Women are often confused about why there doctor might suggest going on anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication for menopause. There are some reasons for this. This blog post briefly discussed this issue in simple terms.
Many women can’t HRT, because they have a contra-indicator for it (e.g. Breast Cancer) or they simply don’t want it for a variety of reasons. Menopause and symptoms are complex. Menopause symptoms are influenced by a variety of factors (e.g. weight, smoking, PMS history, age, age you started your period, life events, trauma, stress, negative/positive beliefs, social and cultural beliefs) and of course the biological process with FSH, Estrogen and Progesterone levels.
It should be noted that HRT does not necessarily eliminate the main menopause symptoms of Hot Flush/flash and night sweats. Some women with strong symptoms, may have about a 30-40% relief. Further, breast cancer patients must not have any hormones, including HRT and they often have quite strong vasomotor symptoms (ie. hot flush/flash and night sweats).
My thesis that I am researching is that many menopause symptoms are either created or exasperated by stress and beliefs (in mind-body-spirit). I came to this hypothesis for many reasons, but the first big clue was HRT doesn’t solve 100% of vasomotor symptoms – so menopause can’t just be about the reduction of progesterone/estrogen. Then I started reading breast cancer research (as one of my best friends had it) and was prescribed what is called a SNRI (i.e. Effexor – venlafaxine).
What these ‘anti-depressant/anti-anxiety’ pills do is keep serotonin (happy chemicals) in your system and stop norepinephrine being identified (released in stress). The upshot is, that research shows low doses Effexor is almost as good as HRT (53% reduction v 48% reduction in frequency/severity).
SSRI’s, in particular, Lexapro also has been shown to have good efficacy in reducing symptoms.
These pills also have the benefit of helping women who have panic attacks, anxiety and depression which are also prevalent at this time of life.
So that is why doctors will prescribe these pills.
Of course, all medication has side effects and there are some side effects of SSRI/SNRI but they are taken in low does for vasomotor issues. If you also have depression/anxiety then obviously these also assist with those symptoms (albeit higher dose).
Hope this explains it. Please let me know if it makes sense.