The hormonal changes that lead to menopause can certainly wreak havoc on your physical health, but the link to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety is also a clear and present concern.
The transition through perimenopause and menopause can be tumultuous for many women. As if the hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness weren’t enough, the changing hormone levels can also lead to mental health issues, namely depression and anxiety.
At our Beaverton, Oregon, practice, Dr. Amy Bruner and our team help women through every stage of their reproductive lives, with overall health and quality of life as our top concerns. While not every woman who makes this transition struggles with physical and mental health issues, a large majority do, and we’re here to help.
To help you better understand the link between menopause and your mental health, here’s a look at what we know.
Hormones and your health
The role that your hormones play in your physical and mental health remains somewhat of a mystery. What we know is that perimenopause and menopause are precipitated by a sudden drop in your estrogen and progesterone levels thanks to your ovaries shutting down, in effect putting an end to your reproductive years.
But beyond your inability to have children, the effects that these reproductive hormones have on your overall health and wellness can be widespread and vary considerably from one woman to the next.
Some women are able to weather these hormonal changes with relative ease and quickly settle into post-menopausal life. Other women, though, struggle with years of serious quality-of-life issues that include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
And it’s these last two issues that we want to address here.
The hormonal influence on your mental health
While the direct link between menopause and depression has yet to be made, researchers point to the fact that the risk for depression rises exponentially — two to four times — during the transition. There’s some speculation that the sudden changes in hormone levels can disrupt the neurotransmitters in your brain, which leads to moodiness, irritability, and in the worst cases, depression.
The link to anxiety is a trickier one, but nonetheless real. The physical changes that your body can undergo is certainly cause for some stress. If you’re experiencing weight gain, incontinence, and/or a decline in sexual health, there’s every reason for you to experience anxiety. So while the link between menopause and anxiety may not be direct, the impact that these changes can have can certainly be anxiety-inducing.
Replacing your hormones for better mental health
A recent study has found that hormone replacement therapy may help in offsetting depressive symptoms in women who are perimenopausal and early menopausal. In the study, 172 women were either given 12 months of transdermal estradiol and intermittent micronized progesterone or a placebo. After a year, 32.3% of women receiving the placebo developed clinically significant depressive symptoms, while only 17.3% of the women who were taking hormones experienced notable depression.
While there’s still more research that needs to be conducted, these findings are promising and only serve to confirm the validity of the hormone replacement programs we provide at our practice. In addition to our hormone replacement therapies, we also offer the innvovative MonaLisa Touch® to improve your vaginal health, which may greatly help with any anxiety you have about your sex life or incontinence. If you suspect that perimenopause and menopause are leading to mental health issues, we’re here to help. Give us a call at (971) 347-3192 or schedule a consultation using our online booking tool.