It’s no secret that hormones can have a huge impact on your physical health, but the connection between hormones and mental health is sometimes overlooked. Did you know that imbalanced hormones can worsen mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression? Well, they can. So, to celebrate World Mental Health Day on October 10th, here’s how those pesky hormones can affect your mental health. And we don’t just mean PMS…
So, what are our hormones actually responsible for?
As regular Hormonas will know, hormones are basically responsible for almost every process in your body. As chemical messengers, produced by your Endocrine system, they’ve got access to everything, from sexual health to how tall you are.
Hormones can influence:
- Hair growth
- Bone and muscle growth
- Mental health
Now, as anyone who has ever experienced the pleasures of periods will know, hormones play a huge part in their Menstrual cycle. In fact, Estrogen, and Progesterone are two of the driving forces behind your reproductive mechanics, and they both rise and fall twice over the course of the month.
During your Luteal phase, for instance, Progesterone is high, while your Estrogen is relatively low. And that’s partly why you experience PMS, including mood swings, extreme bouts of sobbing, and maniacal laughter in the same sentence. And don’t forget the bloating and acne.
Hormone balance is a delicate flower
As Menstrual cycles show on a fairly regular basis, out-of-whack hormone can be an absolute bish. Too much or too little of any one of them can have a huge impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Some imbalances, linke PMS, are temporary and often recede after a spell. Others, though, can be life-long, and managing them usually involves some medical treatment. But here’s the thing: signs of imbalanced hormones aren’t always immediately obvious, and that goes double for the mental health issues that can cause.
What symptoms can hormone imbalance cause?
Well, as hormones are involved in every process in your body, literally anything can go awry:
- Irregular periods
- Hair loss
- Sleep issues
- Cravings/dietary changes
Hormones and mental health
Hormones already have a huge influence on our moods. As we mentioned earlier, PMS is just one example of hormones behaving badly. They do though, tend to balance out over the course of your cycle.
That said, if you’re already living with a mental health issue, the effects of imbalanced hormones can be more severe.
How different hormone imbalances can affect your mental health:
Now, Estrogen isn’t just responsible for growing eggs during your Menstrual cycle. It’s also deeply linked with happy hormones, including Serotonin and Dopamine. And it helps regulate the prodcution of Endorphins, which help block pain and make you smile.
All of which means easily explains why PMS can be such a pain. By the time you’ve Ovulated, a few days before your period start, your Estrogen levels have plummeted. And that’s partly why you’re more likely to be irritable and emotional during those days.
But it gets better. Low levels of Estrogen can also lead to low Serotonin levels. And this in turn can cause or increase feelings of depression and fatigue.
On the other hand, as your Estrogen levels start to rise, on the way to the next round of Ovulation, you’ll feel amazing. Yup, peak Estrogen is actually associated with increased confidence, higher self-esteem, and general boss-ness. But too much is never a good thing, and an overabundance of Estrogen can actually lead to depression, anxiety, and brain fog.
Too much Progesterone can have a huge impact on your brain. Why? It’s closely associated with your brain’s Amygdala, a gland that’s involved with your fight-or-flight response. And that means you’re more likely to be anxious, depressed, or sleep-deprived.
This might be a new one on you, and it was us too. But, Dehydroepiandrosterone, to give it its full name, is the most highly concentrated naturally occurring hormone in your body. It’s produced in your adrenal glands and helps produced Estrogen and Testosterone. Low levels of DHEA are associated with depression.
In addition to being the stress hormone, Cortisol is also involved in our fight-or-flight response. But sometimes our bodies can sense constant threats when there actually aren’t any, leaving you in constant fear. This results in Cortisol overproduction, which can have huge impact on your mental health.
How? well, too much Cortisol is also associated with high levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Consistently high levels of cortisol can also disrupt your Serotonin levels, and that in turn can affect your moods.
What hormone-related issues affect mental health?
It’s a shocking fact, but if you’re living with Endometriosis, you’re more likely to experience anxiety, depression, anger management issues, and even psychosis. Indeed, a 2017 literature review suggested that people living with its effects report high incidences of psychiatric conditions.
Why does having uterine lining growing elsewhere cause mental health issues? Endometriosis brings with it chronic pain, and there’s a good chance that living in constant pain plays a big part in a patient’s emotional wellbeing.
Here’s another shocking statistic: If you’re living with PCOS you’re THREE times more likely to have anxiety and depression than those without Polycystic Ovaries. And those issues are probably going to be more severe.
Living with PCOS can cause mental health issues in two ways. Firstly, high Testosterone, a characteristic of PCOS is often associated with anxiety, depression, and mood instability. But, as anyone living with it will tell you, that lack of control, the constant hormone changes, and the physical symptoms all take their toll. Suddenly, that stat isn’t quite so shocking, right?
Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Now, this particular hormone-fuelled nightmare is the slight exception on the list. And that’s because it’s actually considered a mental health issue in and of itself. Yes, it’s related to the Menstrual cycle, and hormones play their part, but it’s more brain-related than that.
You could describe PMDD as severe PMS, but that really doesn’t come close to explaining what all actually happens to people living with it. As well as the typical monthly mood swings and whatnot, PMDD can also cause suicidal thoughts, and many have reported completely wrecking their lives in the week before their period.
And that’s why it’s been classified a mental health condition and appears in the medical profession’s official guide to mental health. You won’t be surprised to learn that no one really knows what causes it, but there’s a chance that a sensitivity to your own hormones may play a part. Fun, no?
Now, for those yet to come anywhere Menopause, here’s a quick primer. Starting around age 45, if you’re a person who has periods… Well, you won’t for much longer. Because it’s around that age you enter Perimenopause, the first stage of Menopause. And that basically means your ovaries are starting to wind down, leading to all sorts of mental health issues.
How can your ovaries affect your mental health? Well, it’s a very similar process to PMS, but sort of in reverse. As your Estrogen levels slowly drop over the course of around ten years, before stopping altogether, it has a knock-on effect on Serotonin and Dopamine, as well as Vitamin D absorption. And all of them can affect your mood.
But there’s also the depression and anxiety that come with higher relative Progesterone, irregular periods, and weird PMS, along with constant hot flushes and brain fog. Once your periods have stopped altogether, sometime in your 50s, you should see some relief from those mental health issues. And if not, let us know. Seriously. No one talks about that, so we’re going to.
What about the indirect effects of hormones on mental health?
So, we’ve looked at how fritzy hormones can have a direct effect on mental health issues. But hormones can also have a more indirect influence on the quality of your mental health.
Hormonal changes, even typical ones, can have a huge impact on the way you look. Fluctuations in body weight, hair growth, increased acne, and perspiration levels are all linked to hormones, and those changes are often seemingly out of your control.
But there’s more to it than that. While physical changes can affect our emotional well-being, hormone imbalances can also negatively affect the way you feel about yourself, including your body image and self-esteem.
Spotting mental health issues
Mental health issues of all kinds are way too prevalent these days. But the simple truth is that a hormone imbalance increases your risk of anxiety, depression, psychosis, insomnia, and fatigue.
So how can you tell if you or someone you’re close to might be living with a possible mental health issue? Here are some symptoms to look out for, particularly if they’ve come out of the blue:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems with weight or appetite
- Negative thoughts
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Short-term memory loss
Hormones and mental health: What now?
Now, you know what’s coming next, gang. If you recognize any, and we mean ANY, of the symptoms we’ve talked about today, please tell someone. You already know how much we value talk therapy here at Hormona, and there’s a reason for that. But we also mean medical conversations as well.
Lots of the stuff we’ve covered is infinitely manageable with medication, good nutrition, and exercise. But it’s for nothing if you’re not talking about it as well. There’s no condition, issue, or imbalance on the planet that a good talk and cry can’t help a little. Because even a little better is still better. So whether it’s your counselor, your doctor, your Bestie or your dog, talk to someone. You can do this!
World Mental Health Day is an international day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against social stigma. This year, it is celebrated on Monday 10th October, and the theme is “Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority.”
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