How do hormones really impact mood?


Hormones impacting mood

Estrogen has been linked to mood disorders throughout the life of women; starting from her reproductive years and onwards. It is known that depression and anxiety are higher in the estrogen producing years as compared to their male counterparts during those same years. Estrogen follows a cyclical pattern in terms of how much is in our body at a given time. Right before ovulation, there is a surge in estrogen and right after the egg is released there is a drop. However, how does estrogen exactly exert its effects on our moods is not entirely clear. We know that estrogen has some receptors in the brain which help to increase serotonin and endorphins however the full extent of the neurologic impact of estrogen is still not known. Women often have mood fluctuations before their period often known as premenstrual syndrome aka PMS. However, we have found that the estrogen levels in women with PMS often have normal amounts of estrogen so it is hypothesized that some women are maybe more sensitive to cyclical changes. After pregnancy, there are significant hormone shifts and post partum blues and depression is a real phenomenon women face. There is a sudden drop in the estrogen levels postpartum however a true link has never been made. Interestingly, after menopause, the rates of depression between men and women equalize. But after menopause estrogen levels start to slowly fall. So while it seems like there is a link between estrogen and our mood the link right now isn’t clear. It also appears the effect on our mood is related more the rapid changes in the hormone and potential genetic factors.

Another important hormone which is often related to mood disorders is the thyroid hormone. This hormone is responsible for a whole host of functions but it is the most well known for regulating our metabolism. There are receptors of the thyroid hormone all over our body including our brain. It has been reported that uncontrolled hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) they can often present with anxiety, irritability and emotional lability. While people with hypothyroid (too little thyroid hormone) demonstrate features of low mood, cognitive dysfunction and apathy. Treatment of the underlying thyroid disorder should alleviate some of the mood effects. However one distinction that needs to be made is that hypothyroidism can cause symptoms similar to depression (low mood) but its link to actual clinically diagnosed depression has not been well established.


What are the main causes of hormone imbalances?

Hormone imbalances can be caused by a whole host of issues and are dependent upon the hormone you talk about. First thing is first, what is a hormone. A hormone is basically a chemical that the body produces which controls certain functions of your body. For example, the thyroid hormone regulates your metabolism. These hormones are usually functioning in a fine balance and when there is too much or too little of a hormone it can cause the body to become out of wack. Things that can cause hormonal imbalances are vast and depend on the type of hormonal imbalance. However the name a few causes are stress, medication side effects, malnutrition, autoimmune problems, and just abnormal function of a gland/organ


What are the classic symptoms of hormonal imbalances?

Symptoms depend on what is out of balance.

PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome): This is a common condition in women which is caused by a hormonal imbalance. Women do produce some male hormones but in this condition, they produce too many male hormones and this can result in irregular periods, difficulty conceiving, facial hair, acne, trouble losing weight, and thinning hair

Hypothyroidism: weight gain fatigue cold intolerance, constipation

Hyperthyroidism: palpitations, heat intolerance, weight loss, anxiety tremors


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