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18.06.2018

The life-threatening side effect of menopause.

By the time she was in her 40s, Lynda Wisdo had struggled with her mental health before — panic attacks, specifically. But nothing could have prepared her for the psychological symptoms that crashed down on her in the fall of 2005, when she first hit early menopause. “I was shaking, I wasn’t sleeping, I was...
Time: 06:30     Date: 14.06.2018
US Living News: The life-threatening side effect of menopause. NY Post 24 - US News

But nothing could have prepared her for the psychological symptoms that crashed down on her in the fall of 2005, when she first hit early menopause.

“I was shaking, I wasn’t sleeping, I was having panic attacks at night,” Wisdo, then 46, tells The Post. More than once, she drove herself to the emergency room. “I thought I was dying.”

And not long after, she wanted to.

“It got to the point where I was suicidal. I couldn’t get any help, so I went to a psychiatric hospital,” says Wisdo, now a happy, 59-year-old resident of Pine Plains, NY.

Wisdo, it turns out, was one of a number of women who find menopause’s typical annoyances — hot flashes, disrupted sleep and irritability — accompanied by a more insidious symptom: depression.

“Many, many women have shared with me their symptoms of being in a depressed mood,” Karen Giblin, founder of the menopause education and support program Red Hot Mamas, tells The Post.

She’s found that “it’s quite common” for women to experience depressive symptoms, ranging from low moods to insomnia to lack of sex drive. In severe circumstances, she adds, “sometimes even suicidal thoughts can arise.”

This connection is especially alarming in light of a new report on women’s suicide rates. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that women’s suicide rates have been on a sharp rise since 2000 — up by 50 percent — and that women are most likely to kill themselves between the ages of 45 and 64.

While the report doesn’t point out a link between the so-called “change of life” and suicide, it’s worth noting that the average age of menopause in the US is right in that range: 51.3 years old.

‘I was shaking, I wasn’t sleeping, I was having panic attacks at night … I thought I was dying.’

The connection between menopause and mood disorders isn’t entirely understood, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, tells The Post. But to her, “it’s pretty obvious that there are significant issues with depression in the perimenopausal and postmenopausal time frame.”

She’s found that women with a prior history of the mood disorder are most at risk for experiencing depressive episodes during menopause.

But the lows can be avoided or treated with the right tools, Minkin says. She’s found that birth control pills, estrogen supplements, SSRIs and even sleep meds can help women survive the challenging transition through menopause.

Exercising and finding a good support system can also help, Giblin adds. She urges women to discuss any mood changes with their clinicians — and not to avoid the topic because you’re “too embarrassed,” as many women do.

Wisdo — who went on to write about her difficult but ultimately transformative experience in the memoir “Menopause in Crisis” — credits a mix of hormone therapy, psychotherapy and a two-year course of Zoloft for her recovery.

Now, as an author, yoga instructor and active member of the Red Hot Mamas community, she devotes herself to educating other women about the perils — but also potential benefits — of menopause.

“It can be a profound healing experience,” she tells The Post. “For me, it was a time when I finally had to address all of my baggage.”

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