It seems increasingly clear that there is an increased rate of depressive illness affecting women at the time of their menopause. Debate and research continues in an attempt to decide how much of this increased susceptibility to depression is related to life style and relationship changes taking place at this time, and how much is due to the hormonal changes that take place. However, regardless of the various factors contributing to the depression that does occur at this time in many women, what matters most is the awareness of diagnosing depressive illness, and intervening at an early stage, to minimise the suffering involved.
The symptoms of depressive illness at this time are the same as depressive illness at any other time in a woman’s life. However, normal hormonal changes of menopause, such as sleep disturbance, may complicate the diagnosis. Also, the hot flushes which affect many women at this time are similar in some ways to the hot and cold feelings people experience when very anxious as part of being depressed. However, apart from these symptoms, a careful listing of the symptoms you experience will usually fairly easily clarify the issue.
You may also find it useful to complete the questionnaire on depressive illness, and bring this with you to your doctor if you believe you suffer from depressive illness.
The Dexamethasone Suppression test for depression, described in detail in this service may also be a useful piece of evidence in deciding whether or not you do have depressive illness. However, if you are already taking oestrogen replacement therapy, you cannot depend on the results of the DST, as the high oestrogen levels in your body will give abnormal results in many cases.
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY is a double-edged sword in the treatment of the menopause. In some women, the use of hormone therapy is a great benefit in treating the multiple symptoms of the menopause, both physical and psychological. In some women also, low dose hormone therapy can very effectively be combined with antidepressant medication to relieve depressive illness at this point in time.
However, hormones can precipitate very severe depression in some women, and this typically happens within one to two weeks of starting the hormones. Women with a previous history of depression especially have to be very careful at this point in time, if they are going to experiment with hormone replacement therapy.
In a small number of women, daily normal doses of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), such as 100 mg per day, can offset the depression they get due to oestrogen.
Given the role changes and health changes that occur in women around the years of their menopause, it is important at this time to retain and cultivate as positive a mental attitude as possible, and to remain as physically and socially active as ever.
Important Disclaimer: This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.