The onset of menopause (also called perimenopause) can be a difficult time in a woman’s life. Although the process is usually completely natural (for some women, it happens surgically), it can cause various physical and mental effects such as weight gain, hot flashes, sleep problems, and significant changes in mood. Many women struggle to manage menopause-related mood swings. In fact, it’s estimated that 20 percent of women in menopause experience depression.
Fortunately, the changes in mood associated with menopause are temporary and usually fade after menopause occurs. Nonetheless, it’s common for women to seek treatment for their menopause-induced depression. Here are some ways to manage mood swings during this challenging time.
Exercise has been called a “natural antidepressant,” and for good reason. Working out releases endorphins and increases your serotonin levels, two types of chemicals in the body responsible for pain relief, well-being, and happiness. So the next time your menopause symptoms have got you feeling down, try going for a run or lifting some weights.
When you’re depressed, it can be tempting to order a pizza or eat a pint of ice cream. But while enjoying a good meal can lift your mood temporarily, you’ll probably feel even worse afterwards.
Yes, diet and depression go hand in hand. Researchers found that following the Mediterranean diet (a diet consisting of generous amounts of vegetables, olive oil, and whole grains) is associated with a “significantly lower risk” of developing depression, while a typical Western diet is more likely to cause depressive symptoms.
You don’t have to change your entire daily menu right away. Start by adding lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while reducing your sugar and processed food consumption. In the long run, you’ll feel much better, and your body will thank you.
In a study published in BMJ, researchers discovered that acupuncture treatments in women who were experiencing menopausal symptoms reduced hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, and mood swings. The researchers noted that they didn’t completely understand the mechanism of why acupuncture would help relieve these symptoms, and they couldn’t completely rule out a placebo effect, but it’s hard to argue with the results. All women in the acupuncture group recorded moderate improvements in all symptoms when compared to the control group. The bonus? No adverse effects were reported, and 80% of the women in the acupuncture group reported improved symptoms.
If lifestyle changes or alternative/complementary medicine just don’t cut it, you may need to consider medication. Only a doctor will be able to advise you on which medication can alleviate your menopausal depression, but some common treatment options include:
- Antidepressants. Antidepressant drugs can effectively manage mood swings, but they come with side effects.
- Hormone therapy. Hormonal medications containing estrogen are sometimes used for menopausal depression. However, like antidepressants, they can cause (often serious) side effects.
- Herbal supplements. One plant used to manage depression is called St. John’s wort, which has shown to be helpful in treating the condition. The herb can reduce symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. Take caution before mixing it with any other prescription drugs, though, as it may cause an adverse reaction.
Your doctor knows best
If you’ve decided you need help with your menopausal mood swings, you should consult with your doctor. He or she will advise you on how to safely proceed with any treatment option you choose and offer recommendations on the subject. Remember that the hormonal changes caused by menopause will be minimized with time, so whichever treatment you opt for will be temporary. But it can’t hurt to continue exercising, eating well, and taking good care of yourself before, during, and after menopause.
- What is the prevalence of depression in menopause?
- Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms
- Diet and depression
- Treatment options for depression during the menopausal transition
- Can Menopause Cause Depression?
- Efficacy of a standardised acupuncture approach for women with bothersome menopausal symptoms: a pragmatic randomised study in primary care (the ACOM study)
- Hormone therapy for depression: Are the risks worth the benefits?
- St. John’s wort