Depression in women over 45 is very common, and it should not be left untreated. Find out what you should know about depression to find the best way to manage and treat it.
Menopause and Depression
Women are at an even greater risk than men to develop depression, possibly because of the hormonal wars being waged in the female body.
Depression strikes many women as they go through menopause, but unlike your other symptoms it may not simply fade away. Feelings of sadness, fatigue and an inability to concentrate are all common signs of menopause and also of depression. So are you depressed… Or are you going through menopause?
“You’ll want to conduct medical tests to rule out under-active thyroid, anemia, diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, or hepatitis, all of which can cause depression and, fortunately, can be treated,” explains VN Expert Holly Thacker, M.D.
“Depression is just as much a medical problem as diabetes or migraines. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed or to feel as if you should be able to conquer the condition on your own. After all, would you expect willpower alone to cure strep throat?”
Are You Depressed?
Before you can treat it, you must identify it. Are you truly depressed, or just feeling blue? Only a doctor can help you figure that out. “If it’s truly diagnosed, then a doctor or psychologist would be your best source for help,” explains VN member GayleL.
“In mid-life, you may also be dealing with divorce, career-related problems, or the death of someone you love. All these will naturally affect your mood and may leave you feeling depressed. Another take on depression at the time of menopause suggests that hormone-related physical changes mar a woman’s self-image and leave her feeling a little down,” explains VN expert Holly Thacker, M.D. “Research suggests that during the time a woman is making the transition into menopause, she is at risk for depression, particularly if that transition is tumultuous.”
Look for warning signs that you may be depressed, and record these symptoms before you consult with your physician. Are you having trouble sleeping? Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy? Are you chronically fatigued? How often are you engaging in sexual activity? Do you have trouble focusing? Do you often feel anxious, nervous, very angry, guilty? Are you irrationally frightened? Do you feel suicidal?
Answer these questions and note your symptoms to give your physician a clearer picture of what’s happening to you.
You may not be truly depressed. Other factors, including menopause and the subsequent changing hormone levels, could be at play. VN member Martha thought she was depressed, but she wasn’t. “You may be mineral deficient! Lack of iodine can also ‘cause’ depression.”
Treating Depression with Medicine
“Even if you’ve been an emotional Rock of Gibraltar throughout your life, menopause can brew up a perfect storm for jittery moods, anxiety, and depression,” says VN blog circle users Barb DePree MD. Medication is a common course of action for depression.
“During perimenopause and menopause, depression and other mood disorders are treated in much the same way they are at other times. Antidepressants and cognitive and behavioral therapy can all help. Hormones may also help improve minor mood disturbances,” says VN Expert Holly Thacker, M.D.
“There are many types of antidepressants, including the SSRI Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline), both of which are available in generic formulations… Standard antidepressants, such as the SSRIs and the SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), are not addictive and do not change your personality.”
They can, however, cause weight gain. Many VN members shy away from depression meds because of this. If taking pills doesn’t suit you, that’s fine – you don’t have to take them to treat depression. But you should find another way to treat it, because you don’t want to simply live with depression that’s bringing you down low.
Alternate Methods of Treating Depression
“I know this sounds simple, but sing, dance, read or watch comedies…just a start, but some of these might help,” suggests VN member Natalie2.
“New research from the University of Exeter in Great Britain on a process they call Concreteness Training suggests that targeting your thinking style can bring about significant long-term reduction in symptoms of depression,” says VN member and blog circle user Sarah Swenson. She suggests cognitive therapy, “a process of identifying and then changing particular dysfunctional thoughts or beliefs that block progress in one’s life.”
Low-dose hormone therapy can also be effective at treating menopause-related depression, as can standard therapy. Start talking to a professional regularly to air your thoughts and feelings, and help yourself manage all the things you’re going through.
Whatever course of action you choose to pursue, choose something. No one should have to live through depression, and you’ve already got enough to deal with as it is. You have no reason to feel embarrassed, though it’s very common to feel helpless. You might even feel like you’re going insane, at times. You’re not. You’re going through a normal stage of your life, and your body and mind are both struggling to adjust. Find the right treatment to make that transition a little smoother, and things will get better.