Depression is a common yet potentially serious symptom of menopause. It entails more than the occasional bout of sadness and, if not treated, can lead to more severe mental disorders and a lessened quality of life.
Women are especially susceptible to depression and when approaching menopause are even more so. Women ages 45 to 55 are four times more likely to have depression than women who have not yet reached that stage in life.
The main reason women, especially menopausal women, are more likely to suffer from depression is because of their hormonal imbalance. Continue reading to learn all about depression, its signs and symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
What is depression?
The general use of the term depression refers to a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy, feelings of sadness, and a despondent lack of activity. But because depression is a clinical mental disorder, it’s important to distinguish feelings of sadness and despondency from clinical depression. Clinical depression is more severe than brief periods of sadness. It is a serious mental illness characterized by more than two weeks of extremely low moods that affect how a person feels, thinks, and acts.
Types of depression There are six main types of depression. Some are more related to menopause than others. The following are categories of depression closely linked to menopause:
Lasts for more than two weeks and is characterized by intense feelings of sadness, loss of interest in normal activities, withdrawal from friends and family, and negative thoughts.
Less intense than major depression, but often lasts for longer, normally for two years or more.
Often brought on by a stressful event or situation. It can be acute (lasting less than six months) or chronic (lasting longer).
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
A type of depression that is triggered by the seasons and most commonly caused by a lack of sunlight in the winter months.
Other types of depression less associated with menopause, but just as severe, include the following:
Manic depression or bipolar disorder.
A brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Symptoms can be very severe.
Includes some features of psychosis, such as hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there) or delusions (irrational thoughts and fears).
What causes depression during menopause?
The underlying cause of depression in menopausal women has to do with hormonal imbalance, especially decreased levels of Oestrogen. As women approach menopause, their Oestrogen levels begin to drop off. This hormone plays a big part in regulating brain functions, especially chemicals that influence mood, such as serotonin and cortisol.
Decreasing levels of Oestrogen during menopause can also cause other physical and mental symptoms, such as hot flushes and anxiety, which can lead to depression.
Other causes include biochemical, genetic, personality, environmental factors and disease.