At the onset of menopause, women undergo a host of changes in their bodies. It is not uncommon for women to feel frustrated with these changes, in addition to feeling sad about their inability to conceive anymore. In fact, signs of anxiety and depression at both menopausal and perimenopausal stages of a woman’s life are perfectly normal. Both these psychological conditions are 2 of the 34 menopause symptoms.
The causes of anxiety and depression during menopause can be either physical or psychological. Some researchers believe that the decrease in oestrogen level triggers changes in the brain, causing depression. Another view is that the other symptoms of menopause, like hot flushes, fatigue, sleep problems and night sweats cause these feelings.
Menopause happens to women, in their twilight years. There are exceptions of course, but that is generally the norm. At that time in their lives, most women find themselves in a situation where the busy,active and involved life she had, setting up home and bringing up children, is past and she has time on her hands, most often the empty nest syndrome, and perhaps a feeling of not being needed anymore. With these come the physical symptoms of menopause, the hot flushes, the fatigue, the night sweats and several others. Everything combined can suddenly become overwhelming and lead to anxiety attacks, nervousness and eventually, for some, depression.
Depression is a disease caused by biological factors. Some hormones in the brain, especially serotonin, regulate our mood. A drop in the serotonin level can cause mood fluctuations and depression. There are indications that between 8% and 15% of menopausal women suffer from depression of some kind. Depression due to menopause is most likely to hit during perimenopause, the phase leading up to menopause.
The causes of menopausal depression are still under debate, but there are various theories suggesting why such a large number of women experience mood disorders during menopause.The two main causes, as already mentioned above are :
A woman with a history of depression and / or mood disorders, are at an increased risk of developing depression during menopause. This is more applicable to women who have had depression in their twenties. Also at high risk are women who have gone through surgical menopause, because surgery causes a dramatic drop in oestrogen levels. Other women more likely to experience depressionduring menopause are smokers, those who have young children and those who are under a lot of stress.
However, whatever the cause,it is important to get immediate and appropriate help, as left untreated, it can have serious physical and emotional side effects.
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