10 Ways Hormones Can Affect Your Mental Health
When you think about mental health, you immediately think of the brain and how it's functioning. But for women, hormones play a huge role. Hormones control many functions of the body and can impact everything from emotions and moods, fatigue and irritability, reproduction and appetite and depression and anxiety. So it's not always psychological, but also biological. Read on for 10 ways in which hormones can affect your mental health.
MenstruationEvery month (if she's regular), a woman's body endures a lot, from cramps and bloating to tender breasts and mood swings that would leave a 200-pound macho man feeling like he just got knocked the eff out. All this can lead to cravings (food, booze, whatever the vice) which, once taken in, will likely leave a woman feeling worse. Enter the irritability, the headaches, the anxiety.
Fertility and menstruation are largely controlled by hormones – and one of these hormones is progesterone. Since progesterone (and estrogen) are at their lowest during menstruation and since progesterone has a calming effect on the brain, that's why things can get a little anxious, according to a study published in Clinical Psychology Review. Once the levels regulate, they stimulate the brain's GABA receptors, those feel-good, calming neurotransmitters.
You might also like these celebrities' self-care and mental wellness tips.
PMSBefore your period shows up, there's the premenstrual changes many women still have to deal with. Because, ugh. In that same study, "a variety of psychological and physical symptoms have been correlated with different phases of the menstrual cycle." So aside from the aforementioned symptoms, "commonly reported premenstrual changes include acne, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, fluid retention, increased sex drive, headaches, insomnia, joint or muscle aches and pains, sweet or salty food cravings, affect lability, anxiety, bursts of energy, feeling of loss of control, irritability, poor concentration, sadness, and tension."
Here are ways a breakup can impact your body.
Reproductive hormonesHormones are likely to contribute to antenatal or postnatal depression, which affect many new mothers. Other factors obviously play a big part — you know, like the complete 180 your life takes with a new baby in the picture — but studies have found a hormonal element to the condition. After childbirth, the drop in reproductive hormones progesterone and estradiol influence depressive symptoms like anxiety, panic attacks and ruminative thoughts.
PerimenopauseJust like the sketchy time leading up to your period, there's also the duration that comes before menopause. Aside from anxiety, perimenopause also brings about vaginal dryness and disrupted sleep, the last of which creates tired women, leaving them cranky and moody, which only increases the risk for depression.
According to a study published in Menopause, "women with high anxiety premenopausally may be chronically anxious and not at increased risk of high anxiety at specific stages of the menopausal transition. In contrast, women with low anxiety premenopausally may be more susceptible to high anxiety during and after the menopausal transition than before." So blame it on estrogen, as estrogen levels drop in the years leading up to menopause. Speaking of which...
MenopauseYou're ready for your period to stop, you're just done. But then there's another beast you have to conquer: menopause. And many women's emotional wellbeing will be tested like never before. Research shows women are twice as likely than men to suffer from depressive symptoms and disorders, reaffirming a link between female hormones and mental health.
"I started taking estrogen because I was under the impression that I was going crazy, which turns out to be not as unusual a reaction to midlife hormonal upheaval as I thought," wrote Cynthia Gorney in a piece for New York Times Magazine, in which she explored the mental and emotional challenges that can be come from the hormonal chaos of midlife. "My problem was a new tendency to wake up some mornings with a great dark weight shoving my shoulders toward the floor and causing me to weep inside my car and basically haul myself around as if it were the world's biggest effort to stand up straight and carry on a conversation."
Stop saying: "psycho""She's psycho."
This is a tough one to hear, and honestly, we can’t say it any better than the Canadian Mental Health Association:
“Misperceptions about the relationship between mental health, mental illnesses and violence contribute significantly to these experiences. Studies have shown that people living with mental health conditions are no more likely to engage in violent behaviour than the general population. However, public perceptions, often influenced by the media, are contributing to attitudes that have a significant impact on the lives of people with mental illnesses.”
Try this instead: "She's being melodramatic."RELATED: should I see a therapist? A beginners guide to getting help.
CortisolCortisol is the hormone produced by our adrenal glands and is vital for many things including energy, immune function and mood. Research found that elevated cortisol, however, can result in anxiety, depression and PTSD. Women who are pregnant or under chronic long-term stress or hormone dysfunction can develop elevated cortisol levels including memory loss, premature aging of the brain, inflammation and changes in the size and structure of the brain.
ThyroidSo, a little biology lesson: your mitochondria are the bosses of the cell and one of its main responsibilities is creating energy. Now the mitochondria's bouncer, if you will, is our thyroid hormone. So when the thyroid hormone is deficient or poorly functioning (a.k.a. hypothyroidism) or becomes overactive (a.k.a. hyperthyroidism), the symptoms are both physical and psychological.
So, nutshell? A lot of what is considered mental illness is thyroid-driven, according to studies, from depression, moodiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss and, in some cases, anxiety.
You might also want to check out some ways to deal with loneliness.
TestosteroneAlthough testosterone is considered a male sex hormone, women do produce small amounts of it in their ovaries and adrenal glands. And together, with estrogen, testosterone plays a role in the growth and maintenance of female reproductive tissue and bone mass. But these hormones also influence behaviour and studies show women suffer more often from depression than males and high testosterone levels are related to depression and well-being in women.
SerotoninIt's not all bad, though. Serotonin, the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, happiness and feelings of wellbeing, impacts your entire body. It helps with sleeping, eating and digestion and allows brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Now, if the brain has too much serotonin, it may lead to depression or excessive nerve cell activity. Overall though, research has found it ultimately helps reduce depression and regulate anxiety.
These are the ways your pets are making you a healthier person.