Monday, 4 March 2013

Mental Health and Menopause

Many women notice changes in mood around the time of the perimenopause and menopause.

It can be difficult to know if the symptoms of low mood, anxiety, panic attacks, depression and mood swings are caused by the hormone changes associated with changing ovarian function, or are due to an underlying mental health problem. Indeed, it appears that when presenting with such symptoms, many women have been offered antidepressants when they have wondered themselves if the symptoms could be hormonal.

If these symptoms occur along with evidence of change in ovarian function, from a change in the period pattern with or without other menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, sweats, joint aches and sleep disturbance, then a trial of hormone replacement rather than an antidepressant, would seem worthwhile. In fact, many women take HRT purely for control of such symptoms, rather than control of the classic flushes and sweats. Such mood, psychological and coping symptoms are often completely unexpected and, when untreated, cause more distress than the expected flushes and sweats.

We know that women who have previously suffered from clinical depression, particularly those who have experienced postnatal depression or premenstrual syndrome, are sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and are at risk of developing depression in the perimenopause, a time of significant hormonal fluctuation. Otherwise, while depressed mood is common around the time of the menopause, new onset clinical depression is not increased purely due to the menopause.

Mental health problems are very common, and can be associated with the menopause so should be treated early.

For more information, visit the symptoms section and psychological section of Menopause Matters.

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