Prevention (Australia) - - Everyday Health -

Oe­stro­gen ap­pears to have a pro­tec­tive ef­fect against a low mood. A grow­ing body of re­search sug­gests that when it drops in the lead-up to menopause and beyond, that plum­met may also lower lev­els of sero­tonin – known as the hap­pi­ness hor­mone – and dopamine, also called the plea­sure hor­mone.

“This may partly ex­plain why women who have never suf­fered from de­pres­sion be­fore are two to four times more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence de­pres­sion at per­i­menopause,” Thew says.“This hor­mon­ally linked de­pres­sion may be mild and cause gen­eral feel­ings of sad­ness or it may be crush­ing, leav­ing women feel­ing hope­less or de­spair­ing.”

As hor­mone lev­els in a woman’s brain can start to shift (even be­fore ob­vi­ous signs such as hot flushes or er­ratic pe­ri­ods com­mence) some GPs may not make the con­nec­tion be­tween menopausal changes and feel­ings of de­pres­sion.

“In our clinic we see many women who have tried ev­ery­thing from an­tide­pres­sants and cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy to mind­ful­ness and med­i­ta­tion and their de­pres­sion is just not lift­ing, be­cause the hor­monal changes driv­ing the de­pres­sion are not be­ing ad­dressed,” Thew ex­plains.

“As a gen­eral rule, higher lev­els of oe­stro­gen cause an in­crease in mood so when they rise then fall dur­ing midlife, women may ex­pe­ri­ence mood swings. Pro­ges­terone lev­els start to also lower, so a sud­den spike may then cause ir­ri­ta­tion and grumpi­ness in some women.”

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