Anxiety & Depression in Menopause

Anxiety and depression are issues for many women as they reach the peri menopause, as this time in your life often brings increased stress, angst, and fear.

This can partially be attributed to physical changes, such as decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone. However, hot flushes, sweating, and other symptoms of menopause can also cause disruptions that appear to come out of the blue.

In addition, emotional changes may also be present, such as worries about getting older, losing family members, or children leaving home. So it is no wonder that for many women, menopause may be a time of isolation or frustration.

Family and friends do not always understand what you are going through, or know how to give you the support you need. Therefore, if you’re struggling to manage, it is more likely that you may develop anxiety or depression.

While feeling sad is a perfectly normal emotion, regularly feeling tearful, helpless and empty is not and may indicate that you could be depressed. Like all illnesses, the symptoms can vary from person to person, but they often include;

  • irritability, frustration, or angry outbursts
  • restlessness or agitation, feeling unable to settle
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • lapses in memory
  • lack of energy
  • sleeping too little or too much
  • changes in your appetite
  • unexplained physical pain

Research suggests that you are more likely to be diagnosed with depression in menopause if you smoke or don’t exercise.

If you were to share these symptoms with your GP the chances are you will be prescribed anti-depressants. While anti- depressants work for some people suffering from depression, there are clear guidelines based on research, that anti -depressants are not suitable for the treatment of menopausal symptoms.

However, this does not deter a number of GPs from doing just that. While the symptoms of depression might be clearly present, they themselves could be a symptom of decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone causing emotion based reactions.

So, for many of us, we can feel as if we are going around in circles – moving from one tablet to another trying to wrestle the symptoms, while hoping to find a cure.

Once you are on the, ‘Let’s see if this one helps,’ cycle of prescribing, you can be stuck there for quite some time. In addition, this diagnosis can mean that some GPs are then blinkered from investigating any further.

Nevertheless, developing anxiety or depression during menopause is more likely, if other factors are present. This can include thoughts or feeling such as:

  • negative feelings toward the idea of ageing
  • negative feelings toward the actual idea of being peri menopausal
  • increased stress, either from work or personal relationships
  • discontent about your work, living environment, or financial situation
  • low self-esteem or anxiety
  • not feeling supported by the people around you

It is when these factors are prevalent, and have been for quite some time, that things appear to quickly spiral downwards during menopause. Often coping mechanisms, developed and honed over a long period of time, are no longer effective because there is just too much going on all at once.

In my own experience, anti-depressants were prescribed instead of HRT and it almost had a catastrophic effect. There were two main reasons why I found anti-depressants unhelpful.

Firstly, the side effects from many of the tablets that I was prescribed mirrored menopausal symptoms and so masked the underlying issues too.

Secondly, a prescription for anti depressants was never going to make me feel better about myself, my situation and my future. I needed therapy to understand these issues and how they played out in my life. However, without the correct prescription for HRT, I firmly believe that I would never have survived long enough, never mind felt worthy of therapy.

This is because, all of my life experiences had continually reinforced my long held beliefs about myself. These beliefs had now become so magnified that by this time, I could no longer manage my responses.

If you relate and your responses are becoming unmanageable, please seek help!

In the interim, these previous articles may be useful;

The mind in three steps

Keeping Anxiety at Bay

Why Self care is more than just a bath

Useful Menopause Resources

If you need support, get in touch 💛 x