Navigating the Link Between Menopause and Depression: Understanding the “Window of Vulnerability” and Available Treatments
Women are more vulnerable to depression during the perimenopause years and in the years immediately after menopause. Theories suggest that there is a “window of vulnerability” and that some women are more sensitive to the hormone shifts that occur during perimenopause, putting them at greater risk for depression. Women with a history of depressed mood earlier in life are at greater risk.
Emotional health during perimenopause requires a balance between self-nurturing and the obligations of work and caring for others. Coping skills and lifestyle adjustments such as eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help women meet life’s challenges and create a renewed sense of self-confidence, balance, and harmony.
A healthcare provider can help determine if a woman is just feeling stressed or blue or if she is clinically depressed (major depression). Major depression is a condition associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain and changing hormones during perimenopause may be associated with that imbalance.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been shown to significantly improve mood in some women during perimenopause and may be recommended for women who are unable or unwilling to take antidepressants, or the two therapies can be used in combination if antidepressants alone are insufficient. Additionally, systemic estrogen therapy may also be recommended for women with symptoms of depression along with bothersome menopause symptoms.