menopause and depression

Menopause And Depression – What To Do

Although menopause and depression symptoms often accompany each other, it’s worth considering if your symptoms are truly depression, or something directly triggered by dropping hormones.

Menopause And Depression

Back in the old days before antidepressant medication became commonplace depression was diagnosed and treated with pharmaceutical drugs if someone had been persistently low or sad for weeks, and maybe months.

Since then prescriptions of antidepressants have skyrocketed.

A menopausal women can be suffering with genuine depression, but because there’s so much going on it’s not always easy to unpick what exactly is going on.

Hormones need to be taken into account because changing levels influence mood by several ways.

Oestrogen and progesterone are declining fast because of the menopause. Testosterone is often on the wane too, due to age-related decline. Cells in the brain have receptors for all three of these hormones, so there’s going to be consequences when that stimulation reduces, and ultimately pretty much stops.


Progesterone’s nickname is the ‘calming hormone’. Low levels of progesterone can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms including low mood, irritability, anger, to name a few.

Progesterone levels tend to decline first, and other tell tales signs that this is happening are:

  • Your cycle might get shorter
  • Your periods may get heavier
  • You might have started suffering PMS for the first time, or it’s getting worse

As time goes on and progesterone levels get lower and lower your mood can increasingly suffer.

Because hormones can be so up and down, so can your mood. You can feel ok one minute and be crying the next. Being emotionally labile rather than consistently down points towards your hormones being responsible, rather than depression.


Oestrogen receptors are located throughout the brain, they are especially concentrated in the areas involved in memory.

Some women suffer brain fog and memory problems an worry about ‘losing it’, thinking they’re starting with dementia. This doesn’t do much for your mood on top of everything else!


Women don’t have nearly as much testosterone as men, but declining levels in middle-age can still play a role in how happy your feel.

Low levels of testosterone can cause loss of confidence and self-esteem, which often go hand in hand with depression.

The combination of all three hormones collapsing can have a serious impact on a woman’s mood.

Depression Is A Symptom

Depression is a symptom, it has a cause. Menopause and depression can be tricky to unpick.

Some women’s symptoms are genuinely caused by depression, and a few get great results from treatment aimed directly at that.

Other women don’t fare well at all with depression treatment, because it’s something else at the root of their symptoms. An obvious suspect at this time of life is low hormones. Some women pick up amazingly well with HRT.

Some women have both going on and benefit from both approaches combined.

Other things can be going on too of course. If you’re not doing too well physically, that has a knock on effect to the computer at the top. If your brain isn’t is peak physical shape it’s tough to enjoy the best mental health.

Low energy is common at this time – that can drag your mood down too.

There’s a bit of unpicking here, but you can get back to being happy again.

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Have a great week.

Dr Julie

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