Your Mental Health at Midlife

middle-aged womanDo find yourself snapping at the people you love over small things that didn't used to bother you? Breaking into tears for no reason? Feeling fabulous and in love with life one day and as if you're stuck in the bleakest tunnel the next? No, you're not going crazy. You're going through middle age.

This is a time of tremendous change, both physically and emotionally. You may be sending your children off to college, starting a new career or realizing that the one you've had for years has reached a dead end. This is the time of life when many women end long-term relationships, begin new ones or simply decide they want some time alone. It's also a time when you may be starting to deal with your parents' health issues or your own, coping with changes in your body, a sense of loss at the end of your fertility and the physical effects of the menopausal transition.

So it's no wonder your mood has more highs and lows than the stock market.

Don't let anyone chalk it all up to fluctuating hormones, however. Although levels of estrogen and progesterone do become more varied during this time of life, dropping significantly after menopause, they aren't directly related to mood or depression in middle-aged women. We know this because when researchers compared blood levels of reproductive hormones in women with perimenopausal depression to those of women who weren't depressed, they found no differences.

So if you can't blame it on hormones, what's going on?