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: :   Survival Tips When to Call a Professional Menopause, Hot Flashes, & Depression

Menopause, Hot Flashes, & Depression

HFN 028 Depression 1 2043476There are distinctions between anxiety, sadness, and depression, and it's important to know when to seek professional help. Many women experience menopause with some of the more difficult symptoms, making each day a challenge.

If you're experiencing mood changes and find yourself "crying over nothing," it could be your estrogen levels fluctuating, but if your crying is uncontrollable and often, it could be part of something that has more serious implications, such as depression.

Real depression, called major or clinical depression in the medical community, can and needs to be treated, but first you need a diagnosis.

How Do You Know If You're Depressed?
What does depression feel like? It feels like nothing in life matters, you have no motivation to do anything, you have little self-esteem, you may have trouble falling or staying asleep at night or you're sleeping too much, you either don't have an appetite or you're eating more than ever. These are some of the most common signs of depression. These and a few other symptoms make up the criteria for the diagnosis; you have to have five of them for a period of two weeks for a positive diagnosis.

Depression is generally not something you can count on going away by itself. Some depressive episodes are "situational," caused by an event such as divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a job. Other bouts of depression are precipitated by chemical changes in your brain. Suffering through this, no matter what the cause, can be enormously challenging, interfering with your ability to work, play, and often, love.

For some women the arrival of menopause causes great sadness about the end of fertility (even if they're not planning on having a child), or about the notion of aging and all that it means in our culture. A chorus of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, incontinence, lack of mental clarity, and night sweats, can push a normally competent, well-adjusted woman into clinical depression.

Don't Delay
If you think you're experiencing clinical depression, don't delay in seeing your primary care physician. The worse your depression gets, the greater the chance you might suffer related health issues. Your doctor will assess whether or not you need an antidepressant (or an anti-anxiety medication, or both) and might recommend you also seek psychological help. This is nothing to be embarrassed about—the most important thing is your health and return to enthusiastic participation in life.

No medication is free of side effects, and antidepressants have their share. It also usually takes a few weeks of treatment to notice a change, so the longer you wait to start treatment, the farther off your recovery will be. Ask your doctor what to expect and be patient. Sometimes just starting the medication offers some psychological relief because you know that help is on the way.

The prevailing prescription for depression is a combination of an antidepressant plus psychotherapy. Doctors will agree that you can also help yourself greatly by adding exercise to your day, every day, and/or a meditation or yoga practice. The important thing is to acknowledge what's happening to you and reach out for help. ♀

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