By Elisa Cottarelli | Team MM
Why do so many menopausal women feel depressed? Why are anti-depressants so often prescribed?
Depression, or at the very least feelings of depression, are incredibly common during the menopause transition. In fact, studies show that depression is higher for perimenopausal women, who are going through the peak of imbalanced hormones. Additionally, a menopausal woman (including perimenopausal) is 4x more likely to have depression than a woman younger than 45. That said, depression isn’t a mood, it’s an illness and should be considered carefully.The years before, during, and after the menopause are years filled with changes, both physical and emotional. Because of this, it can be hard to distinguish between depression caused by the menopause, and related symptoms such as anxiety, low self-esteem, mood swings, and fatigue. What’s tricky about this is that the proper diagnosis is important, and can end up being a multi-diagnosis.
So many people hold back from expressing how they feel out of fear of not being understood.
Depression is a chronic feeling of sadness, of worthlessness and loss of interest. Many symptoms of depression are similar to symptoms of the menopause, such as insomnia, trouble concentrating, change in appetite, and loss of energy. This is why so many menopausal women who aren’t depressed are diagnosed with depression. Nonetheless, depression is a very real and very serious symptom of the menopause. Fortunately, it’s absolutely treatable.
Depression is often not taking seriously enough. When telling your friends, your partner, or your family about how you feel, it’s not uncommon to have your feelings brushed off. People might say, “It’ll be okay! You’ll be fine soon!” – without really considering how you feel. Of course, you will get better, but understandably, in the moment it doesn’t feel like it and that kind of advice can easily feel belittling. So many people hold back from expressing how they feel out of fear of not being understood. What’s worse is the fear of becoming a nuisance, of becoming a ‘Debbie Downer’. No one wants to feel like they’re weak, no one wants to feel like they’ve failed.
Strength comes from waking up every morning and getting yourself through the day even when you wish you didn’t have to.
But let’s be clear about something: having emotions doesn’t make you a weak person. A person isn’t necessarily strong just because they can seemingly hold it together. Strength comes from trying to get better, trying to be happy, even when you’re not. Strength comes from waking up every morning and getting yourself through the day even when you wish you didn’t have to. A person isn’t strong just because they’re happy, confident, and resilient. A person is strong because despite their unhappiness, lack of confidence, and vulnerability, they push through the day and they fight to get better. If you’re dealing with depression, simply the fact that you’re reading this article to try and gain insight and advice makes you a strong person. And of course, it’s okay not to be strong at moments. It’s okay not to feel like fighting every day because of course, it’s exhausting. Nonetheless, in the long run, you need to find a way to fight because if you do, you will succeed, guaranteed, even if you don’t believe it.
If the menopause is driving your depression, treat the menopause.
Again, depression is an illness, not a mood. Because of that, it’s best to seek medical advice above anything else. This is because how you handle your depression is going to be different based on your family history, your life experiences, and your other symptoms. For example, you may feel depressed, but it’s possible that it’s really anxiety that’s driving the depression – in this case, you’d need to treat the anxiety first, not the depression. An accurate medical diagnosis is important, even if it feels uncomfortable. Likewise, because depression is often caused by the menopause, anti-depressants are often not the best solution. Be wary of a doctor who too readily prescribes you anti-depressants. Again, you need to treat the cause, not the symptom. If the menopause is driving your depression, treat the menopause.
Taking any first step into seeking treatment is already an incredible accomplishment to feel proud of.
Finally, it’s easy to give fluffy advice like “Just keep hydrated and treat yourself to some ‘me’ time!” Of course, these things are important, but they aren’t a treatment for chronic depression – they are a treatment for having a bad day. Yes, if you’re having a bad day, put on your favourite song, make yourself your favourite meal, and have a long, hot shower or bath. In all likelihood, you’ll feel a bit better. But if you’re suffering from months and months of bad days, this kind of fluffy advice does more harm than good. Yes, depression is serious, but it IS 100% treatable. Again, how you treat it depends on the severity, the root cause, and many other factors. Taking any first step into seeking treatment is already an incredible accomplishment to feel proud of. Don’t worry about letting anyone down, simply the fact that you are trying and getting yourself through the day is brave, strong, and powerful. Take each step into treatment however you like, big or small, and you will get there eventually.
That’s a promise!