If you’re nearing menopause, you’re probably prepared for several symptoms. Night sweats? Check. Hot flashes? Check. Weight gain? Check. But emotional changes, like anxiety and depression? Perhaps not. But, menopause can trigger several mental health issues, and they’re not always just because of your fluctuating hormones either.
Dr. Darin L. Weyhrich in Boise, Idaho, understands how menopause can affect both your body and your mental health as well. If you're nearing menopause — or have already entered this new phase of your life — Dr. Weyhrich can help you manage the emotional changes that you may be experiencing.
How menopause impacts your mental health
Women typically reach menopause in their 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51. During this time, it’s common to go through several life events that can trigger a variety of emotions.
First, many women start having concerns about growing older. They also fear losing family members or have concerns about becoming an empty nester. At the same time, you’re hormones start fluctuating, which can intensify all of these emotions.
As your body starts preparing for menopause, it stops producing as much estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate your menstrual cycle and make pregnancy possible.
Doctors consider the technical start of menopause as 12 months after your last period. But you can have perimenopausal symptoms for years before your fertility officially ends. Many women experience these symptoms for 4-8 years leading up to menopause. During these years, it’s common to experience changes with your health, sexuality, and mood.
When you couple hormonal changes with regular life events, you have higher chances of developing mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. This is even truer during times of chaotic and intense hormonal fluctuations, like perimenopause. That’s because abrupt hormonal changes can affect the neurotransmitter systems in your brain, which are directly associated with behavior and mood.
Identifying the signs of depression
Everyone feels anxious or down from time to time. But if these symptoms become persistent or pronounced, they can indicate a more serious condition, like depression.
Common symptoms of depression include:
- Lack of energy
- Changes in appetite
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Agitation, irritability, frustration, or angry outbursts
- Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
You can also lose interest in activities you used to enjoy when you have depression.
Several factors can also increase your risk of having mental health disorders during menopause. These include having negative feelings about aging, a history of depression or anxiety, a lack of support, or increased stress. Your chances of experiencing mood changes associated with menopause also increase if you don’t have enough regular physical activity.
Protecting your mental health during menopause
Dr. Weyhrich takes a comprehensive approach to help you manage your transition into menopause. An important aspect involves making good lifestyle choices, including:
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Practicing relaxation techniques, like meditation or yoga
- Increasing your daily activity
- Building a strong support group
In addition to lifestyle changes, Dr. Weyhrich also offers medications to help manage your symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, he might recommend hormone replacement therapy to stabilize your hormone levels or antidepressants to support your mood.
For more information on menopause and your mental health, contact Darin L. Weyhrich, MD, by calling 208-254-2588 or scheduling an appointment online today.