Depression is obviously a very personal issue, but there are certain trends that come to light among different genders, races and age ranges. One segment recently singled out was women who are experiencing “midlife.” These particular age ranges, which covers the menopausal years of 45-60, has shown an increase in mental health struggles.
Professors at The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine helped identify this trend and even went so far as to release guidelines for treating this particular age set.
“Pre-menopause is a window of vulnerability for the development of both depressive symptoms and major depressive episodes,” Pauline Maki, lead researcher at the University, explained. “The recent suicide of Kate Spade at 55 years of age shows the seriousness of mental health issues in midlife women, a group that has shown a 45% increase in suicide rates over the past 15 years.”
The prime era for these depressive symptoms to begin (according to the data) is roughly three to four years before menopause. It is during this time that periods become irregular and symptoms like hot flashes begin to occur. Coming to terms with this major life change can be a major mental challenge for a woman, even if they’ve had no history of depression.
Other external factors can come into play as well, creating additional hardships for midlife women. This can include the death of a parent, caring for an aging loved one and empty nest syndrome, among others. Considering the hormonal imbalances that may be happening simultaneously, this can be a recipe for some very dark emotions.
Maki added that these feelings are completely normal and, in fact, are very common.
“When you add in hormonal changes that can affect the brain’s ability to cope with these stressors, it’s no surprise that depression is a common occurrence in midlife women,” she explained. “If your mood is low, if you’re feeling irritable, I want women to understand there is a consensus that this is normal before and during menopause.”
Advice provided by the researchers included attending counseling sessions and considering antidepressants. They also shared the successes of hormone therapy, which is used to treat the physical symptoms of menopause. Removing stressors like hot flashes and lack of sleep can make a tremendous difference for a women’s emotional state.
At Inneractions, we regularly hold therapy sessions for women experiencing depression and know firsthand how difficult the challenges of midlife can be. If you or someone you are close to is having a difficult, please do not hesitate to reach out.