Overcoming depression caused by POI


For most women, facing premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) can be a challenging and lonely experience. POI be accompanied by feelings of loss of identity and a crisis of femininity, it may also bring with it a host of unpleasant symptoms and overwhelming emotions. A diagnosis of POI and the possibility of not being able to conceive naturally may provoke feelings of worthlessness and helplessness. This can ultimately lead to depression.

Leading psychiatrist Dorothy Rowe, who has been writing about and treating depression for many years, writes in ‘The Depression Handbook’, that ‘uncertainty and negative expectations’ are common responses in POI. She adds that, when it happens unexpectedly early, it can be particularly distressing and provoke concerns about physical health as well as possible social and emotional consequences. She has a number of ideas for how you might deal with these negative feelings and suggests that keeping a diary can be enormously helpful as just the simple act of writing things down can make you feel more in control of your emotions. She emphasises how vital it is to rest regularly and not let your life be ruled by tiredness and to pay attention to your physical health. Above all, she advises sufferers from depression to learn to value themselves and to give themselves permission to feel good about themselves.

The Benefits of Exercise and Good Nutrition

Exercise can help to alleviate feelings of depression. In The Premature Menopause Book, Kathryn Petras says: ‘Exercise is nature’s own mood-lifter, and it works! Exercise raises the level of endorphins in your brain, which are natural mood elevators. In addition exercising is a way of reclaiming power over your body, which can also lift your spirits.’ So, whether you choose an exercise class, walking, swimming, or even running, it’s worth giving regular exercise a try.

And what you eat can make a difference. Scientists have now found that foods can trigger all kinds of important changes in our brain chemistry. In Natural Solutions to Menopause, Marilyn Glenville states: ‘What we eat and drink can determine whether we feel happy or depressed. These powerful brain chemicals can also affect our appetite and our ability to control it. Many of us eat more when we are feeling sad, lonely and depressed….Becoming aware of what controls your appetite and eating patterns is crucial when it comes to losing weight and establishing a healthy diet.’ In her book Dr Glenville gives advice on how to alleviate anxiety and irritability, depression and fatigue by improving your diet, taking supplements and using herbal remedies.

Seeking Help

Depression is, however, an illness and in many cases positive thinking and a realigned mental attitude may not be enough, or may not be possible. If you regularly feel that everything is getting too much for you and coping is becoming difficult, the time has probably come to take action and seek help.

You may wish to find someone you can talk to who will listen and support you. You may need more help than a friend or partner can give and you may wish to find a counsellor. Your GP’s surgery may recommend one or the associations listed in the useful addresses at the end of the fact sheet will point you in the right direction. You may have no idea what seeing a counsellor entails. A counsellor is someone who (if they are doing their job properly) will listen and not criticise or comment on your behaviour but simply give you the time and the space to talk within a ‘safe’  environment. It’s generally sensible to find out what kind of therapy a particular counsellor practises before you sign up with them and to meet with or talk to them on the phone beforehand to discover whether they have those personal qualities which inspire your trust.

You may wish to try complementary therapies. St John’s Wort has been shown in a number of clinical trials to significantly improve moderate to mild depression. However, you should contact your GP before taking it as it can interact with other drugs such as HRT. Or you may wish to book an appointment with your GP to discuss medical treatment. With so many anti-depressants now on the market, you should be able to find one that suits you. Make sure you find out about any potential side-effects before you start taking them, though, and report any unusual or severe symptoms to your doctor. Your GP will hopefully also recommend that you arrange at least a few sessions with a counsellor.