What to Know About Menopause and Depression

What to Know About Menopause and Depression

The links between menopause and depression are very real — and quite complex.

First up, if you’re struggling, know that there is help available.

The National Institute of Mental Health offers these resources, amongst others:

They also suggest talking to your primary care provider as a great first step.

Your doctor can then refer you to a mental health specialist if they think it will be appropriate for you.

And if making those first steps feels too difficult, talk to a family member, friend, or your Peanut community.

The most important thing to know is that you are not alone.

With that in mind, we’ll take you through the links between menopause and depression and look at strategies to help you manage your symptoms in this chapter of life.

In this article: 📝

  • Is depression a side effect of menopause?
  • What causes depression in women?
  • How common is depression with menopause?
  • Does menopause cause depression?
  • How long does menopause depression last?
  • How can I lift my mood during menopause?

Is depression a side effect of menopause?

Menopause is defined as twelve months after your period ends for good.

The average age to go through menopause is 52, but it’s common for it to happen earlier or later.

In the time leading up to this, called perimenopause, it’s common to experience a range of uncomfortable symptoms.

These include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and — yes — mood changes.

What causes depression in women?

According to Dr. Jennifer Payne at Johns Hopkins Women’s Mood Disorders Center:

“When women go through sudden hormonal changes like those that come with perimenopause, puberty, postpartum, and even their monthly cycle, they’re at higher risk for depression.”

And even if none of that applies, women are almost twice as likely to experience depression than men.

Symptoms of depression in women

Depression (also called major depressive disorder) is a serious medical illness that includes these symptoms:

  • Feeling down and sad
  • Losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed (anhedonia)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue and loss of energy (anergia)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

If these symptoms last more than two weeks, you may be diagnosed with depression.

How common is depression with menopause?

Studies point to higher rates of depressive disorders over the menopause transition, with the main risk factors being:

  • Experiencing vasomotor symptoms like (hot flashes, night sweats, and heart palpitations)
  • Having had depression in your life before
  • Having been through surgical menopause (where you reach menopause because you’ve had an operation to have your ovaries removed)
  • Undergoing challenging life events
  • Struggling with getting older and going through menopause

Your doctor will be able to help you identify whether you are struggling with major depressive disorder or if you are exhausted, stressed, or experiencing milder mood changes.

Either way, your experience is totally valid, and there are resources available that can help you feel better.

Does menopause cause depression?

While menopause and depression definitely have ties to one another, does one actually cause the other?

Well, yes, in a manner of speaking — but it’s complicated.

The most notorious culprit is the hormonal changes that happen over this time.

Estrogen — the hormone that has been managing your menstrual cycle for all these years — goes through ups and downs before ultimately ceasing production.

And, because of the way this hormone interacts with the chemicals in your brain, you may be more vulnerable to depression over this time.

But there’s more to it than this.

Another challenge of menopause is sleep trouble, often caused by hot flashes and night sweats.

Unfortunately, depression and trouble sleeping go hand in hand.

Insomnia can lead to depression, and depression can make it harder to get to sleep.

The plot thickens further.

Beyond the physical changes in your body, you may also be dealing with a bunch of life stressors right now.

From family and career challenges to dealing with the realities of getting older, there’s simply a lot going on in this chapter of life.

All of these factors might contribute to how you feel.

How long does menopause depression last?

Everyone’s experience of menopause is different.

While symptoms often last about seven years, they can keep going for as long as fourteen.

And for some people, they never go away.

The same goes for depression.

We just don’t all have the same fires to walk through.

The best thing to do is to get support and possibly treatment.

How can I lift my mood during menopause?

Here’s how to overcome menopause depression:

1. Hormonal medication

Hormone therapy is an effective treatment for many menopause symptoms, including depression.

But this is not the solution for everyone.

For many women, the risks of taking hormone therapy may outweigh the benefits.

That’s why it’s important to navigate this journey with your doctor to see what’s most appropriate for you.

2. Non-hormonal medication

Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant for you.

There are numerous options available.

The FDA has recently approved the SSRI paroxetine for the treatment of severe hot flashes, so if you’re struggling with vasomotor symptoms, this could be a suitable option.

3. Counseling

Psychotherapy has proven highly effective in treating depression.

If your depressive symptoms are severe, counseling and medication can work well together to provide relief.

4. Sleep

Let’s be real.

Getting a good night’s sleep can be a serious challenge right now, particularly if you have night sweats or hot flashes.

And someone telling you to get more of it may do nothing but get on your nerves.

Do what you can and see if these tactics help: follow a regular sleep schedule, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and keep your devices out of the bedroom.

5. Diet

Spending the time to make meals and keeping yourself well-nourished is an excellent way to show yourself care.

Harvard Medical School experts advise, including lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, olive oil, and low-fat dairy.

And steer clear of foods that are overly processed and high in sugar and fat.

Head here for our guide to a helpful menopause diet.

6. Exercise

Although exercise may be the last thing you feel like right now, it has been shown to work as a natural antidepressant.

That’s because exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, helps to improve brain function, and generates new cells.

It may also help you get a better night’s sleep.

Research has also shown that having a positive attitude towards the changes your body is going through can also lower your risk of depression.

(We know. This can sound a bit like just smile, and all will be well.

It’s just not that easy.

Finding support — through counseling, support groups, and friends — can make a huge difference.)

The bottom line here is that while depression is common at this phase of life, it’s important to take it seriously.

There is treatment available.

And although this experience can feel isolating, you’re not alone. ❤️


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