Depression Often Arises During Menopausal Transition

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • For some women, going through menopause isn’t easy. And for some, this transition can lead to bouts of depression, even if they have never had a history of this mental


    “The fact is that one in three women will be diagnosed with major depression at some point in her life,” Dr. Holly L. Thacker notes in her book, The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. “This frequently coincides with menopause, particularly if the perimenopausal transition is especially long or difficulty.”

    And depression can be detrimental to your overall health. In fact, a new study out of the University of Edinburgh found that mild depression may increase the chance that a person may die from heart disease.

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    The researchers conducted a meta-analysis using 10 studies of 68,000 adults who were 35 years old and older who participated in the Health Survey for England from 1994-to 2004. All 10 studies were designed to look for connections between chronic psychological distress and the risk of death from a variety of health conditions. MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, reported that the researchers found that subclinical levels of mild depression or anxiety increased the risk of death by 20 percent. Furthermore, mild psychological distress raised the risk of death from heart disease by 29 percent.


    The researchers also found that the risk of death from all conditions increased by 94 percent in people who had the highest level of depression or anxiety. The risk of death from cancer increased by nine percent for this group, whereas lower levels of distress did not result in an increased risk of cancer death.


    The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) notes that depressive illnesses are actually brain disorders that are believed to result from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Dr. Thacker pointed out that while going through menopause is not considered a major risk for clinical depression, the hormone changes that come with this transition can cause changes in the neurotransmitters in the brain. Lower estrogen levels can impact serotonin levels in a way that can lead to anxiety and depression. “This explains why a woman with no medical history of depression may go through a bout just as she enters menopause,” she explained.


    According to the NIMH, the signs and symptoms of depression include:

    • Continual feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness.
    • Pessimism or homelessness.
    • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness.
    • Irritability, restlessness.
    • Loss of interest in activities, hobbies and sex.
    • Fatigue and decreased energy.
    • Problems with concentration, memory and decision-making.
    • Sleep issues such as insomnia, early-morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping.
    • Changes in appetite, including overeating or lack of hunger.
    • Thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts.
    • Aches and pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that remain even after treatment.

    If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you need to make an appointment with your doctor to make sure you don’t have any medical conditions that have the same symptoms as depression or are any medications that are causing these symptoms. If nothing arises, the doctor may refer you to a mental health professional. Treatments for depression include medical and psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy). However, be aware that antidepressants have been linked to increased risk of heart disease in some studies. “For people with depression or anxiety, focusing on proven cardiovascular risk factor interventions, including maintaining healthy blood pressure, body weight, cholesterol levels, engaging in regular exercise and not smoking may represent the best course of action to lower their cardiovascular risk,” Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, is quoted as saying in the MedlinePlus article.


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    Primary Resources for This Sharepost:


    MedlinePlus. (2012). Even mild depression, anxiety hurts the heart: Study.


    National Institute of Mental Health. (2011). Depression.


    Thacker, H. L. (2009). The Cleveland Clinic guide to menopause.

Published On: August 10, 2012