The Impact of Menopause on Mental Health

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The onset of menopause signifies the conclusion of menstrual cycles and reproductive capabilities. While some women anticipate this transition, others approach it with less enthusiasm. The majority, however, find the associated symptoms, particularly those affecting mental health, unwelcome. Hormonal changes during menopause frequently bring about mental health challenges for many women.

What Happens During Menopause?

Oestrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate during menopause. These two hormones work together to regulate our mood. During menopause, you can experience mood swings, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks because of these fluctuations. Mood disorders are normally one of the first signs that you are in the transition phase of menopause. Trouble sleeping is one of the other symptoms during menopause, decreased sleep quality can also contribute to mood disorders. Not getting enough sleep can lead to symptoms of brain fog and fatigue. It is all a vicious cycle that leads back to mood disorders- menopause can harm your mental health. 

How Menopause Affects Women

Due to the fluctuation in hormones, there can occasionally be a negative impact on the brain. Some conditions can increase your chances of developing mood disorders during menopause. These include a history of premenstrual syndrome or post-natal depression. 

Studies have indicated that more than half of women with menopause complain about depressive symptoms. It is therefore important that doctors keep in mind your age group when they are examining you. Healthcare professionals often forget about this when they consult women in their 30s and 40s. It is clearly stated in the menopausal guidelines that anti-depressants should not be the first line of treatment for menopausal women. Despite this, women are still being offered anti-depressants when they seek help from medical professionals. Some anti-depressants can increase menopausal symptoms such as weight gain, which can have a negative psychological impact on you. 

Are There Treatment Options for Menopausal Symptoms?

There is hope! These mood disorders can be treated with the help of a medical professional. Prescribing anti-depressants is not normally the first-line treatment for mood disorders during menopause since the cause of mood disorders is hormone fluctuations. Hormone replacement therapy is normally the prescribed treatment for mood disorders during menopause to help get the hormones to their normal range and can decrease menopausal symptoms such as mood swings and depression.

Antidepressants and Menopause

Not feeling yourself is common during perimenopause and menopause. Other symptoms include low self-esteem, reduced motivation, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, and mood swings. These menopausal symptoms are sometimes misdiagnosed as depression. Oestrogen helps regulate other hormones in your body such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Oestrogen also plays a role when it comes to concentrating. When oestrogen drops it can influence your thinking and concentration leading to brain fog and forgetfulness. Even though testosterone production is more predominant in males, the ovaries also produce a certain amount of testosterone but during menopause, the levels also fluctuate.

Using Anti-depressants for Hot Flushes and Night Sweats

Citalopram and Venlafaxine are two anti-depressants that are sometimes prescribed for menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. These medications are prescribed to women who can not take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as first-line treatment. Hormone replacement therapy is not recommended for women with a family history of cancer, especially breast, cervical and uterine cancer. 

Anti-depressants are not that effective for menopausal mood disorder symptoms since the actual cause for these symptoms is the lack of oestrogen production. Other menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness, headaches and joint pains can not be treated with anti-depressants. 

Using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Since mood changes during perimenopause and menopause are caused by fluctuating hormones, the most effective treatment for this will be replacing oestrogen levels, in other words, hormone replacement therapy. It is important to see a doctor regarding HRT so that they can prescribe the correct dose for your body. This can really make a big difference by elevating your mood. Most women indicated that they feel calmer and find it easier to concentrate when taking HRT. Studies have shown that when women are given HRT during the perimenopause stage, they are less likely to develop clinical depression. 

Alternative Treatment for Mood Changes

Since the symptoms are diverse from mood swings to depression and anxiety, it is best to treat these symptoms by using a combination of approaches. Lifestyle factors can have a positive impact on your mood changes. Eating healthy, focusing on eating enough vegetables and fruit, fuelling your body with nutrients. It is better to limit processed foods, sugar, and salt intake. Foods that are high in vitamins B, D and calcium can also improve your mood. Moving your body regularly, whether it is swimming or going for a walk will release endorphins which can help elevate your mood. Some exercises such as yoga can help relieve stress and improve your quality of sleep. These alternative treatments are more important for women who cannot take HRT.

Getting the Right Treatment

If you have not had episodes of depression in the past and you have been given anti-depressants for menopausal symptoms, you should consider if this is the best treatment for you. It is advised that all women who struggle with menopausal symptoms see a doctor who specialises in women's health. 

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