Emotions of sadness and depression are common in women as they enter menopause. It is estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of women in menopause experience depression of some form, often beginning in peri-menopause.
The onset of peri-menopause and menopause results in a variety of physical and emotional symptoms which can cause stress, frustration and, ultimately, depression. These symptoms, added to an already full load of responsibilities with your family, work, finances, etc., can be overwhelming and just too much to deal with sometimes. It doesn't help that most women dread menopause all of their lives due to the horror stories that have heard from their friends and family members.
Beyond that, depression, like stress, may be another symptom of menopause. The hormonal imbalance associated with peri-menopause and menopause inhibits your body from managing stress effectively and in turn creates stress and depression.
Depression affects nearly 20 million American adults. The following are symptoms associated with depression that need to be addressed if they persist:
Depression is not a weakness but rather a common emotional experience with a variety of triggers. Pinpointing exactly what triggers an individual's depression provides the key to successful treatment.
There are several hormones that play a part in depression. The relationships between hormones and depression in women include:
Estrogen: Boosts serotonin, which helps fight depression and promotes sleep. It also increases GABA, the calming neurotransmitter and raises endorphins, which help you feel good. Low estrogen levels often found in menopause can cause feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Progesterone: This hormone helps to balance estrogen, promote sleep and has a natural calming effect. It also normalizes libido, is a natural diuretic and a natural antidepressant. Abnormal levels of progesterone cause insomnia and contribute to bad moods.
Cortisol: This stress hormone can cause depression if levels rise too high or fall to far below average. High levels of cortisol can create agitation, increased belly fat, insomnia and sugar cravings. Low levels can be associated with inability to handle stress, extreme fatigue, low libido and mood instability.
Testosterone: Testosterone has a positive effect on the brain and helps with mood and improves the sense of well-being which helps promote restful sleep.
Women with a history of mood disorders are pre-conditioned to experience hormonal depression during menopause. Surgical menopause, or a hysterectomy, also heightens the risk of developing depression because of the drastic, rather than gradual, drop in estrogen. Additional stressors like marital or financial stress, children, stressful work, poor nutrition and lack of exercise also make menopausal depression more likely in women. Stress is difficult enough for our bodies to handle but when hormonal imbalances are added, this creates a recipe for disaster.
Peri-menopause, menopause and adrenal fatigue can all create hormonal instability if no action is taken. Many people have been programmed to immediately ask their physicians for antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications without considering other options. The best option is to explore the underlying issues to determine whether an individual is experiencing hormonally triggered depression, situational depression or adrenal fatigue brought on by stress. The ability to accurately measure hormone levels in blood, saliva, or urine helps guide treatment options that can improve mood and depression.