Depression is a common and growing mental health problem in the United States. While depression rates have grown for American adults in general, data show that women tend to suffer depression at higher rates than men. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), depression rates steadily increased between 2015 and 2019, well before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many public health problems, depression is a complicated illness with many risk factors and triggers. In addition to factors like stress, family history, environment, and socioeconomic factors, women over age 40 face additional issues with the onset of perimenopause and menopause.
At Midwest Regional Health Services, our team of urgent and primary care physicians and specialists offers comprehensive mental health and women’s health services at our office in Omaha, Nebraska.
What you need to know about depression in women over 40
Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause. While the average menopause age (defined as a year after the last menstrual period) is 51, perimenopause typically begins in the early to mid-40s and sometimes earlier.
One of the major changes women experience during perimenopause is fluctuations in hormone levels, which can put women in this age group at higher risk for depression and related mental health issues like anxiety.
Many women in this stage of their lives also struggle to get adequate sleep and experience physical changes and discomfort like hot flashes, weight gain, and loss of libido, which can understandably contribute to depression.
Many women over the age of 40 are also primary caregivers for children as well as aging parents, which can add even more pressure and strain.
Signs and symptoms of depression
Depression affects everyone differently, and the symptoms range from mild to severe. Previous bouts with depression and anxiety can increase the risk of suffering from depression in the future.
While episodes of sadness, loss, and anger are common, especially during dramatic life changes like menopause, depression symptoms tend to be more severe and persist longer than normal in the over 40 population.
Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:
- Prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, shame, and despair
- Oversized anger and irritability
- Loss of interest and enjoyment in hobbies and activities
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Dramatic changes in appetite and weight fluctuations
- Suicidal ideation
- Feelings of self-loathing
- Mental fogginess, memory loss, difficulty concentrating
Contact us to schedule an appointment if you experience new or recurring symptoms of depression. If your symptoms are related to perimenopause, there are treatment options available to help you manage your symptoms and maintain your quality of life as you go through the process.
Getting help for depression and anxiety
While depression may be common, especially in women, it shouldn’t be ignored. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, help is available by calling the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
Despite growing awareness of and outreach efforts for mental health issues, many people still experience stigma and shame about their struggles, which can interfere with access to diagnosis and treatment.
We offer compassionate care in a confidential and safe environment.
For more information about how to spot the warning signs and symptoms of depression, and to learn more about treatment options, contact Midwest Regional Health Services today to schedule an appointment with a primary or urgent care specialist.