Understanding the chemistry between mental health and hormones in women
How do hormones impact your mental health? Do my hormones have to play any role in my anxiety? What is the connection between hormones and my mood? Why do I feel different around my periods?
All these questions have crossed our minds at least once in our adult lifetime! Well, let’s find answers to them together!
What are hormones and why are they important?
Scientifically speaking, hormones are basically ‘chemical messengers’ which are made by the endocrine glands. They are released into the bloodstream via various glands and then interact with various organs and glands in the body and instruct the target part to do (or not do) an action. All your hormones need to be in balance for the proper functioning of your body.
However, hormonal disbalance is common between men and women, it is women who are far more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations. The reason? Because they experience more hormonal events like menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause in their lifespan. The hormones in women go on a roller coaster every month during their menstrual life.
What are female hormones and how do they impact mental health in women?
All three sex hormones, namely estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone play an active role in women’s mental health and emotions. Apart from these reproductive hormones, the stress hormone cortisol also plays an important role in women’s mental health.
Apart from these, imbalances of the thyroid can also cause mental health issues in women.
Both an overactive thyroid or underactive thyroid can cause anxiety.
Estrogen and brain: what’s the connection?
Estrogen is not solely a major role player in regulating moods. It even acts with parts of the brain that control emotion.
It can result in:
-modify the production and the effects of endorphins (the feel-good chemical in the brain)
Hormones and menstrual cycle: what is PMS?
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a very common condition linked to the changing hormones in women during their menstrual cycle. It consists of both physical and mental symptoms. Physical symptoms include bloating, tenderness of breasts, headaches and so on. Mental symptoms include food cravings, irritability and frequent mood swings.
Drops in the levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause irritability and anxiety while cortisol, the stress hormone can induce depression and anxiety as well.
During the menstrual cycle, hormones in women undergo a drastic change. There are times when the estrogen levels are high in the body and women tend to be in a better mood. This generally happened around ovulation.
Progesterone levels start to climb up in the second part of the cycle and thus, some women experience low mood, depression and other issues.
Any not-so-natural fluctuations in the hormonal balance in women can result in both mental and physical problems.
Cause of hormonal imbalance in women
A lot of lifestyle factors like lack of proper sleep, poor eating habits, not doing any exercise or chronic stress can result in hormone imbalance in women.
Apart from these, thyroid imbalances may occur during periods of hormonal fluctuations like menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum and menopause.
During pregnancy, the rise in the levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can disturb the thyroid.
During menopause, your ovaries still produce the hormones, but the levels maybe 50% of the baseline. This results in hormone imbalances again.
Tips for good mental health
There is no straight to the point way to achieve good mental health. It is actually a process that depends on various parts of our lives.
Whereas on one hand, you need to feed your body the right nutrients, it is equally important to unwind occasionally and maintain a healthy sleeping pattern. Striking the right balance amongst all spheres of life holds the key towards mental, physical and emotional well-being!