Is Depression A Side Effect Of Menopause?

Menopause brings on a number of changes, like adjustments to your menstrual cycle, hot flashes, and sleep troubles, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Many of these changes aren't welcome changes, and unfortunately, your mood might get disrupted, too.

Between the ages of about 45 and 55, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone begin to fluctuate and decrease (via NIA). This could cause symptoms that can range from mild to severe, including irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, incontinence, trouble sleeping, and weight gain.

This period of time, also known as perimenopause, can last for about seven years, but it's different for everyone. Once it's been 12 months since your last period, you officially experience menopause and then enter postmenopause.

Another potential side effect of menopause is that you might become more susceptible to depression. You might just feel moodier in general or find yourself feeling more irritable as you transition to menopause.

How menopause can influence depressive feelings

The hormones that control your menstrual cycle are estrogen and progesterone, and these also influence your levels of serotonin, the chemical in the brain that nurtures happy feelings (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). As levels of estrogen and progesterone begin to drop, so does serotonin, which can precipitate mood swings. If you've had experience with depressive episodes in the past, these changes in hormones could trigger more.

The perimenopause stage of life also comes with life stressors that can affect mental health. In your 40s, you might be likely to experience more career pressures, have increasing health issues, need to care for aging parents, and experience kids growing up and moving out. You're also more likely to experience sleep changes, like having insomnia and experiencing nighttime hot flashes. All these concerns can make depression more likely as hormones drop.

If you're going through perimenopause and notice symptoms like low appetite or overeating, fatigue, lack of motivation, oversleeping, loss of interest in things you used to like, having trouble making decisions, or suicidal thoughts, you should contact your doctor right away.

What to do about menopausal depression

If you're experiencing depressive symptoms during the transition to menopause, there are multiple treatment options (via Medical News Today). Your doctor might suggest a combo of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy.

Typical medications can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). A trained therapist can help you to understand what you're going through and help you to cope with your emotions. There are also treatments like hormone therapy that may not help with depression directly, but can help alleviate other distressing symptoms of menopause.

There are also other ways to help manage perimenopausal depression. It may help to get regular exercise, consume less caffeine and alcohol, practice stress reduction techniques like meditation, and quit smoking. Hypnosis might even help to reduce hot flashes and potentially improve your mood.

Treatment will be different for each individual person. Sometimes, just reaching menopause will bring some relief to symptoms (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). If hormonal fluctuations are impacting your daily life, contact your doctor to discuss what options might be best for you.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.