Menopause and Mood Changes

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The onset of menopause marks a challenging time in a woman's life. Among the many changes that make it so challenging are the chemical changes in the brain.

Some of the more common symptoms of menopause are:

    • Infrequently occurring periods that ultimately stop
    • Racing or pounding heart
    • Hot flashes
    • Night sweats
    • Skin flushing
    • Problems sleeping

But those symptoms do not include the mood changes associated with menopause, such as anxiety, problems concentrating, and irritability.

During menopause, a woman's hormone levels, including estrogen, begin to drop. This has an effect on the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to mood swings. Some women may even experience symptoms of depression, but menopause doesn't actually cause depression. It might exacerbate a pre-existing condition, especially if it lasts a long time.

Treating Menopause

Hormone replacement therapy is an effective though controversial method of getting a woman through her menopausal years. It seems almost every other month a new study emerges citing that hormone replacement therapy is safe or not safe as regards breast cancer. For the latest information, one should visit the hormone therapy page at the US National Institutes of Health.

Hormone replacement therapy isn't the only therapy available to women approaching menopause or who are menopausal. Others include antidepressants, such as Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin and Effexor.

Menopause and Mental Disorders

Despite changes in the brain and the associated mood swings, menopause is not a mental disorder or a mental illness. It doesn't cause mental disorders like clinical depression, and rates of mental illness are not higher among menopausal women than the general public.

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