Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What is Menopause Depression and How Does it Come About?

Menopause has many commonly known symptoms such as hot flashes, and several lesser known ones such as menopause depression. Most women don't realize that this normal change in their bodies puts them at high risk for depressive feelings.

While some sadness about the changes in your body is completely normal during menopause, sometimes it goes beyond a simple mourning of your old life. Up to 15% of menopausal women are clinically depressed, and most won't seek treatment, thinking it isn't serious or that they are being ridiculous for feeling this way. However, menopause and depression is a serious issue that needs to be recognized.

The cause of menopause depression hasn't been pinned down yet, although theories abound. Some believe that the hormonal chaos created by the massive change in a body is the reason for the depression. Others claim the symptoms, hot flashes and and other physical changes, cause stress which leads to depression. Yet others claim it has nothing to do with the actual menopause, but more with the changes taking place in the woman's life. Children moving out, a natural decline in estrogens, losing parents to old age, and getting older herself can all be catalysts. Whatever the actual cause, menopause and depression is a definite problem.

Any woman with a history of depression is more likely to fall prey to the disease during her menopausal years. Also at high risk are women whose menopause is not natural, but caused by an emergency hysterectomy due to cancer or other complications, as are smokers and women who are normally under high stress.

The symptoms of menopause and depression can be similar and are often confused. Both cause fatigue, irritability and sleep disorders. Difficulty concentrating, feeling useless, and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities are further symptoms of menopause depression. There is no need to suffer in silence, thinking the depression is a normal part of menopause.

Once menopause depression has been recognized, treatment should immediately follow. Conventional medicine calls for antidepressants or estrogen therapy, or even a combination of the two. However, more and more women are treating menopause and depression naturally, using herbal mood boosters and vitamins and minerals to keep their bodies in line, as well as treat the accompanying depression.

Major news shows have even done spots on the natural treatment of menopause. Many supplements for this purpose have emerged in the past few years, but nearly all of the effective ones contain herbs such as valerian root (to treat hot flashes and cramps) and ginkgo biloba (promotes mental clarity) as well as green tea (prevents excessive weight gain). Each of these herbs also plays a part in reducing depression symptoms.

Psychotherapy may also be recommended for menopause depression if it is felt that the symptoms stem from a mental source. This is particularly useful in cases where menopause was unexpected or abrupt, as in an emergency removal of ovaries and uterus. Women who had hoped to bear children or who lost their reproductive organs to disease are particularly at risk for depression which can be treated effectively through psychotherapy.

There are many treatments and many possible causes for menopause depression. Women don't need to feel helpless or alone as they go through these major life changes, and in fact, should seek ways to relieve the symptoms, not just bear them.

Mike Stevens has been studying the mood disorders for years, and has written many articles on the subject. He is a regular contributor to Menopause and Depression section of http://www.beat-your-depression.com, a site discussing conventional and alternative ways to treat depression and related mood disorders.

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