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Depression and Menopause

Depression and Menopause
May 18
09:54 2017

Depression and Menopause

Some women can begin to enter the early stages of menopause in the 40s, although many don’t start until the mid to late 50s and early 60s. A woman’s body undergoes significant changes during this time. Those changes not only affect her physically, but they can and often have emotional changes as well. It’s not uncommon for a woman undergoing the early and middle stages of menopause significant mood swings and even a form of depression.

Perimenopause is the medical term for when a woman begins to enter menopause. It’s during this time that some women find the hormonal changes in their body are so severe that they go into depression, known as perimenopausal depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists three types of depression that are unique to women. They are premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), perinatal depression and perimenopausal depression. They define perimenopausal depression as:

“Perimenopause (the transition into menopause) is a normal phase in a woman’s life that can sometimes be challenging. If you are going through perimenopause, you might be experiencing abnormal periods, problems sleeping, mood swings, and hot flashes. But it is a myth that it is ‘normal’ to feel depressed. If you are struggling with irritability, anxiety, sadness, or loss of enjoyment at the time of the menopause transition, you may be experiencing perimenopausal depression.”

The North American Menopause Society suggests the following ways to help cope with depression experienced during menopause. They list:

“For mild to moderate depression, herbal remedies such as St. John’s wort and the following lifestyle changes, recommended by the National Institute of Mental Health, may be helpful:”

  • Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Participate in activities that may make you feel better such as mild exercise, going to a movie, a ballgame, or participating in religious, social, or other enjoyable activities.
  • Give it time. Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
  • Postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a significant transition — change jobs, get married or divorced — discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.”

If you are one of the many women experiencing perimenopausal depression, the NIMH may be interested in studying and helping your condition. On their website, they state:

“Clinical research is medical research that involves people like you. People volunteer to participate in scientific studies diagnose, and understand diseases like depression. Clinical research includes trials that test new treatments and therapies as well as long-term natural history studies, which provide valuable information about how disease and health progress.”

“Scientists at NIMH conduct a large number of research studies with patients and healthy volunteers. NIMH scientists are currently working to identify the causes of, treatments for, and predictors of risk for reproductive endocrine-related mood disorders including the following:

  • Postpartum Depression
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
  • Perimenopausal Depression

“In addition to volunteer research opportunities for the patient groups listed above, research opportunities for healthy volunteers are also available. Healthy volunteers play a critical role in our studies. Regardless of whether you are a patient volunteer or a healthy volunteer, the point of entry into each of these studies is the same. You first need to complete a brief telephone interview, which takes 5–10 minutes. This interview is to help determine if there is a reason you cannot participate in a study. For more information, visit www.nimh.nih.gov/labs-at-nimh/join-a-study or call 301-496-9576.”

Whether or not the NIMH can help, if you are experiencing depression during menopause, seek professional help from your doctor. You don’t have to go it alone, nor should you try. Depression can have severe impacts on your overall health and your relations with your family and friends.

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