Menopause and Mood Disorders

by Garreth Myers


Menopause is a time of great change in a woman's life. For many women it can imply an end of several things - their child bearing abilities, their sexuality - in fact the very essence of a woman's personality and the role that she plays may seem in jeopardy thanks to the tsunami of physical and psychological changes that take place during this period. Menopause brings along with it hormonal changes that are beyond your control. The best you can do is to understand why they are happening so that you can take the necessary steps to alleviate their symptoms in the present. Understanding that menopause and mood disorders are a part and parcel of life and that this too shall pass is the only way to cope with what's happening.

Mood disorders in menopause affect women more than men. Irrespective of class or race, when a woman reaches a particular age, menstruation ceases. About a year or so after this happens, the symptoms of menopause may manifest themselves in a number of ways. Menopause may cause quite a few health complications in women. Common health problems during menopause are cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, weight gain and urinary problems. Mood swings during menopause are almost a way of life. However, it is not necessary that everyone undergoing menopause will suffer from mood disorders. More over, the severity of the mood disorders will also vary from person to person. Sleep disorder, depression, panic attacks, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder are common mood disorders that develop during menopause.

Mood swings during menopause can be quite dramatic. One minute you may be in tears and the next laughing out loud. While this can be exhausting on both you and your near and dear ones, keep in mind that menopause is a medical condition but not an illness. These symptoms will die down in time and knowing that they are completely natural may help in getting through them.

Sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea and snoring are also very common. Insomnia is caused due to anxiety, stress and tension. It is believed that the deficiency of estrogen during menopause causes sleep disturbances due to an increase in the Luteinizing hormone or LH levels. Breathing difficulty during sleep results in sleep apnea. Snoring is another symptom of aging that seems to go hand in hand with menopause. Due to the changes in levels of the progesterone and estrogen hormones, there is also a decline in the levels of melatonin and growth hormones that can lead to sleep problems.

Depression is a common mood disorder that develops during menopause. Again it is due to the fluctuating hormone levels most importantly the hormone estrogen. Estrogen stimulates neurotransmitters, serotonin and norephiphrine that are all important for the regulation of your moods. The interplay of fluctuation hormones in the body are an important cause of depression during menopause.

If you have already been suffering from panic attacks, the symptoms may be aggravated during menopause. In some cases, menopause may even cause the onset of a panic disorder. The very nature of menopause seems to imply an ending to many women and this can bring about feelings of uncontrollable distress and anxiety. Symptoms of schizophrenia can be magnified during menopause as well. Estrogen levels play a huge part in the pathophysiology of this mental illness. Some women also report a worsening of OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms. Once again the physical changes the body is going through at this time affect the mental health as well. Bipolar disorder symptoms are also aggravated during menopause. Moreover people with bipolar disorders also suffer from a more frequent number of depressive episodes during menopause.

It is important to consult with your medical healthcare professional during the perimenopausal phase, that is, the phase leading up to menopause and even during the postmenopausal phase. This is important as the doctor will help you cope with the symptoms of menopause through medication and hormone treatments. Regular health check ups will also keep a tab on medical conditions that need to be dealt with or any illnesses that may crop up during this time.

Lifestyle and dietary changes need to be made at this stage of life. Exercise and having the right kind of food is extremely important. Meditation and relaxation are imperative to bring down stress levels, tension and anxiety. Try and abstain from smoking and drinking and cut caffeine from your daily routine. Drinking plenty of water and getting adequate sleep and rest are also important ways to ease yourself into this phase of life.

In order to treat mood disorders during menopause your doctor may prescribe medication. For instance he may suggest a low-dose of mild antidepressants. Counseling and psychotherapy may also help. It is important to have a supportive partner and understanding family and friends at this stage. Being aware of the condition, managing it accordingly and learning to be positive will help you deal with menopause better.


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