Depression appears to be more common during perimenopause, which is the first stage of menopause. However, research has not proven a causal link between the two.
Scientists are not sure why depression is more common during perimenopause, but a mixture of physiological and psychological factors may play a role.
Keep reading to learn more about the link between menopause and depression and the treatment options available.
Depression is a mental health condition that affects a person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. The symptoms can include:
- a lack of interest in activities a person used to enjoy
- feelings of sadness, apathy, or emptiness
- fatigue or lack of energy
- trouble remembering, concentrating, and making decisions
- appetite changes, weight changes, or both
- difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- slow movement or speech
There are several types of depression. The medical name for one of the most common is major depressive disorder (MDD). According to the
Not all of the studies that the authors looked at found an association. However, two well-designed studies indicated that the risk of developing a depressive disorder might be two to five times higher during perimenopause compared with the late premenopausal years.
Researchers are not certain why depression is more common during perimenopause, but several factors may contribute.
During perimenopause, a person’s hormone levels change unpredictably. Estrogen and progesterone may rise and fall while they decline overall. These hormonal changes may affect brain chemistry, structure, and function.
Estrogen enhances the effect of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters help regulate mood. When estrogen levels decline, it may affect the balance of these chemicals.
Some people may be especially susceptible to hormone-related mood changes. A
- a personal or family history of depression
- a history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- a history of postpartum depression
However, the authors of the study emphasize that the risk of depression is higher in all people going through perimenopause, regardless of their personal or family history.
The psychological and social impact of menopause may also affect mental health. Although some people feel that menopause and aging can be positive, others may feel as though:
- menopause or aging is a negative thing
- it makes them less youthful or womanly
- menopause symptoms are stressful or affect their ability to work
- they lack social support
These feelings may affect someone’s mental health. However, they may not be inevitable.
While some cultures value youth highly, others value age and experience. A
Gender roles and expectations may also influence how people experience menopause. Despite an increasing number of women entering the workforce, in heterosexual relationships, women still do the
Women are also more likely than men to have roles as caregivers, although this role can change around midlife. Children can leave home, and older relatives may begin to need care due to illness or disability. Either of these events
Other health factors
In addition to menopause, other health-related factors may influence depression risk, including:
- Chronic health conditions: Having a chronic health condition may be a
risk factorfor depression in midlife, and it may coincide with menopause.
- Lifestyle: Studies have found an association between depression and certain behaviors, particularly smoking and a lack of physical activity. This means not necessarily that smoking or a lack of exercising causes depression but that depression is more common in people who have these habits.
- Surgical menopause: If a person undergoes surgery to remove the ovaries, they enter menopause more quickly than they would otherwise. This, as well as the procedure itself,
Doctors may suggest selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) for menopause-related mood changes. These medications change neurotransmitter levels and may reduce the symptoms of depression. They may also make someone feel well enough to begin psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy may help with identifying the factors contributing to depression, such as life events or stress. A therapist can help someone understand and manage their emotions.
There is little research on complementary therapies specifically for depression that occurs during perimenopause. However, steps that people can take to help with depression, menopause symptoms, or both include:
It is important to speak with a healthcare professional about symptoms that could indicate depression. Depression is not an expected part of menopause or aging, and effective treatments are available. Anyone experiencing it at this life stage should reach out to a doctor or therapist who understands menopause and its potential effects on mental health.
A person should contact a doctor or mental health professional immediately if they are considering self-harm or suicide.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.
Studies link perimenopause and depression, but the nature of the connection is not clear. Scientists believe that people may be more vulnerable to depression during this time as a result of hormonal fluctuations.
However, other factors may also play a role, including a person’s mental and physical health, and societal attitudes toward menopause and aging.
The risk of depression appears to return to normal 2–4 years after the last menstrual period. Several treatments are available to manage the symptoms and alleviate stress.