Women and Mid-Life Depression Triggers: It Can Happen on the Road to Recovery

By Michelle Howe

Caught unawares, women may be temporarily blindsided by unforeseen “mid-life triggers” leading to depression. In the course of his practice, orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Christopher A. Foetisch,Toledo,OH, has noticed that mid-life women sometimes enter his office already depleted by life’s stresses and then surgery tips them over the edge and while this may occur in only 5-10% of female patients, for these women the onset of depression is emotionally devastating and completely unexpected. Understandably, some of the most telling signs that a woman might not be able to handle the stress of surgery must be self-assessed (consider both positive and negative life changes, shifts in health, financial and relational upsets), thus it is imperative that women are self-aware of their current emotional posture when they enter a physician’s office. 

With only a brief five-ten minute interview, Dr. Foetisch says, it is important for patients to communicate any problems or concerns they may anticipate experiencing as “there is no good way to predict if someone is going to have problems post-operatively.” Physicians rely on patients in the same way patients rely on physicians for the exchange of pertinent information to obtain the most healthy and beneficial outcome.

Consider the woman who is currently struggling emotionally and then begins experiencing occurrences of headaches, loss of appetite, restlessness, mental sluggishness or sleep disturbances as a result of surgery, all the more reason to take regular personal inventory. The good news, says Dr. Foetisch, is that these episodes of depression tend to be short-lived, rarely lasting longer than four to six weeks.

 At some point, every woman must stand apart and carefully assess her life stresses and how each will impact her (by either contributing to or diminishing) her overall physical health and emotional welfare. Otherwise, the body will eventually find its own way of calling attention to the problem of a system overloaded by stress.

*Positive Life Stress

Job promotions, weddings, vacations, even the most coveted of life’s milestones can precipitate short-term depression in mid-life women. Surprisingly, many women don’t realize how much emotional toll these beneficial experiences can take.

*Negative Life Stress

Family emergencies, extended care-giving responsibilities, financial upsets, unresolved relational issues, childcare dilemmas, and workplace challenges; enlisting (and lending) anticipated help before the next major landslide of distressing events is especially crucial at this period of mid-life.

*Exercise, Stretch, and Sleep

As women age, regularity in habits and scheduling becomes primary. Discover the least resistant path to consistently exercise, eat healthily, and sleep effectively then make these practices a priority.

*Realistic Expectations

Striving for excellence is exemplary…expecting perfection is counter-productive. It is the wise woman who does what she can to make a positive difference and understands she cannot fix every thing, person, or situation…and makes peace with that fact.

*Healthy Relationships

Prudent women understand the surety of relationships characterized by give and take. They surround themselves with people who support them, those who stand by with unwavering loyalty, and are at the ready to offer assistance when required.

Michele HoweMichele Howe lives in LaSalle, MIand is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly, CBA Marketplace, and BookReporter.com. She has published over 900 articles and reviews and is the author of eight books for women. Contact her at: jhowe@toast.net

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