What are Hormones?
How are Hormones and Mental Health Interlinked?
Hormones and mental health can be very interlinked. Some mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, can actually stem from hormonal imbalances. Additionally, some hormonal treatments can cause psychological side effects and mental health issues.
What are Hormone Imbalances?
When someone has an endocrine disorder or hormone imbalance – hypothyroidism, a pituitary dysfunction, or Addison’s disease, for example – they might not only have physical symptoms, but may also have cognitive and mental health issues as well. For example, people with hypothyroidism tend to be depressed more, and those with adrenal disorders deal with agitation and anxiety. People may even have hormonal anxiety attacks, which happen when imbalanced hormones affect mood and lead to excess anxiety.
Hormonal imbalances are relatively common, but luckily, hormones and mental health can both be improved with treatment. Read on to learn more about how hormones can affect mental health.
Some Key HormonesTo better understand hormones and mental health, it’s important to learn about different types of mental health hormones, hormones that affect mood, and how they work in the brain and body.
CortisolCortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and is known as the body’s built-in alarm; it’s also known as the stress hormone. It regulates processes in the body, like the stress response, blood pressure, blood sugar, and can suppress inflammation as well. If the body has too much cortisol, it can lead to problems like weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and muscle weakness. Cortisol can also be involved in hormonal panic attacks.
ThyroidThe thyroid hormone is one of the hormones that affect mood due to its potential to cause depression. It is responsible for controlling the body’s metabolism, and too much or too little of the thyroid hormone can lead to weight gain (hypothyroidism) or weight loss (hyperthyroidism), mood changes, hormonal depression, too fast or too slow heart rate, irregular menstrual cycles, and more.2
InsulinInsulin is created by the pancreas and controls the amount of glucose in the bloodstream at any given moment. It helps the body process the fat, carbohydrates, and proteins that we eat. When the body doesn’t make any or enough insulin, this can indicate type 1 diabetes. If the body doesn’t use insulin properly, this can indicate type 2 diabetes. It can act as a mood hormone because insulin issues can cause mood changes, fatigue, and depression.
EstrogenThis is a reproductive hormone responsible for the development and maintenance of the female reproductive system. Too much estrogen puts one at risk for stroke, blood clots, and mood changes, while too little estrogen can lead to increased belly fat, low libido, and bone loss. Low estrogen can also be a sign of menopause.
ProgesteroneLike estrogen, progesterone is a reproductive hormone involved in pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. It could be considered one of the mental health hormones because of progesterone effects on mood. Too much progesterone can lead to anxiety, irritability, depression, fatigue and weight gain, while too little progesterone can also lead to mental health issues and mood changes.
TestosteroneThis male sex hormone is made in the testicles and plays a key role in male reproductive development. In puberty, it helps males develop characteristics like deep voices, facial hair, and strong muscles. Excess testosterone can lead to acne, anger, testosterone mood swings, and sleep apnea; too little testosterone can lead to reduced bone mass, low libido, and infertility.
Common Symptoms of Hormone ImbalanceAre you worried that you or a loved one may have a hormone imbalance causing mental illness? There are many signs and symptoms that could signal a hormonal imbalance, but symptoms vary depending on which hormones it is that’s affected. Keep in mind that there is no single hormone that causes depression, but instead an imbalance of hormones that can lead to it.
Conditions that Affect HormonesCommon conditions that affect hormones and mood in men and women can cause any of the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood
- Muscle aches, stiffness, or weakness
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fast or slow heartbeat
- Dry skin
- Temperature intolerance
Health Conditions Caused by Hormonal ImbalancesSome common health conditions caused by hormonal imbalances include:
- Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism can cause depression, while hyperthyroidism can lead to irritability and anxiety.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS can also affect mental health by causing depression, anger, and moodiness.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS can cause issues with hormones and emotions, leading to symptoms like depression and anxiety, as well as physical changes like excess facial hair and weight gain, which can cause distress and lead to mental illness.
- Early menopause. Early menopause can cause changes to hormones and emotions, causing fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
- Postpartum depression or anxiety. This condition causes anxiety and depression in mothers who recently gave birth.
- Cushing’s syndrome. Caused by too much cortisol, this syndrome leads to weight gain, stress, anxiety, and dark-colored stretch marks.
- Addison’s disease. This happens in people whose adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones and can result in depression and poor concentration.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of having major depressive disorder. The mental strain of the condition can also lead to mental health problems like anxiety and decreased quality of life.3
Healthy Habits to Regulate Hormones and Mental HealthIn addition to speaking to a doctor about your physical and mental health, consider cultivating healthy lifestyle habits to support your mental and hormonal health. Sometimes, people with hormonal imbalances deal with extreme fatigue. This causes them to be unable to work out, hang out with friends, or do many of the things they love. This, in turn, can lead to depression—which leads to more fatigue. This cycle is what makes depression such a difficult mental health condition to overcome.
If you or a loved one have hormonal depression or a hormone imbalance causing mental illness, it’s important to stop the cycle before it even begins. Try out daily stress-management methods to keep your moods and mental health stable, including:
- Exercising consistently, even if it’s as simple as a short walk a few times a week
- Starting to meditate
- Going to therapy to learn new coping methods
- Practicing good sleep habits to get the best sleep you can
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
Treatment Options for Hormone Imbalance and Mental Illness
Though hormonal imbalances are hard to deal with, the good news is that hormone imbalance and mental illness can be improved with treatment. Many people find success with medications like metformin (for PCOS or diabetes), levothyroxine (for hypothyroidism), and testosterone medication for low testosterone.
Lifestyle Changes that Can Improve Mental WellnessHormones and mood can also be improved with lifestyle changes such as:
- Weight loss (just a 10% reduction of body weight can significantly improve hormonal imbalances)
- Decreasing stress as much as possible, as anxiety related to hormones can be improved with stress reduction.
- Trying yoga—some people find that it helps with symptoms of irregular hormones and can also help with mental health
- Treating symptoms. For example, if your hormone imbalance causes excess body or facial hair, your doctor can prescribe creams to slow down or reduce hair growth.4
Find Out More About Hormones and Mental Health Treatment at AMFM Treatment
At AMFM Mental Health Treatment Center, you or your loved one’s will receive high-quality, compassionate care to help improve your mental health. With a dedicated team and a family-focused, multidisciplinary approach, AMFM Mental Health Treatment Center treats a wide range of mental illnesses, including those stemming from a hormonal imbalance.
Contact us today to start the process and get the help you and your loved ones deserve.