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Are you feeling depressed? It could be your hormones

Each year 1.3 million women reach menopause in the United States. Although most women transition to menopause without experiencing psychiatric problems, it is estimated that 20% have depression at some point during menopause.

Studies have generally shown an increased risk of depression throughout perimenopause, however, there is a decrease in risk of depression during postmenopausal years.

So, is there a connection between your hormones and depression. Studies have indicated that changes in estrogen levels, may be related to depressive symptoms in the menopausal transition of some women.

Estrogen has a close relationship with the brain and can affect the chemical messengers of the nervous system. Serotonin and norepinephrine are thought to be the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) of the brain that are related to the physiologic cause of depression.

Although the precise mechanisms are yet unknown, as estrogen levels decline, regulation of serotonin and norepinephrine may change which may contribute to depression.

As most women can attest, depression is significantly linked to times of hormonal changes in females. Observations and data suggest that depression in women begins at puberty. Hormonal changes are thought to contribute to pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD, PMS), as well as mood changes after giving birth and in perimenopause.

Scientists have discovered that women with a history of mood disorders or of premenstrual and postpartum mood-related symptoms are more likely to experience depression during menopause when hormones start declining.

In addition to hormonal changes, women with particular types of stressors seem to be at increased risk for perimenopausal depression. Such stressors or factors include the following:

  • Lack of social support

  • Unemployment

  • Surgical menopause

  • Poor overall health status

  • Onset of illness in self or others

  • Care of aging parents

  • Changes in employment

  • Negative mood before menopause

  • Negative attitude toward menopause and aging

  • Smoking

  • Little or no exercise

  • No partner

  • Experiencing (menopausal) symptoms

  • Poor self-perceived health

  • Negative feelings toward partner

  • Interpersonal stress

  • Empty-nest syndrome

  • Societal value of youth – In societies where age is valued, fewer symptoms at the menopause transition are reported

It is never easy to experience depression or to see your loved one be depressed. In my practice, I oftentimes observe a positive improvement in the mood after a woman’s or man’s hormones are balanced. Sometimes the depression is so severe that the patient’s loved ones seek help for the patient. It is important to note that depression is a very complicated physiological and psychological disorder and hormones may be an important piece of this puzzle.

If you or your loved one suffer from mood disorders, a simple blood test to check your hormone levels and a hormone consultation may be an important step in seeking help and getting closer to recovery. For more information call me at 480-345-1473

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