Menopause and Your Mental Health - It's Not Just a Physical Transition

Menopause and the years leading up to it (a time called perimenopause) is a period of major changes for women. As menopause approaches, a woman’s estrogen production drastically slows down, ultimately leading to an end to her periods and an inability to become pregnant. But while those might be the most well-known (and maybe most obvious) changes associated with menopause, they’re hardly the only ones that occur during this time. Estrogen (and its “cousin,” progesterone) plays a key role in female fertility, controlling ovulation and supporting fetal and maternal health during pregnancy. It also influences many other functions and processes, and when levels of the hormone decline, women can experience a wide array of symptoms.

Traditionally, a lot of attention has been placed on physical symptoms associated with menopause, like hot flashes, night sweats, and irregular periods. But the emotional and psychological symptoms can be just as troublesome, and in some cases, they can last for years after most physical symptoms have subsided. While most people understand the link between menopause and “mood swings” or irritability, the psychological symptoms can actually be more severe, provoking significant anxiety and even triggering episodes of depression. If you’re approaching (or in) menopause, here’s how to tell if you should be seeking help for emotional and psychological symptoms.

How estrogen affects your emotions and moods

As noted, estrogen is most commonly associated with sexual and reproductive functions. But as the hormone courses through your blood, it affects other aspects of your health and wellness as well. Researchers are still learning how estrogen functions and interacts with other hormones to determine its specific role in mood fluctuations like depression and anxiety. What they do know is that its effects can vary from one woman to another, and they can also vary in severity. Here are three ways menopause can affect your mental health.

Sleep problems

If you’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep (and who hasn’t?), you know all too well how daytime drowsiness can lead to irritability and other emotional effects. During menopause, nighttime hot flashes and night sweats can interrupt your sleep — sometimes a lot. And lower estrogen levels can also interfere with the quality of your sleep, leaving you dragging the next day. If your symptoms are severe, chronic lack of sleep can lead to ongoing emotional health issues, and in some cases, it can even lead to depression.

Increased risks of depression and anxiety

Depression is more than feeling a bit down or blue. With depression, feelings of sadness and even hopelessness occur on a regular basis, interfering with your overall quality of life. Many people with depression lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, and they may have little energy to perform even simple activities. As a result, depression often leads to social isolation and a feeling of being disconnected from the people and world around you. Not surprisingly, these side effects can make depression symptoms worse, creating a cycle that's hard to break. If you think you have depression, it's critically important to talk to your doctor right away. There are many treatments today that can help relieve your symptoms so you can get your life back on track.

Problems with concentration

Difficulties concentrating are so common during menopause that they’ve earned their own nickname: brain fog. Often, these symptoms are accompanied by forgetfulness and difficulties with organization. While having problems concentrating might not seem all that serious, when it affects your work, it can wind up playing a role in anxiety and depression, as well.

Get relief for your menopause symptoms

Menopause may be a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean you need to live with its unpleasant side effects. Any type of emotional or psychological symptoms of menopause can lead to much bigger problems that can have far-reaching consequences for your health, your life, and even your loved ones. At ObGyn Care of Oklahoma, Dr. Shaurin Patel provides compassionate, personalized care for women suffering from both physical and psychological symptoms of menopause. Each treatment plan is based on the individual patient’s unique needs and focused on helping them lead healthier, happier lives. If you’re dealing with menopause symptoms, don’t put off your care. Book an appointment online today.

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