Depression risk doubles during menopause; mental health tips women should follow | Health - Hindustan Times
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Depression risk doubles during menopause; mental health and self-care tips women should follow

By, New Delhi
Oct 22, 2023 01:41 PM IST

The journey through menopause can bring about a multitude of changes in a woman's body, but what often goes underreported is its impact on mental health.

One of the lesser talked about aspects of women wellness is the arduous transition during menopause that comes with a range of physical and mental health challenges. The perimenopausal journey for a woman may spring many surprises in the form of hot flashes, insomnia, restlessness in the night to vaginal dryness, irregular periods, and mood changes. Menopause can also double depression risk in women and while this phase could be temporary, it can be highly distressing for the one going through it. However, with the support of medical experts, near and dear ones, and self-care measures, one can easily navigate this crucial phase. (Also read: How to manage weight and metabolism changes during menopause)

Studies have shown that the risk of depression doubles during menopause. This is particularly pertinent for women who have a history of depression or anxiety, as they may experience a resurgence of symptoms(Unsplash)
Studies have shown that the risk of depression doubles during menopause. This is particularly pertinent for women who have a history of depression or anxiety, as they may experience a resurgence of symptoms(Unsplash)

"Menopause has fittingly received much attention in recent years as more working women have started speaking up on how they deal with the difficulties this natural phase of life brings. Menopause-related symptoms can frequently cause women to struggle in the workplace, perhaps even needing to take extended breaks from their employment, impeding not only their wellbeing and sense of confidence, but their professional advancement and harming corporate balance. Menopause does not make a woman less competent. It is therefore not a choice, but a necessity, a duty for all organizations to acknowledge the need to support women during this stage by establishing an environment that values and respects their well-being, one in which they can thrive," says Jigna Patel, Chief Technical and Operations Officer, British Safety Council.

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How menopause can cause depression

"The journey through menopause can bring about a multitude of changes in a woman's body, but what often goes underreported is its impact on mental health. The years leading up to menopause and the transition itself can be a challenging time, not only physically but also emotionally. One significant concern is the increase in the incidence of depression during this period. Studies have shown that the risk of depression doubles during menopause. This is particularly pertinent for women who have a history of depression or anxiety, as they may experience a resurgence of symptoms," says Dr Gandhali Deorukhkar, Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central.

A 2019 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that the fluctuation of two hormones, progesterone and estradiol (the most potent form of oestrogen), during perimenopause was associated with an increase in depression symptoms. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that women are more prone to panic attacks during and after the menopausal transition, which can manifest with symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, and feelings of heat—similar to hot flashes.

"Moreover, the physical changes that come with menopause can exacerbate mood changes. Conditions like an overactive thyroid gland, which becomes more common with age, can trigger anxiety. Sleep disturbances, often caused by hormone shifts leading to nighttime hot flashes, can also contribute to anxiety and depression," says Dr Gandhali.

"The impact of menopause on mental health has long been a subject of discussion and research. While it's essential to recognize that not all women experience the same symptoms during this phase of life, there are indeed several ways in which menopause can affect mental well-being. One common challenge faced by menopausal women is the onset of sleep disturbances. Difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, and nocturnal vasomotor symptoms such as hot flushes can disrupt sleep patterns. These disturbances can lead to fatigue, irritability, and a general decline in the quality of life. While it's true that these sleep issues can be attributed to menopausal changes, they aren't solely responsible for mental health changes," says Dr Spenta Sumondy, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai.

"Depression is another concern during menopause, but it's essential to understand that it's influenced by various factors. While fluctuations in reproductive hormone levels can contribute to mood symptoms, other factors like body weight, smoking, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during reproductive years also play a significant role," says Dr Sumondy.

How women should take care of mental health during menopause

"So, what can women do to safeguard their mental health during menopause? Firstly, it's essential to recognize that mood changes can accompany other menopausal symptoms. Monitoring mood patterns along with sleep and stress levels is crucial. Seeking professional help is advisable if symptoms become severe and interfere with daily life," says Dr Deorukhkar.

"Lifestyle adjustments can also be immensely helpful. Engaging in regular exercise, prioritizing adequate sleep, and practicing stress management techniques can help alleviate potential symptoms. Importantly, reaching out to friends, family, or support groups can provide invaluable emotional support during this challenging time," adds Dr Deorukhkar.

"Running comprehensive women’s wellness programmes so that women can learn about what is happening to them and strategies to cope with physical, mental and emotional symptoms during this time can be immensely effective. Making provision to access counselling services, support groups and workshops on managing symptoms, reducing stress and overall well-being. Integrating these programs not only supports women during menopause but also promotes a healthier workforce and improves employee productivity and job satisfaction. It is crucial to foster an inclusive and compassionate community. Women can express their worries and seek the assistance they require by being given discussions for discourse, open yet discreet channels of contact, and nonjudgmental environments. Managers and coworkers should receive training on recognizing and respectfully addressing the difficulties women face now," says Jigna Patel.

"Indian workplaces must understand how crucial it is to support women during the menopause transition. By embracing menopause-friendly practices, businesses demonstrate their commitment to gender equality, diversity, and employee well-being. Organizations can retain valuable, qualified, and competent people, increase diversity, and improve the general well-being of their workforce by fostering a more supportive atmosphere," adds Patel.

"It's worth noting that oestrogen therapy can provide relief for some women experiencing mood and vasomotor symptoms. Additionally, cognitive-behavioural therapy has shown promise in reducing insomnia related to vasomotor symptoms, ultimately improving sleep quality and mental well-being. While menopause can indeed impact mental health, it's crucial to recognize that the relationship between menopause and mental health is complex. Many of the reported symptoms are influenced by various factors, including hormonal changes, lifestyle choices, and pre-existing conditions. Understanding these nuances can help women navigate this life stage with a focus on both physical and mental well-being," says Dr Sumondy.

"It's essential to remember that the mood changes experienced during the menopausal transition are usually temporary. While they can be challenging, knowing that they won't last forever can offer comfort and hope. Menopause is a significant life transition, and with the right strategies and support, women can navigate it while maintaining their mental well-being," concludes Dr Deorukhkar.

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