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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lori Davidson

Here's How Menopause Affects Mental Health

If you’ve entered menopause you’re not alone. Each year millions of women reach the end of their reproductive years, marked by a steady and drastic decline in female sex hormones. 

You’re officially in menopause when it’s been a year since your last period. For most women, the winddown phase of reproduction lasts months to years. If you haven’t been feeling yourself during this time, it isn’t all in your head. The change in hormone levels can have a major impact on you, physically and mentally.

A few things to know

First, you should know that menopause isn’t an overnight thing. The transition to menopause is rarely abrupt, except for cases of surgical intervention for gynecological issues. For most women, the ovaries wind down their production of sex hormones gradually. Still, the changes can feel drastic and sudden, or you may notice subtle differences in how you feel.

Classic menopause symptoms

When you think about menopause, the classic symptoms that you hear about such as hot flashes and night sweats likely come to mind. Friends and family members are much more inclined to discuss and bring awareness to the common symptoms, but you may be unaware that menopause can affect your mental health.

Changes in mood

As a gynecologist, Dr. Lori Davidson helps women make the transition through menopause, and many patients describe changes in mood that occur during menopause. Dr. Lori will discuss your symptoms, the issues you may be having, and work on a plan to help you adjust.

Estrogen impacts women physically and mentally. It appears to play a role in regulating mood and it’s thought that menopause increases estrogen, an important mood-boosting brain chemical. During reproductive years, many women notice changes in mood when estrogen levels dip each month right before your period.

So, it’s no surprise that declining estrogen levels during menopause may stir up changes in mood. Lack of estrogen may bring on depression. Patients mention that they notice a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Look out for:

  • Low energy

  • Changes in appetite

  • Persistent low mood

  • Distressing thoughts

  • Feelings of guilt

If you’ve entered menopause and notice these symptoms, discuss your concerns at your appointment.

New-onset anxiety

While it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious, especially when going through a life transition such as menopause, there are some warning signs. Research shows, and we find it true in our practice, that menopause increases the risk of moderate-to-severe anxiety. This may be a sign that you need to see a doctor. A change in the levels of female sex hormones appears to raise the risk of anxiety in susceptible women.

Signs to look out for include:

  • Persistent restlessness

  • Feeling agitated

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Feelings of panic

  • Ruminating on stressful thoughts

  • Avoiding social situations

Worsening of pre-existing depression and anxiety

For women with a history of anxiety and depression, menopause may bring on a worsening of your symptoms. This is true even if your systems have been well-controlled up to this point. As estrogen and progesterone levels decline, their mood-enhancing effect may decline as well, throwing your emotions off-kilter.

It’s wise to seek professional help if you experience persistent negative feelings. These symptoms can have a profound impact on your quality of life by having a negative influence on your work, social, and family relationships.

Treatment for menopause-related symptoms

We find that replacing deficient hormones greatly improves the lives of women making the transition through menopause. Hormone replacement therapy can significantly relieve symptoms related to menopause, both physical and mental, including anxiety and low mood. 

Keep in mind that severe anxiety or depression may require additional treatment with medicines known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Along with HRT, antidepressants can help you get your life back and transition through menopause without unnecessary suffering.

You can take control and effectively manage menopause-related symptoms. Left untreated, distressing menopausal symptoms can lower your quality of life. To learn more about hormone replacement therapy, contact our Greenwood, Indiana, office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lori Davidson. 

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