching TV, and get plenty of exercise.

References:
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Depression. Accessed 5/31/2013.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/24/2013…#15231

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