Because hormones influence mood, perimenopause, or the transition period prior to menopause, can be an emotional time for women, according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.
"Perimenopause is a time of big changes in life and the body, and this can trigger mood changes," said Dr. Britta Ostermeyer, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at BCM and chief of psychiatry at the Harris County Hospital District's Ben Taub General Hospital.
Early 50s average age for menopause
Many times, perimenopause occurs at the same time as other life changes, such as children moving away for college, leaving behind an "empty nest." The thought of going through menopause can also create anxiety in women because they may feel this indicates they are no longer young.
"The average age for menopause in the United States is about 51 or 52. However, the life expectancy for women in the United States is about 80, so you have to remind yourself that you're not actually old," said Ostermeyer.
It's important for family members and friends to encourage someone with menopausal mood changes to stay involved, whether it's through work, social activities or exercise. Scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician or OB/GYN physician can also be helpful.
The most common type of mood disorder that can occur during perimenopause or menopause is depression, said Ostermeyer. The symptoms of depression can include:
- A depressed mood that occurs most of the day, nearly every day
- A decrease in interest or pleasure from daily activities
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Feeling restless or fatigued
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Thoughts of suicide
Seek help when needed
Ostermeyer recommends seeking help from a health care provider as soon as possible if these symptoms of depression occur.
A doctor can prescribe an antidepressant if necessary or recommend seeing a therapist to work through changes that are occurring in order to help adjust. Therapists also employ cognitive behavioral therapy to treat clinical depression and anxiety. In case of problems at home or at work, therapists can be instrumental in helping with problem solving and skills training.
"Although menopause can result in a sense of loss, it is important to embrace this next chapter of your life because there is a lot to look forward to," said Ostermeyer.