How are menopause and depression linked? We’ll sketch out some of the details below. But, rest assured, there are plenty of nuances involved. Sure, hormone levels play a big role. But so does mindset. For example, thoughts and attitudes can counter the hormonal shifts.
Depression is a condition that directly impacts a person’s thoughts and attitudes. You may lose interest in things that once excited you. It’s common to experience sadness, emptiness, and dark thoughts. All of this can directly relate to the experience and timing of menopause. Let’s explore some of the physiological and psychological factors involved in this situation.
Physical and Hormonal Changes
Hormones control your menstrual cycle. These are the same hormones that control serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical. In proper amounts, serotonin creates a sense of happiness and well-being in you. At points in your menstrual cycle, serotonin levels drop. So does that sense of happiness and well-being.
During perimenopause — the time when your body begins to transition to menopause — the menstrual becomes unpredictable. Not just serotonin is decreasing. Estrogen and progesterone levels fall, too. This typically sets off mood swings with the potential to trigger depression. This is more likely if you have a history of depression, e.g.
- Clinical depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Postpartum depression
Of course, other physical factors can and do play a role. For example, you may have a history of chronic health conditions. Also, lifestyles choices — smoking, inactivity, poor diet, and more — can exacerbate the situation. Still, as hinted at above, these physical realities do not exist in a vacuum. There I plenty more to consider.
Emotional, Psychological, and Social Factors
Menopause arrives at a time when a woman may be already struggling with the concept of aging in a culture that does not honor it. This is not a topic often discussed in public. This is when social support about cultural and social issues matters. If aging is negative and menopause is a sign of aging, menopause can quickly become depressing. A woman going through “the change” may see herself as less desirable or, worse, feel less like a woman.
Meanwhile, menopause does not magically erase a woman’s own unique responsibilities, e.g. care-taking, household chores, etc. Even as children grow up and leave, older relatives may need your attention, time, and care. All of this (and more) can play as big a role as hormones. In fact, they can trigger more hormonal changes.
How to Mentally Manage Shifting Hormones
Let’s start with the basics. You are facing physical changes and social limitations. You need to be a strong version of yourself. Thus, it is essential that you:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Make healthy eating choices
- Get in some exercise or physical activity every day
Engage in Mindfulness
This means meditation, breathing exercises, and more. Occupy the present moment. Don’t compare yourself to the past. Do not dread the future. Be right here, right now.
Challenge Societal Norms
Who says aging is a terrible thing? You are under no obligation to conform to societal norms or see age as more than a number. Think outside the birthday candles and menopause box. Try something new. Reinvent yourself.
Honor “the Change”
Change is inevitable. Don’t fight it. Honor it. You are transitioning into a new phase of life. Intentionally adopt a spirit of grace and gratitude. Create rituals to mark your personal evolution. Accept the change and accept yourself.
Get the Guidance You Deserve
It’s all a tall order. You’re managing physical and relational changes while bucking cultural expectations. It makes sense to ask for help. If perimenopause or menopause has you feeling dread, read more about depression treatment, and let’s connect. Let’s set up a consultation and talk about preparing you for this powerful transition. You can manage the hormones and the perceptions!