What you need to know about depression during menopause – as Carol Vorderman opens up

The TV personality talked about her experiences on a podcast (Yui Mok/PA)
The TV personality talked about her experiences on a podcast (Yui Mok/PA)

Carol Vorderman has opened up about the “really black” thoughts she experienced during menopause.

The former Countdown host, 62, admitted she had struggled with “severe depression” – despite there being “nothing wrong” in her life.

“When I went through it, I had severe depression for about six months. I think it was 2015. There was nothing wrong in my life, I had made a lot of money, my kids were fine, my mum was fine,” Vorderman said, speaking on the Postcards From Midlife podcast, hosted by Lorraine Candy and Trish Halpin, this week.

“Yet I would wake up in this huge bed in this huge house, I’ve got a swimming pool outside and all of that, and I just thought, ‘What’s the point?'”

She added that she understands “much more now clinical depression, where you go, ‘I can’t go through this again, how can I make this stop’, and those thoughts of, ‘Well, there is obviously one way to make this stop’.”

Vorderman had previously opened up about her menopause experiences during an appearance on ITV’s This Morning last year – where she revealed she had started found “bespoke HRT” helpful for managing her symptoms.

By speaking out, the broadcaster and author has shone a light on the ways menopause can impact mental health. So, why does this happen, and what do people need to know?

“Women may become depressed in menopause due to the change in hormonal balance. Low mood, depressive symptoms and anxiety are often the first symptoms of perimenopause,” said intimate health expert Dr Shirin Lakhani of Elite Aesthetics, who is set to be a speaker at Pause Live! 2023, a menopause event taking place in London in November.

“The symptoms of perimenopause and menopause in themselves can trigger mental health problems and cause women to become depressed,” Lakhani added.

This can manifest in a wide range of ways. It could be linked with the impact menopause symptoms have on somebody’s work life and relationship for example, or due to physiological changes people are dealing with.

“The lack of awareness regarding menopausal symptomatology may result in needless anxiety for patients and a feeling of helplessness. Early symptoms also include difficulty concentrating, often known as brain fog. Many women also experience relationship difficulties due to the perimenopause and menopause, whole family dynamics can change, as partners and family members do not know how to support women,” said Lakhani.

“A lot of women I speak to have no idea what is going on and feel they are going completely crazy. Even if it’s just having someone to listen to and acknowledge something is going on [can be] very helpful, and once they are on hormones (HRT), they often feel like they have got themselves back again.”

Keep an eye out for symptoms

It’s important to note that not everybody’s experience is the same, and some people do not experience severe symptoms during menopause. However, Lakhani added that “the link between menopause and poor mental health must be reviewed”, and some people may experience “thoughts of suicide”.

Lakhani continued: “If you already have a pre-existing mental health condition, it is also possible that the symptoms of menopause will cause a relapse or change to your mental health too, so people need to be aware of this.”

Can you protect yourself from menopausal depression?

While there are common symptoms that apply to menopause, exactly how it will impact each individual can be unpredictable too. Knowledge and awareness of what’s going on is a helpful starting point.

Generally speaking, Lakhani said there are measures people can take to help manage menopause. But the most important thing if you are struggling with your mental health for any reason is to seek support.

“Certain lifestyle factors can affect how you feel during the menopause. Don’t smoke and try to limit alcohol, get plenty of rest by keeping to regular sleep routines, even if you struggle to sleep. Eat a healthy diet and try to eat foods with a lot of calcium, such as kale or broccoli to keep bones healthy,” suggested Lakhani. “If you are struggling with your mental health during menopause, I would recommend going to your GP or considering counselling.”