Every year in the United States, about two million women enter a phase of life called menopause, in which they’ve not had a menstrual period in at least 12 months. Women usually hit menopause at about age 51. However, most start to have symptoms related to the changes in their hormones for about 10 years before that, a time known as perimenopause.
With so many women going through the same things simultaneously, you’d think doctors and laypeople would be highly familiar with the kinds of symptoms women deal with during their life changes. However, that’s not the case.
Many women literally feel like they’re losing their minds during this time of life because nobody has told them what’s going on with their bodies and how it affects every aspect of their lives, including how they feel. If you’re in perimenopause or menopause, you may struggle to feel energized, optimistic, and excited about life.
At The Women's Center at Life Point Medical, Monique Petteys, FNP-C, is a skilled practitioner who’s devoted to helping women feel better and achieve an optimal life. At our office in Clayton, Georgia, she and our team offer counseling and therapies to help with menopause.
Are you struggling with mental health issues while you’re in perimenopause or menopause? Here’s why the two may be related.
Menopause is more than hot flashes
Some of the physical symptoms of menopause and perimenopause are already well known. In fact, hot flashes have made it into popular culture, most notably when Robin Wright’s character on “House of Cards” opened a refrigerator to cool herself down. Fairly familiar symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased risk for cardiovascular disease
However, in addition to physical symptoms, you may also experience mental health symptoms with menopause. Some common complaints include:
- Feelings of guilt
- Lack of interest in things you enjoy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Feelings of fatigue
- Appetite changes
Even though not every woman experiences mental health symptoms related to menopause, if you’re not feeling your best, the problem may originate in your hormones, not your head. Researchers have found that some women are at a greater risk of mental health problems related to menopause than others.
Are you at risk?
Several factors may increase the likelihood that you’ll experience mental health symptoms during perimenopause. If you’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression in the past or had episodes of depression, you may be at increased risk for having depression during perimenopause and menopause.
In addition, if you have negative feelings about menopause or aging in general, you could be at greater risk of developing a mood disorder. Low self-esteem, a stressful life situation, lack of exercise, obesity, and smoking are also risk factors.
Why menopause causes depression
Extreme fluctuations in your hormones during menopause increase your vulnerability to mood disorders. Research indicates that sudden changes in hormone levels affect the function of neurotransmitters in your brain, which influences your mood and cognition.
In addition, if you’re not sleeping well because of night sweats or insomnia, you’re likely to have mood disruptions. Physical symptoms, in other words, may well lead to mental health symptoms.
How to feel like yourself again
Lifestyle interventions may help boost your mood. Regular exercise, healthy nutrition, practicing relaxation techniques, and support groups are low-cost changes that make a big difference. They have the added benefit of contributing to your overall good health.
However, lifestyle changes may not be enough. If your mental health symptoms are severe, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) gets your hormones back in balance so your brain (and body) can function well and symptom-free again. As a bonus, HRT clears up many other symptoms, including insomnia, lower libido, and thinning skin.
Hormone replacement therapy helps you feel like your best self again. If you’d like to find out if you’re a candidate for HRT, contact our friendly team by phone or online form today.