Menopause may bring changes to a woman's life. When your periods stop, you are no longer fertile. You may have hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes and vaginal dryness. Your feelings about your body or about sex may change.
At the same time, you may have a great deal of stress in your life. While life stressors can occur at any age, caring for aging parents, career demands and financial worries at this time in a woman's life can contribute to feeling overwhelmed or inadequate.
It's natural to feel sad or "blue" some days. But more severe symptoms may point to depression, a serious illness that usually requires treatment. Women who had depression in earlier years or have a family history seem prone to recurring bouts during menopause.
Depression symptoms and treatment
Symptoms of depression vary among different people. They include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness
- Irritability or restlessness
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Feelings of pessimism or hopelessness
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Problems with remembering details
- Insomnia, waking too early or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure, including sex
- Eating too much or too little
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Even the most severe cases of depression can be treated. Treatment is most effective when it is begun early. First, your doctor should rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. For instance, women are more likely than men to have thyroid disease, which can cause depression.
Treatments for depression include anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Antidepressants, which affect chemicals in the brain, may take four to six weeks to have their full effect.
As an added bonus, hot flashes may lessen with the use of some antidepressants.
Taking care of you
Make sure you get medical help if you are depressed. That's the first and most important step. It may feel extremely difficult to do anything else, but consider these tips:
- Get some exercise. Being active and doing things you once enjoyed may help. Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. Most healthy adults can aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week. Add muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.
- Be patient. Depression is not something you can "snap" out of. Once treatment starts, it will take time to feel better.
- Set realistic goals.
- Break up tasks into small steps. Choose some priorities, and then do what you can each day.
- Don't isolate yourself. Spend time with others who care about you. Let loved ones help.
- Consider a support group with women who are experiencing the same thing you are.
- Put off important decisions, like whether to get married or divorced. Your outlook will be more objective when you feel better.
If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call your health care professional, 911 or a suicide hotline such as 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or have someone drive you to your nearest emergency department.If you feel that you are in immediate danger of hurting yourself or someone else, CALL 911 or your local emergency services immediately.
Created on 11/26/2002
Updated on 02/21/2013
- North American Menopause Society. Depression and menopause.
- National Institute of Mental Health. Depression.
- National Institute on Aging. Menopause.
- Helpguide.org. Depression in women.