Menopause doesn't cause depression, but a woman who's had depression before may slip back into it during these years.
Menopause is called "the change" for good reason. It occurs during a time when many aspects of a woman's life may be in flux. She may be coping with hot flashes, weight gain and other physical symptoms of menopause. At the same time she may face emotional stresses such as divorce or widowhood, financial problems or caring for aging parents.
It's no wonder some women become moody, tired or irritable. Some even develop depression.
Menopause doesn't cause depression, but a woman who's had depression before may slip back into it during these years. Some experts think hormone changes may play a role. But stress, a history of depression and poor health may raise the risk.
Depression symptoms and treatment
It's common to have times when you feel discouraged, blue or teary during menopause. Depression is more than that. To diagnose depression, a doctor will look for a pattern of five or more of the following symptoms lasting two weeks or longer:
Feeling sad, hopeless or empty most of the time.
Loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy.
Sleeping less or more than normal.
Losing or gaining weight without trying.
Feeling tired or sluggish.
Trouble concentrating or making decisions.
Feeling worthless or guilty.
Thoughts of death or suicide. (If you are thinking about hurting yourself, call 9-1-1 right away.)
If you have symptoms like these, see your doctor. Mood changes could be the result of many things, including thyroid disease or medication side effects. Getting the right diagnosis can help you get the right treatment.
If you're depressed, your doctor may prescribe counseling or an antidepressant medication. Some antidepressants may also ease hot flashes, so that could be an added bonus.
Take steps to reduce stress
You probably can't banish all the pressures you face, but you may be able to find better ways to cope with them. If stress is a factor in your moods, try these tips to ease the pressure:
Take part in activities you enjoy. Choose things that give you a mental or spiritual lift.
Spend time with people who make you laugh. Avoid those who sap your energy.
Get some physical activity every day. Exercise is one of the best ways to ease stress, and it can improve sleep.
Eat a healthy diet that's low in fat, salt and refined sugar. Limit alcohol and caffeine.
Learn stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing or muscle relaxation.
Get enough sleep. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Using ear plugs may and a sleep mask help you rest better.
Make time for yourself. Take a soothing bath, get a manicure or massage, read a book or spend time in your favorite nature spot.
Find a support group or seek counseling if your symptoms are severe or if they interfere with your day-to-day activities.