When I was hit by perimenopause I was 42 years old and the first thing that happened was that I got severe insomnia. I couldn’t fall asleep at all. I went to a medical center that diagnosed me with a burnout syndrome and wanted to put me on antidepressants. But I could feel that there was something else going on in my body so I started my research which made me realize that I was in perimenopause and resulted in the book Perimenopower — available in eight languages.
Perimenopause Affects Our Bodies and Brains
My research led me to the belief that the symptoms we have are not only something going on in our bodies, but something that happens in our brains. It is still controversial to say that the female brain is different from the male brain. We struggle for gender equality and it might be seen as a step back to acknowledge that, in fact, we are different and should be treated differently. It may be time to see that from a medical point of view there seem to be some differences.
When we enter perimenopause our hormones go bananas and it’s time to acknowledge that these fluctuations make a mess with our brains and bodies. The hormone fluctuations happen not only in perimenopause but in other important phases in a woman’s life.
What we can see from medical research is that, for example, depression seems to be related to hormonal disturbances throughout our whole lives. Let’s start with puberty when the hormones attack us for the first time. The amount of boys and girls getting depression is equal until they become 11-13 years old. Beyond that age mental illness seems to increase for girls. Why is that? Further on, pregnancy and childbirth increases the risk for depression. And even though suicide is more common in men, the risk for committing suicide for women increases after 45, which means while in perimenopause.
Fluctuating Hormones and Mood Disturbances
Hormones fluctuate during three important phases in a woman’s life: puberty, pregnancy/childbirth, and perimenopause. During these times we are vulnerable. Not only can symptoms occur in our bodies but also in the brain. A swinging estrogen level can lead to mood disturbances throughout these phases and in a few cases even mental illness.
It is a connection that is not commonly spoken about. There needs to be more studies done, more researchers willing to look into it because it is a fact. It is time to get out of the closet and admit that the female brain is different from the male brain. If we did, it would be a step forward and not back. Maybe girls and women could get the right help from the beginning. Wouldn’t that be a huge step forward? In perimenopause, there are so many women around the world that are put on antidepressants. This is something that has to change. The right way to go is with lifestyle changes and eventually HRT. If you have clinical depression you may want to consider antidepressants, but if you have mood disturbances caused by a hormonal imbalance maybe you should not. For myself, I said no to antidepressants and found my own way. I found my perimenopower — and I assure you that you can find yours. It’s just a bit hidden right now, but it’s there. I promise.
Katarina Wilk is a Swedish writer covering medicine and health. She is the author of the book Perimenopower: Your Essential Guide to the Change Before the Change. (Orion Spring) Follow Katarina on Instagram @katarinawilk and at katarinawilk.com