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Menopause and depression – causes, signs and next steps

Going through perimenopause and the menopause can be life-altering. The transition not only comes with physical symptoms including hot flashes, chills and sleep problems, there are also emotional and psychological symptoms that can leave you struggling with anxiety, irritability, low concentration, fatigue and mood changes.

It is a time that many understandably find difficult to go through. It can leave you feeling embarrassed and alone, and cause you to lose confidence in yourself.

While there is no evidence to suggest that menopause can cause depression, there is a relationship that can exist between the two. Within this blog, we will explore this link and also provide information and advice for those experiencing perimenopause who feel that they may be struggling with depression. 

Why can the transition to menopause result in depression?

When a person is going through perimenopause, they are at a greater risk of experiencing depression. This happens for a number of reasons, including:

  • The physical and psychological symptoms of perimenopause, and the impact that they can have on a person’s health, wellbeing and lifestyle, can be extremely distressing. When we go through stressful times in our life, we are more at risk of depression
  • During puberty, the antenatal and postnatal period and perimenopause, people are often at a higher risk of depression
  • Times of change and loss can affect our emotional health and lead to depression
  • A previous experience of depression can increase the risk of developing the condition again when going through perimenopause

When someone has depression, they often find that they struggle with overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness. They tend to withdraw from other people, lose interest in the things that they once enjoyed, feel extremely fatigued and find basic day-to-day activities like cooking and cleaning difficult to do. The mental health condition can infiltrate every area of a person’s life, including their sleep, work and relationships, as well as their ability to enjoy life.

A person with depression may also have suicidal thoughts. If you have been experiencing these, it is so important to reach out for support right away. There is help available to you – you can talk to someone you trust, contact your GP, or ring a support line like the one available through The Samaritans,  which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While it may be difficult to imagine at the minute, things can and will change, and you will start to feel better again.

What should I do if I’m going through perimenopause and feel depressed?

If you are going through perimenopause or have reached menopause and feel that you may have depression, think about taking the following steps:

  • Speak to your doctor to determine if your changes in mood are related to your hormone fluctuations. If it is found that this is the case, your doctor should be able to provide you with advice and treatment options to help you manage these symptoms more effectively
  • Meet with a psychiatrist or mental health doctor to talk through what you have been going through. If it is determined that you have depression, they will be able to provide you with appropriate treatment to help with your mental health, which could include psychotherapy and medication
  • Talk to people. Sharing how you feel can be liberating and also gives people an opportunity to understand what you are going through, so that they can support you. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to those who you see day-to-day, think about visiting an online support group like Menopause Matters, where you can talk with people going through similar experiences
  • Remember to take good care of yourself. You are going through a difficult time, so make sure that you do things every day that make you feel good. Exercise, socialise where you can and take part in activities that you enjoy. Also, reduce or avoid alcohol and smoking, and eat foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals

How can psychotherapy help with perimenopause and depression?

Psychotherapy is something that can be incredibly valuable for people experiencing perimenopause, the menopause and/or depression.

It gives you time and space that you may not have otherwise had, where you have the opportunity to explore and address what you have been going through. During the sessions, you can talk through your symptoms and the impact that they have been having on your life. You also get to discuss how you want to move forward and where you see yourself in your future.

With this support, you can then put steps in place to manage your symptoms and improve your health and wellbeing.

Alongside learning coping skills and strategies, you can also discover ways to focus on self-compassion and self-care, both of which are very important for people going through dramatic transitions and changes in their life.

Treatment options at Priory Group

Here at Priory Group, we provide therapy appointments at our hospitals and wellbeing centres across the UK. With weekend and evening appointments available, you can access the mental health support that you need at a time that works for you. Our online therapy service Priory Connect also gives you the option to receive your therapy sessions from your own home if you wish to.

We also provide residential treatment and day programmes. A hospital stay is typically most suitable for people with a severe form of depression, where you receive 24-hour care alongside the additional support and structure you need. Our day care programmes are also a valuable option for people struggling with their mental health. This is where you attend one of our sites for a number of days or half-days to work through a full programme of therapy sessions. This is often most suitable for people who do not need intensive 24/7 care for their mental health, but who do need structured, ongoing support in order to start feeling better.

Blog reviewed by Dr Donna Grant (BSc, MBBS, MRCPsych) Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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