What Is Perimenopausal Depression?

Although each woman is different, it has been observed that a significant number of women experience depression both before and during menopause.
What Is Perimenopausal Depression?

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 21 July, 2021

Last update: 21 July, 2021

We tend to think that mood disorders are more prevalent or stronger during or after menopause. However, perimenopausal depression (which occurs before menopause) is quite a common disorder. Now, what does the research say about it? We’ll tell you all about it in detail in this article.

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that it affects more than 300 million people in the world, which is extremely high. In the case of women, this problem seems to be even more common, due to several different factors.

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopausal depression does not happen in everyone
Menopause is characterized by many physical and psychological changes, which can be quite uncomfortable for some women.

Before entering the menopausal stage, women progressively experience various physical, emotional, and psychological changes. Among them, hot flashes, mood swings and irregularities in the menstrual cycle can be highlighted, which are mainly due to the fluctuation of estrogens. These sometimes rise and sometimes fall.

Perimenopause is defined as the time during which the body undergoes its natural transition to menopause. Each woman experiences it differently, and not all of them have the same discomfort.

Some women don’t even realise that they’ve gone through it. Others see physical changes, but don’t notice any particular changes in their mood, and still others experience really intense “lows”.

The persistence of these “lows” over time is what we can call perimenopausal depression.

Symptoms of perimenopausal depression

Throughout perimenopause, women may experience several symptoms, to varying degrees. They complain of sleep problems, loss of bone density, decreased cognitive functions (concentration, memory, etc.), vasomotor symptoms, and even depressive symptoms.

Perimenopausal depression may include the following symptoms:

  • Demotivation
  • Constant fatigue
  • General restlessness and a slowing down
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • You want to cry often or do it for no apparent reason.
  • Recurring hopeless thoughts and, in more severe cases, recurring ideas of death or suicide.

Prevalence of perimenopausal depression

Perimenopausal depression can be favored by other diseases
In addition to the actual psychological changes, physical health problems can favor the development of perimenopausal depression.

There’s consensus regarding the fact that, from adolescence, which is when the strongest hormonal changes begin in their bodies, women are more likely to develop depression than men. This is confirmed by the scientific literature in this regard.

As indicated in an article published in the Journal of the Spanish Neuropsychiatry Association:

“The depressed mood increases significantly during perimenopause. It seems to be a period of greater depressive vulnerability; 20% of premenopausal women report depressive symptoms, in perimenopause the prevalence rises to 30-40% and in postmenopause the prevalence drops back to 20% “.

This same source also states that some risk factors have often been associated with perimenopausal depression. Among them, a prolonged exposure to hormonal fluctuations, a history of PMS, and anxiety.

On the other hand, although in some investigations carried out in previous years a greater prevalence of depression was associated with the transition stage to menopause, the authors of a study published in the Medical Journal of the Mexican Institute of Social Security indicate that they found evidence to the contrary.

They took a sample of 371 women and applied the Hamilton depression scale. Thanks to this, they were able to observe that minor depression predominated in perimenopausal women (21.4%) and in postmenopausal women, major depression (59.3%).

Although the findings of this study were different from others, they’re not by themselves a norm. This means that when it comes to talking about the prevalence of depression in perimenopause, there’s other research that experts take into account.

It’s important to keep an eye on symptoms

In conclusion, while many women appear to be more vulnerable to experiencing perimenopausal depression, not all cases apply. For this reason, it’s important not to be guided by generalizations.

If you’re about to enter perimenopause or the doctor has already confirmed that you’re in it and you notice that these “lows” in your mood are affecting you more and more and more frequently, then don’t hesitate to go and see the specialist again. It’s important that you tell them how you’re feeling so that you can receive the most appropriate help.

Along with a healthy lifestyle and what the doctor recommends, psychological therapy is often a great support in this and other stages of life. Always keep this in mind because these days you have many possibilities at your disposal regarding online or physical appointments.

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