A woman undergoes hormonal changes during perimenopause (around menopause), which can lead to a lot of emotional ups and downs and sometimes even depression. Hence, it is important to understand the implications of transitioning into this phase in one’s life and deal with it.
What makes it even more complicated is that menopause and mental health are considered taboo to discuss openly in Indian society. Our nation is very diverse with numerous cultures and it is hard to determine which section of society recognizes menopause and the mental health challenges associated with it.
The stigma associated with discussing women’s reproductive system is perennial. Menopause is considered a physical process that brings about changes to a woman’s body. It is seldom linked to the emotional changes women go through during this period.
Various statistical studies are conducted in different regions of India to understand the stigma associated with menopause and mental health. Usually, menopause occurs between 40 to 55 years of age and it leads to a variety of symptoms due to changes in the level of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
The symptoms can be psychosomatic, psychological, hot flashes, urinogenital and sexual dysfunction, breast tension, urinary difficulties, memory loss, sleep regression, faster heart rate, and depression.
Due to lack of awareness, these symptoms are misunderstood as signs of aging, whereas it is due to changes in hormonal levels women face difficulty in completing their daily responsibilities. Women experience many emotional changes such as fear of getting older or not being cared by their children or family. Therefore, many times women find themselves in a state of isolation and frustration. Family members might not always understand these complications as women face constant prejudice from them, which, in turn, can compound risk for depression and anxiety among women transitioning into menopause.
Many studies suggest that women with supportive family members, who are aware of the complexities connected with menopause, are less likely to get depressed. Recognizing the signs of depression at the earliest and seeking treatment immediately can alleviate any risk of depression in those women.
The signs of depression in women can include:
- Feeling irritable, frustrated, or angry
- Signs of anxiety
- Extreme restlessness
- Feeling agitated all the time
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt of not being able to complete daily responsibilities well
- Unexplained physical pain
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Impaired ability to take decisions
- Impaired ability to concentrate
- Changes in appetite
- Loss of memory
- Less energy
- Feeling of being a failure
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
There are numerous risk associated with depression during menopause due to changing hormonal levels. But, it may not be the only reason behind developing depression and anxiety. The other factors may include:
- Depression is diagnosed prior to menopause
- Overwhelming emotions due to fear of ageing and developing negative thoughts regarding menopause
- Strained personal relationships and stress at workplace
- Financial trouble, discontentment at home or workplace
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of support from family, peers and friends
- Lack of physical activity and exercise
- Using illicit substances etc.
How to cope with depression through lifestyle changes?
- Doing regular exercise
- Practicing meditation and relaxation techniques
- Following healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet
- Quitting smoking
- Refraining from liquor and other harmful substances
- Keeping a journal for all good things in life etc.
How depression during menopause can be treated?
Depression during menopause is treated the same way as normal depression. Doctors usually rule out any possibility of physical disorder before treating depression. Medical practitioners recommend a combination of lifestyle changes, medication and therapy to combat depression during menopause.
The treatment options are usually customized as per the severity of symptoms and medical assessment. In case of depression due to menopause, low dose of estrogen– replacement therapy is an effective way to combat it.
Research have evinced that estrogen replacement therapy may provide relief for both emotional and physical symptoms of menopause, but it has shown risk of blood clots and breast cancer.
Medications used for depression are antidepressants. Medication in combination with therapies such as talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy can help women come out of their condition.
Usually women suffering from depression due to menopause find themselves dealing with loneliness and isolation. They find it difficult to communicate about their emotional turmoil to their family members and many times family members also fail to understand the underlying reason behind their loved ones unusual behavior. In that case, a woman must seek immediate professional help because it becomes easier to talk to a professional expert who would understand her mental health condition and design a treatment plan that would best fit the alignment.
How we can help?
Depression during menopause is treatable. But, in India, mental health facilities, specifically for menopause, are still facing roadblocks and are yet to be conceptualized.
Women belonging to the lower social and economic status do not receive treatment for their mental health. There are several treatment options available, but it is important to help your loved ones gain access to them.
If you are a woman who is struggling with depression, please know that you are not alone. Athena Behavioral Health can help you recover and live a happy and fulfilling life. Call today at 9289086193 to learn more about their treatment programs and to get immediate assistance.