It’s true that hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, can and do wreak havoc on women’s mental health. Unfortunately, most of us were never taught the facts of how hormones affect our moods and emotions, facts that can help us take charge of our own mental and emotional health.
Women’s Mental Health and Hormones:
3 Facts You Need to Know About
The following 3 facts are a good start to understanding the impact hormones can have on women’s mental health:
- Hormones directly impact the brain. It’s no wonder many women feel “off” during their premenstrual week. Estrogen is a precursor to the neurotransmitters of the brain, like Serotonin, that help us feel “normal” and “well.” When estrogen shifts during the menstrual cycle, the brain’s neurotransmitters also shift, leaving many women feeling depressed, anxious, frustrated, and/or just not like themselves.
- Research shows it’s the shifts in hormones that cause the most trouble. While hormone levels certainly impact mood and mental health, it’s the shifts in hormones that are particularly tough on mental functioning. A woman is therefore most vulnerable during times of hormonal change, such as the onset of menstruation (in the teen years), pregnancy, postpartum, and perimenopause.
- Some women are more sensitive to shifts in hormones than others. It’s unfortunate but true. Women who are sensitive to hormonal shifts are therefore more likely to experience PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a more severe form of PMS), Pregnancy or Postpartum Depression, and mood symptoms in the Perimenopausal period.
Dealing With Female Hormones and Mental Health Issues
3 Things You Can Do
- If you’re not sure if you’re sensitive to hormonal changes, look for signs: Keep an eye on your mood throughout your menstrual cycle and in pregnancy, postpartum, or perimenopause. Are your moods affected by hormone-based oral contraceptives? If you have significant mental or emotional symptoms in any of these situations, you are probably among the many women who are sensitive to hormones.
- Determine if your symptoms are hormonally-based: Keep track of your symptoms for 2 months or longer, writing them down each day. If the symptoms cluster around ovulation (day 14) and the premenstrual week (2-7 days before your period), your symptoms are likely the result of hormone shifts. If they’re more spread out throughout the month, you may be experiencing a mental health issue like depression.
- Talk to your medical or mental health provider: S/he can help you understand how your hormones impact your mental health and help you with treatment options. Just make sure your provider is knowledgeable about women’s mental health and hormones, and don’t give up until you find the answers that are right for you!
In this video, I expand on the above issues surrounding hormones and women’s mental health.
This article was written by Dr. Christina Hibbert, a Clinical Psychologist and expert on women’s mental health. She is the author of the forthcoming book, “This Is How We Grow.” A mom of 6, Dr. Hibbert has plenty of experience trying to understand her own mental health and enjoys helping other women do the same through her blog, “The Psychologist, The Mom, and Me”.
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