Depression or Menopause? Presentation and Management of Major Depressive Disorder in Perimenopausal and Postmenopausal Women

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Objective: The purpose of this review was to examine the risk of depression onset in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, discuss the importance and rationale for screening for major depressive disorder (MDD) in women in the menopausal transition, and review therapeutic options for management of MDD in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Data Sources: PubMed was searched (1970 to 2008) using combinations of the following terms: major depressive disorder, perimenopause, postmenopause, mood disorder, risk factors, reproductive period, family practice, differential diagnosis, hormone, estrogen replacement therapy, reuptake inhibitors, and neurotransmitter.

Study Selection: All relevant articles identified via the search terms reporting original data and published in English were considered for inclusion. Twenty-two cross-sectional and longitudinal studies were utilized to evaluate the relationship between the menopausal transition and risk of mood disorders and to formulate recommendations for screening and management of MDD in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Data Extraction: Research studies utilized the following measures: postal questionnaires, Women’s Health Questionnaire, Beck Depression Inventory, Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale, Modified Menopause Symptom Inventory, 12-item symptom questionnaire, or Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV.

Data Synthesis: Menopause is a normal, and for most women largely uneventful, part of life. For some women, however, the menopausal transition is a period of biologic vulnerability with noticeable physiologic, psychological, and somatic symptoms. The perimenopausal period is associated with a higher vulnerability for depression, with risk rising from early to late perimenopause and decreasing during postmenopause. Women with a history of depression are up to 5 times more likely to have a MDD diagnosis during this time period.

Conclusions: Routine screening of this at-risk population followed by careful assessment for depressive symptoms can help identify the presence of MDD in the menopausal transition. Recognition of menopausal symptoms, with or without depression, is important given their potential impact on quality of life.

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(1):e1-e13

Submitted: November 17, 2008; accepted March 31, 2009.

Published online: February 18, 2010 (doi:10.4088/PCC.08r00747blu).

Corresponding author: Anita H. Clayton, MD, Department of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia, 2955 Ivy Rd, Northridge Suite 210, Charlottesville, VA 22903 (ahc8v@virginia.edu).

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(1):e1-e13

https://doi.org/10.4088/PCC.08r00747blu