Menopause and Depression: How to Feel Yourself Again
Middle age isn’t what it was 50 years ago. Women like Jennifer Lopez, Cindy Crawford, and Halle Berry are all a testament that “50 is the new 20,” and that when it comes to living a full, vivacious life, age is just a number. For many women, their 40’s and 50’s are some of their most enjoyable years. They may have established careers, a strong sense of identity, and as their kids become more independent, they become freed up to take full advantage of life’s experiences. However, these joys are often dampened by a little thing called menopause and the rather unpleasant symptoms that come with it, such as depression.
Will menopause slow me down?
As with other forms of depression, depression related to menopause can affect your relationships, career, and quality of life; it can suck the joy out of fun experiences, cause terrible anxiety, and slow you down with fatigue - and who needs that?! The good news is, menopause is a normal life experience and by taking a few simple steps, you can overcome depression and get back to living your best life.
Doctor, am I going crazy!
Symptoms related to menopause can be similar to PMS – if you regularly find yourself blowing up at your family and then feeling like the worst person on earth 2 minutes later, there’s a clue. But if you feel like your symptoms are going beyond the periodic hot flash and meltdown because your kid threw his underwear in the sink, you may be experiencing menopausal depression. Symptoms include:
Lost interest in fun or pleasurable activities
Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
What is this, a second puberty?!
Before we delve into what you can do for relief, let’s talk about why these symptoms arise in the first place. Menopause is a natural occurrence that happens due to declining hormones as a woman approaches mid-life. A woman is considered to have experienced menopause after not having her period for one year. Depression often starts during the “perimenopausal period,” or the transitional time women go through before the actual onset of menopause. Perimenopause can begin in women as young as 30 and can last for many years before a woman’s final period.
This was easier when I was 13…
Life events that are common during middle age can also exacerbate the effects of these hormone changes and impact a woman’s mental well-being. Experiencing a divorce, becoming empty-nesters, or struggling through the death of a parent all present enough challenges on their own; throwing a wrench in the gears of a woman’s endocrine system makes those events significantly harder to manage.
Ain't nobody got time for that!
While you can’t avoid menopause running its course, you don’t have to take depression laying down (unless of course, you’re taking an extra nap, which we do recommend). If you believe that you are experiencing depression, the best thing you can do is consult with a specialist in women’s issues who can provide you with a customized treatment plan.
Other helpful lifestyle changes that you can immediately start implementing include:
The laundry can wait – start putting sleep first
Insomnia is a cardinal symptom of menopause. Whenever you feel tired, make sleep a priority. You might feel guilty prioritizing sleep during the day, but think about it - you wouldn’t look down on a pregnant woman for sleeping in while her hormones were going haywire. What you are experiencing is no different.
Talk to your doctor
Anxiety can intensify memory loss, making it hard to manage work and family life. Talk to your doctor about anti-anxiety medication or hormone level assessments to help you get back to feeling yourself.
Nutrition is key
A healthy and balanced diet has a significant impact on psychological well-being. Your healthcare professional can help you establish a customized eating plan. As a start, try increasing water consumption, reducing sugar intake, and avoid skipping meals.
Check out the vitamin aisle
Depression has been linked to a shortage of certain vitamins and minerals in the body. Adding a multi-vitamin or other supplements can boost your body’s ability to fight depressive symptoms. Look for vitamins and supplements that include:
Since the dawn of time, this has been a tough one for the ladies. Women tend to put unrealistic expectations on themselves and often feel inadequate. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra help with housekeeping or errands during this stage of life. This can be difficult for middle age women who feel their responsibilities are doubled while caring for both aging parents and children. Understand that you can only give your family your best self when your well-being is cared for first.
Some studies have shown that women with low physical activity are at a heightened risk for depression related to menopause. While many experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, a brisk 10 minute walk a few times a week can get your endorphins flowing and help relieve your symptoms.
Take it in stride
The great news about menopause is that it happens to all of us women, and talking about it to your girlfriends, laughing about your hot flashes, and sharing “I almost cut my husband’s head-off” stories can be a great way to take the edge off this normal life occurrence.
Variations Psychology: We’re in this together
While menopause is something that all women can bond over, sometimes venting to your hairdresser just doesn’t cut it. If you’ve been struggling with depression, Variations Psychology can help.
Dr. Daniella A. Davis, Psy.D., is an expert in dealing with the unique challenges that women face throughout each stage of life. Whether it be adjusting to a new baby, managing the demands of college, work related stress, climbing the corporate ladder, life after divorce, or struggling through menopause, Dr. Davis supports women in leading healthy, empowered lives.
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More about Variations Psychology
Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.
Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams).
See our Specialists page to select the specialist that best suits your need, or simply give us a call and we will guide you.
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University of Michigan Depression Center – Depression During Menopause - http://www.depressiontoolkit.org/women/menopause.asp
National Center for Biotechnology Information -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2901893/
How to Cite This Blog Article:
Shinn, M.M. (2018). Menopause and Depression: How to Feel Yourself Again. Psychologically Speaking.
[Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/menopause-and-depression