Understanding the causes of menopause can be difficult because several different factors - including physical, psychological, and emotional factors - can affect a person's susceptibility to depression. However, for women approaching menopause, the most common trigger is hormone fluctuations.
There are other causes of depression in addition to hormonal causes, which will be discussed below. Continue reading to learn more.
Hormonal Causes of Depression
As women approach menopause, their hormone levels begin to fluctuate and eventually taper off. This decrease in hormones, especially estrogen production, has a myriad of effects on a woman's body and mind, and is often the underlying cause of depression experienced during menopause.
Although more than just estrogen levels are limited just prior to menopause, estrogen is at the root of depression for women in perimenopause.
There are multiple reasons why decreased estrogen levels can lead to depression, but each reason has to do either with how estrogen affects the brain or how low levels of estrogen prompt other symptoms that can lead to depression.
Continue reading to learn more about how estrogen causes depression during menopause.
Estrogen and serotonin
Estrogen has a significant effect on serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that causes feelings of happiness and helps maintain a stable mood. Estrogen helps to stimulate the production and transmission of serotonin, and prevents it from being broken down. When not enough estrogen is present during menopause, serotonin levels will drop, which can contribute to depression.
Estrogen and other menopause symptoms
A drop in estrogen during menopause causes many other symptoms besides depression, such as hot flashes, anxiety, and insomnia. These symptoms can also lead to depression because of the physical and emotional stress they can generate.
Other Causes of Depression
Along with the hormonal cause of depression, which is the most prominent cause during menopause, other factors can either lead to or exacerbate depression. They can be separated into five categories: biochemical, genetic, personality, environmental factors, and disease.
Norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine are three neurotransmitters that regulate mood. Neurotransmitters are essentially chemical messengers that signal cells. Scientists believe that if there is a chemical imbalance in these neurotransmitters, then clinical states of depression may result.
A vulnerability to depression can be genetically passed down from parent to child. Those with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it themselves than those who have no such history.
Some personality types are more prone to depression than others. For example, those who have a natural inclination toward a pessimistic worldview are more likely to get depressed.
Trying life events - such as work stress, children leaving home, parents falling ill, financial hardship, or divorce - can trigger depression.
Depression can also be related to having a disease because of the stress and emotional turmoil associated with chronic conditions, such as cancer or diabetes.
Understanding the causes of depression is extremely important to gain a clear picture of what's happening at the core of the issue, which will enable comprehension on how to treat it. Click on the following link to learn about the treatments for depression.
- Amin, Z. , Canli, T. & Epperson, C.N. (2005). Effects of Estrogen-Serotonin Interactions on Mood and Cognition. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 4(1), 43-58. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15886402
- Graziottin, A. & Serafini, A. (2009). Depression and the menopause: why antidepressants are not enough? Menopause International, 15(2), 76-81. doi: 10.1258/mi.2009.009021.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Depression. Retrieved May 9, 2016, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
- Office on Women's Health. (2010). Menopause and mental health. Retrieved May 9, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-mental-health/