In a frank interview on ITV’s ‘Lorraine’, Vorderman described how her life had been normal until the menopause began.
“Then this depression hit me - and I don’t use the word depression lightly. This was a blackness where I would wake up - nothing else in my life was going wrong, I’m a very lucky woman, no money worries or nothing like that - and I would wake up and think ‘I don’t see the point in carrying on. I just don’t see the point in life,” she said.
“And there was no reason to feel that way and the only reason I didn’t do anything, and I’ve not admitted it before, is because I had two children.”
Vorderman is not the first woman to experience this and it’s widely believed that menopause can increase a woman’s risk of experiencing depression.
How can the menopause affect your mental health?
According to Nick Panay, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the menopause can lead to changes in a woman’s mood, anxiety and energy levels.
“This is due to the body adjusting to the decline in levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Lack of sleep due to night sweats may also lead to mood swings,” he told HuffPost UK.
“At this time in a woman’s life there may also be other factors coinciding with the menopause that may affect her mood. These could include children growing up and leaving home, divorce, looking after ageing parents or other relatives, or facing the loss of parents.”
While many women will experience mood changes such as irritability during menopause, others may experience more severe symptoms of depression.
What are the signs?
Panay said it is important that mood changes that occur as a result of menopause are not confused with depression.
“Depression is a much more serious condition in which very low mood is constant for longer periods of time, around two weeks or more,” he said.
“Those with depression may also experience little interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling low or hopeless, changes in sleep and appetite, and problems concentrating.
“The risk of depression can increase during the menopause. Women should seek help if they, or those around them, feel they are suffering more than mood swings.”
What treatment is available?
Vorderman said she realised she was feeling worse during two weeks of the month and thought it may be linked to her hormonal cycle.
She then sought medication that helped her. “From the moment I took it I have never ever felt that way [depressed],” she said.
“I’ve been fed up, and obviously at the moment my mum is not well so I’m upset. But there is a reason for all of those things whereas before there was no reason for it and it was absolutely, categorically to do with hormones.”
According to the NHS, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to replace the body’s decline in oestrogen can relieve many of the associated symptoms of menopause.
It also says cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help women cope with changes in mood, while some may benefit from antidepressants if they’ve been diagnosed with depression.
Panay advises that women may find self-help care useful in tackling mood swings.
“Women may begin by trying some self-help options such as getting a regular good night’s sleep, eating a well-balanced, healthy diet, reducing alcohol intake, and taking part in regular exercise and relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and breathing exercises,” he said.
“If negative feelings don’t go away, are too much for women to cope with, or are stopping women from carrying on with their normal life, they should talk to their GP or call NHS 111.
“Their GP can make a diagnosis and discuss treatment options such as hormone replacement therapy or antidepressants.”
‘Lorraine’ is on ITV, weekdays, 8.30am - 9.25am.