Can estrogen help with depression
Menopause is the time in a woman's life when she stops menstruating and her ovaries stop producing estrogens. If a woman does not have a period for more than 12 months for no apparent reason, this is a major criterion for menopause. When this happens, a woman will no longer be able to conceive. The average age for menopause is 51 years, with a frequent transition phase between 45 and 55 years of age. But how does depression come about during menopause?
Despite the occasional occurrence of menstruation, many women assume that they are in menopause, even though they are actually in the transitional phase (perimenopausal period). During this time, a kind of transition takes place and the hormone balance changes. This period most often occurs sometime in a woman's 40s or around the time of menopause.
Many changes in the perimenopausal phase are the result of alternately decreasing and increasing estrogen and progesterone. This heralds the menopause. Depression is associated with changing hormone levels.
What is menopausal depression
Depression is an affective disorder that permanently negatively affects feelings of dejection, loss of interest and one's own perception of feelings and thinking in everyday life. The two most common forms are classic unipolar depression and dysthymia (chronic depression). Common symptoms of depression are dejection, listlessness, irritability, exhaustion and feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and pessimism associated with physical signs.
Unipolar depression is the most common mood disorder diagnosed. It manifests itself in a depressed mood that lasts almost all day and this for a period of at least 14 days in a row. Most of them find it difficult to pursue their job, to sleep, to eat or to enjoy life.
How menopause and depression are related
Many menopausal women acknowledge that the extreme changes in hormones lead to depressed moods. Either there is a new outbreak of depressive symptoms or an intensification of the symptoms of an already diagnosed depression. It can be very stressful to deal with mood swings along with other symptoms.
More recently, guidelines for the diagnosis and management of menopausal depression have been developed by the medical community.
It is a challenge to distinguish the symptoms of perimenopausal depression from the general symptoms of hormonal changes during menopause. Symptoms such as insomnia, hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings are common.
The risk of developing actual symptoms of depression increases in the transition period to menopause.
Symptoms of depression in menopause
Signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, or pessimism
- Feeling of worthlessness
- Weakness and exhaustion
- Loss of interest in things or activities that give you pleasure
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Decreased self-esteem
- Pain such as headache, cramps, or indigestion
- Withdrawal from the social environment and from common activities
- Thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts
Symptoms and signs of menopause can include:
- Irregular periods up to and including no bleeding for more than 12 months
- Problems sleeping due to low levels of estrogen and progesterone
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Forgetfulness and concentration problems
- Mood changes such as irritability and sudden crying
- Depressed feelings and anxiety
- Vaginal dryness
Causes of depression
Menopausal depression symptoms relate to many different factors, including hormonal changes, general susceptibility to depression, and other stressors. Other hormonal changes in a woman's life, such as after having a child, also put them at higher risk of depression.
A drop in estrogen levels during the pre-menopausal perimenopausal period can also contribute to feelings such as sadness, irritability, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, and mood swings. Despite all of this, there is no evidence that menopause causes depression. However, if the symptoms are severe and have a significant impact on everyday life, professional help should be sought.
Diagnosis of depression
Your doctor can find out what stage of menopause you are at and take appropriate steps to treat menopausal symptoms. However, if you show more signs of depression or if you have been diagnosed with depression before, a psychologist can always help. They can tell if you have menopause-related depression.
Treatment of depression
Women in transition or menopause who have been diagnosed with depression are treated with tried and tested forms of psychotherapy. It has been found that cognitive behavioral therapy in particular is effective and provides relief from symptoms. There is even some evidence that the use of hormones (estrogens) can relieve symptoms of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and feelings of depression. However, the treatment with hormones also carries risks, so a doctor should be consulted in any case.
Managing depression during menopause
Coping strategies for the treatment of depression in the perimenopausal phase and menopause should be used methodically. The proven approaches in changing lifestyle show significant differences. Regular exercise, dating friends and family, meditation, mindfulness, and participating in activities that were fun prior to the depression all help improve symptoms. This effect can be reinforced by abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes as well as a balanced diet. Make sure you have a healthy ratio of fruits, vegetables, proteins from lean sources, complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fatty acids.
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