Menopause and mental health is an evolving field of study and research in the psychiatric health field today. Perimenopause and postmenopause can be particularly chaotic times in a women’s life both physically and mentally.
This is caused by fluctuating hormone levels that are readying a woman’s body for a stage of life in which reproductive functions are no longer active.
“According to a very recent study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry, a very clear link exists between menopause and mental health”
These hormonal messengers not only control reproduction but also impact mental and emotional health and mood. Estrogen and progesterone are the major players in the transition from perimenopause to postmenopause.
In this article, learn what you need to know to stay mentally healthy during this important life transition.
What a Study Says About the Impact of Menopause on a Woman’s Mental Health
According to a very recent study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry, a very clear link exists between menopause and mental health.
In another extended study over a 10-year period, called the SWAN (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation) study, researchers confirmed a higher risk for depression and related symptoms during perimenopause and postmenopause. Additional confirmed related symptoms included stress, irritability, mood swings, nervousness and psychological distress.
Researchers urged treatment practitioners to be aware of the higher risk for onset of depressive symptoms, including major depression, during these transitional years in a woman’s life.
What are the Negative Effects of Menopause on a Woman’s Mental Health
“Mood swings, irritability, sadness, low motivation, feelings of aggression, stress or tension, trouble focusing and sleep issues can all contribute to a negative mental state during Menopause”
The North American Menopause Society states there are three major types of depression that can arise during the transitional years when estrogen and progesterone levels are continually fluctuating.
Depressed mood. This is described as a passing feeling of dysphoria (sadness, “blue” mood). Depressed mood rarely requires treatment to resolve.
Symptomatic depression. This is described as a reaction or adjustment to something else going on in life. The underlying cause can be anything from career or relationship changes to medical or psychological conditions. It typically passes in less than two years (often much sooner than that). Symptomatic depression may or may not require treatment to resolve.
Clinical depression. Clinical or major depression is different. This type of depression has a suspected link to underlying imbalances in the brain and always requires some form of treatment.
Depression is not the only negative impact fluctuating hormones can have on a woman’s mental health. Mood swings, irritability, sadness, low motivation, feelings of aggression, stress or tension, trouble focusing and sleep issues can all contribute to a negative mental state during these transitional months or years.
How to Prevent, Avoid, or Cope Up with these Negative Effects
“Cope up with menopause by making lifestyle changes to accommodate changing energy levels, boost mood and enhance health”
Preventing the negative mental impact of perimenopause onset generally requires a multi-layer approach. This is especially true because there is no one-size-fits-all set of symptoms associated with perimenopause or postmenopause – every woman’s experience is different and unique.
Current recommendations begin with making lifestyle changes to accommodate changing energy levels, boost mood and enhance health.
Getting more rest, exercising daily (this can also help improve sleep), staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet, limiting or removing alcohol and caffeine, ceasing use of nicotine products, learning a new skill such as yoga or meditation and taking time for self-care are all recommended strategies to ease hormonally-linked mental health symptoms.
However, these changes do not always alleviate all the concerning emotional and mental health symptoms that may arise as estrogen and progesterone levels continue to fluctuate.
Finding support groups, taking a course of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications, seeking out herbal supplements, HRT (hormone replacement therapy), engaging in one-to-one talk therapy and engaging in biofeedback and other brain training sessions can supplement the lifestyle changes you make at home.
Discovering what works for you to ease hormone-related mental health challenges can pay off with better sleep, improved mood and lower stress levels. This, in turn, can support overall better health as you transition into this new phase of life.
If what you have already tried has not yielded desirable results, it is important to seek guidance from an experienced women’s health practitioner.
Sources & References:
The SWAN Study: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3197240/
The Endocrine Society Hormone Health Network: www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/hormones-and-what-do-they-do