Depression is at a higher risk of developing in women during menopause. The cause is often related to the hormonal changes at this stage. Early remedial action is needed to minimize health and life risks.
How are depression and menopause related?
Menopause in women is the time when menstruation ends when the ovaries stop producing the hormones that make up the menstrual cycle. During this period, women often experience sleep problems. In addition, many people also experience hot flashes and night sweats.
Studies show that the menopausal transition, especially perimenopause and early menopause, is associated with an increased risk of depression. This association is due to sudden changes in hormone levels in the female body.
An article published in Menopause – the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) points out that menopause is a vulnerable time for women to develop symptoms of depression. The risk of depressive symptoms increases during perimenopause. This was true even for women with no prior history of major depression.
A new 2020 Turkish study has also confirmed a correlation between the menopausal transition and depression. It also confirmed an association between certain risk factors and episodes of postmenopausal depression.
During menopause, women may experience a number of psychological disorders such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, insomnia and depression. Psychological changes manifest themselves in varying degrees from person to person. Depressive disorders account for up to 20% of women going through menopause. People with a history of psychological instability before menopause have a higher risk of depression after menopause.
Causes of depression in postmenopausal women
There are several possible causes and risk factors for developing depression in postmenopausal women, according to research, experts say. Causes may include:
1. Hormonal fluctuations
Most researchers believe that fluctuating levels of female hormones is a predictor of menopausal depression. Specifically, a decrease in Estradiol (the most potent form of Estrogen) can cause symptoms of menopause.
Hormonal changes also cause many women to experience mood swings. When estrogen levels are constantly changing, brain chemicals such as Serotonin or Norepinephrine will also be affected.
A hormone imbalance can inhibit the ability of Serotonin and Norepinephrine to regulate mood. The result is mood swings and eventually depression.
2. Sleep problems cause depression in menopausal women
Women often experience insomnia during the early stages of menopause. It is usually caused by tight muscles plus hot flashes and night sweats. As a result, women experience sleep disruption, sleep apnea, and restless sleep. Poor sleep can increase the risk of depression 10 times.
3. Life has many changes
A woman’s age of menopause includes the period before, during, and after menopause. This period usually occurs when women are between the ages of 48 and 52 on average.
In addition to hormonal changes, at this age, women can also go through many stressful life events. And these events will directly affect mental health. Such as:
- Old or deceased parents
- Occupational pressure
- Physical health problems
- Children live separately
These external pressures can make your mood swings worse. In particular, they often trigger or increase levels of depression in postmenopausal women.
4. Previous history of depression
Women with a previous history of major depression have a higher risk of relapse during menopause. Especially if their bodies are overly sensitive to hormonal fluctuations. This is a common trigger for depressive symptoms in postmenopausal women.
5. Other risk factors
In addition to the above causes, a number of other risk factors may also increase the risk of depression in postmenopausal women. Such as:
- Family history of depression
- Past history of sexual abuse or violence
- Severe menopausal symptoms
- Have a sedentary lifestyle
- Low self-respect
- Having negative thoughts about aging and menopause
- Socially isolated
- Feeling frustrated at not being able to have children or have more children
Signs of depression in postmenopausal women
In fact, a person’s depression during menopause or any other time tends to be similar in type. However, severity and intensity can vary.
Symptoms of depression in menopausal women may include:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Feeling restless
- Feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless
- Always feeling sad, moody and depressed
- Constantly thinking about death and committing suicide
The sharp drop in female hormone levels during menopause can cause a number of other depressive symptoms. Such as:
- Mood swings
- Crying for no reason
- Often feel like crying
- Increased feelings of anxiety
- Feeling deep despair
- Sleep problems linked to hot flashes and night sweats
Menopausal depression in women may present slightly differently from clinical depression. For example, research shows that menopausal depression causes more irritability and more frequent mood swings. Meanwhile, feelings of sadness and tears may be less common.
Treatment of depression in postmenopausal women
The severity and impact of depression in postmenopausal women varies from case to case. With early intervention, the patient can completely control the symptoms. At the same time minimize risks to health and life.
However, if you are subjective, the disease is easy to progress seriously with many dangers. In addition to affecting health, reducing quality of life, it also increases suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
For depression in postmenopausal women, the doctor will base on the severity of the disease, symptoms and general health status to come up with a treatment plan. The main treatments commonly used include:
Psychotherapy is the preferred treatment for women with menopausal depression. This method is not only simple, easy to implement, gives good results but also very safe for health.
Psychologists will communicate with the patient to hear the patient share and explain the problems they are facing. Then accompany the patient in the process of finding the right solution.
The specialist will provide the patient with the right skills and ways of thinking deeply to relieve depressive symptoms. It also helps prevent depression from returning after treatment.
2. Take Antidepressants
Using antidepressants may help relieve some symptoms of depression in postmenopausal women. However it will not solve the underlying problem.
Because of biological differences, women often start taking antidepressants at lower doses than men. In addition, women are also more likely to experience side effects. Therefore, any drug use should be closely monitored.
Be sure to take the medicine exactly as directed by your doctor. Adhering to the dose, frequency and duration of taking the drug will help to get the optimal effect. Never stop taking your antidepressant suddenly, even if you feel relief from your symptoms.
3. Estrogen Replacement Therapy
The decline in estrogen levels during women’s menopause is thought to be associated with the development of depression. Many studies have also found that estrogen replacement therapy is effective in treating depression in postmenopausal women.
Estrogen replacement therapy will help relieve symptoms of depression. It also helps patients to stabilize their emotions and mood during menopause. Depending on each case, the doctor may prescribe medication or use a skin patch to support the treatment of depression.
However, estrogen replacement therapy is often considered very carefully before being used. Because it has some potential side effects. For example, it increases the chances of getting breast cancer or forming blood clots.
How to prevent depression in menopausal women
Depression is more likely to develop in women during menopause. Therefore, women should actively build a healthy lifestyle to avoid triggering diseases. In addition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle also helps support the treatment process when unfortunately sick.
Measures to help prevent depression in menopausal women very effective include:
1. Eat healthy
Diet is very important for both mental and physical health. Eating healthy, full of nutrients will help regulate mood better. Also make sure to have a solid foundation of physical health.
Some issues to watch out for include:
- Cut back on salt, caffeine, sugar, refined carbs, unhealthy fats and limit alcohol consumption.
- Do not skip meals, it is best to eat 3 main meals a day. You can reduce the amount of food in the main meal and eat more snacks to feel more comfortable.
- Vitamin B should be increased in the diet. A deficiency of B vitamins can increase the risk of developing depression. To increase your vitamin B intake, eat more green vegetables, beans, citrus fruits, chicken, and eggs.
- Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. This is a nutrient that plays an essential role in stabilizing mood. The best sources are mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies, seaweed, flaxseeds and walnuts.
- Make sure you’re getting enough iron in your body. This will help limit the symptoms of irritability, fatigue and difficulty concentrating during menopause.
- Drink enough 2-2.5 liters of water per day. In addition to drinking water, you can add coconut water, orange juice or juice from fresh vegetables.
2. Physical activity
Along with diet, physical activity is also an important part of improving health. Especially, for menopausal women, exercise also helps to cope with the risk of depression.
In fact, physical activity can help increase energy levels and reduce feelings of fatigue. You don’t even have to go to the gym. Walking for about 30 minutes a day will also help promote health effectively.
To improve your mood better, you need to be persistent with physical activities. Try to find continuous and rhythmic exercises like swimming, walking, dancing, yoga, etc. Add an element of mindfulness when exercising and maybe pair up with a friend to stay motivated better. .
3. Sleep care to prevent depression in menopausal women
As analyzed, women in menopause are more likely to experience sleep problems due to hot flashes or night sweats. And poor sleep is also a common trigger for depressive symptoms.
Therefore, in order to prevent depressive disorders in menopausal women, it is necessary to pay attention to good sleep care. Issues to watch out for include:
- Go to bed before 11 pm and need to make sure you sleep at night for at least 6 hours (preferably 7-8 hours).
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Keep the sleeping space clean, cool and noise-free to easily fall asleep.
- Relaxation solutions such as massage, warm baths, or aromatherapy can be used to aid in better sleep.
- In case of prolonged insomnia, you should actively consult a doctor for timely support.
- Absolutely do not arbitrarily use sleeping pills or sedatives to support sleep.
4. Stay connected with family and community
Staying connected with family and community is also an effective way to help prevent depression in menopausal women. Because this can help women receive care and support when needed.
Some ways to help stay connected include:
- Talk to people regularly who make you feel safe and cared for. Family and close friends will always listen to you and give you good advice when you face problems in life.
- Prioritize face-to-face meetings. While calling, texting, or interacting on social media are great ways to stay in touch, they won’t replace meeting face-to-face.
- Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like them. Being around other people can help you feel less depressed and sad.
- Helping others is also a way to help you stay better connected with the community. This will also help you feel useful and boost your mood.
5. Stress management
At menopause, women are often more sensitive to life events or problems. As a result, stress will also occur more often. And this is also one of the reasons that increase the risk of depression.
To prevent depression in menopausal women, it is recommended that women should manage stress well. Solutions may include:
- Balance work and rest time. Absolutely avoid being overloaded or having to bring work from the company home.
- Practicing relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and enhance feelings of well-being. You can try deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or continuous muscle relaxation.
- Journaling is also a way to help you reflect on events or issues that caused stress. From there look for solutions to face or avoid them if necessary.
- Sharing the pressures in life with your husband, relatives or friends will also help you reduce stress effectively.
Depression in menopausal women is a common condition that needs proper attention. In addition to the examination and treatment as directed by the doctor, women need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to control symptoms early and prevent recurrence of the disease.