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Menopause
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Menopause and mental health

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Problems and causes

Midlife is often considered a period of increased risk for depression in women. Some women report mood swings, irritability, tearfulness, anxiety, and feelings of despair in the years leading up to menopause. But the reason for these emotional problems isn’t always clear. Research shows that menopausal symptoms such as sleep problems, hot flashes, night sweats, and fatigue can affect mood and well-being. The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause might also affect mood. Or it could be a combination of hormone changes and menopausal symptoms.

But changes in mood also can have causes that are unrelated to menopause. If you are having emotional problems that are interfering with your quality of life, it is important to discuss them with your doctor. Talk openly with your doctor about the other things going on in your life that might be adding to your feelings. Other things that could cause feelings of depression and/or anxiety during menopause include:

  • Having depression before menopause
  • Feeling negative about menopause and getting older
  • Increased stress
  • Having severe menopausal symptoms
  • Smoking
  • Not being physically active
  • Not being happy in your relationship or not being in a relationship
  • Not having a job
  • Not having enough money
  • Having low self-esteem (how you feel about yourself)
  • Not having the social support you need
  • Feeling disappointed that you can't have children anymore

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Ways to feel better

Treating depression

MHT is not an antidepressant. If you are having signs of depression, ask your doctor about other treatments that can help.

If you need treatment for your symptoms, you and your doctor can work together to find a treatment that is best for you. Depression during the menopausal transition is treated in much the same way as depression that strikes at any other time life. If your mood is affecting your quality of life, here are a few things you can do:

  • Try to get enough sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. Keep your room cool and dark. Use your bed only for sleeping and sex. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, large meals, or physical activity before bed.
  • Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Set limits for yourself, and look for positive ways to unwind and ease daily stress. Try relaxation techniques, reading a book, or spending some quiet time outdoors.
  • Talk to your friends or go to a support group for women who are going through the same thing as you. You also can get counseling to talk through your problems and fears.
  • Ask your doctor about therapy or medicines. Menopausal hormone therapy can reduce symptoms that might be causing your moodiness. Antidepressants might also help.

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Content last updated September 29, 2010.

Resources last updated September 23, 2013.

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