Feeling Out of Sorts: Menopause and Your Mind
Hold on, ladies. In addition to menopause’s physical twists and turns, your mood might also rise and plummet without warning.
Menopause can be an emotional ride.
“Women can experience an increase in anxiety and depression starting in perimenopause. That’s four to five years before menopause,” said Meaghan Shanahan, MD, CHI Health obstetrician/gynecologist. “It can continue four to five years after the date of menopause, which is 12 months after your last period.”
This long period of mental mayhem is driven by decreasing estrogen levels which affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions.
“Definitely there’s a connection between menopause and depression,” Shanahan said. “Women are two times more likely to be diagnosed with depression during menopause.”
Unfortunately, many simply try to hang on. Sometimes, they get better along the way.
An antidepressant Shanahan prescribes for hot flashes has helped women who were suffering with depression – but didn’t realize it or didn’t think it was bad enough to mention.
“They come in and say, ‘The antidepressant helped some with the hot flashes, but my mood is so much better,’” Shanahan said.
That underscores why women should speak up if menopause has them feeling anxious or upset.
“It can cause significant distress for women,” Shanahan said. “It’s always good to get a handle on it as soon as possible.”
Besides considering an antidepressant and treating side effects like hot flashes, intense emotions are another reason to discuss hormone therapy.
“I’m definitely a proponent of estrogen/progesterone replacement therapy,” Shanahan said. “You do see an improvement.”
Strategies to Smooth the Ride
- Exercise and eat healthy.
- Address stress in your life, such as caring for older children and aging parents.
- Take up yoga, meditation, rhythmic breathing.
- Use alcohol sparingly, avoid tranquilizers.
- Find a creative outlet.
- Connect with family and community.
- Nurture friendships, particularly with other women going through menopause.