What causes mood changes in middle-aged women?

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Middle age is a time of tremendous change, both physically and emotionally, and this affects mood. 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 chalk it up to hormones, what's going on?

Life! You have a lot going on right now in your life. Much of it is good, but some of it may be painful or difficult (aging parents, financial problems and relationship challenges). Plus, even good things can become overwhelmingly stressful. While the occasional down day or mood swing isn't anything to worry about, if these feelings become entrenched and begin interfering with your quality of life and daily activities, you may need to be evaluated for clinical depression.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.