The relationship between hormonal imbalances and depression in women

January 2013

The relationship between hormonal imbalances and depression in women

In the past women expected to enter the menopause, while having symptoms such as hot flashes and irritability, somewhere around their fifties. It was assumed that this was the time when hormonal imbalances would occur, and could influence a woman’s emotional wellbeing. Today it is understood that hormonal imbalances associated with aging can begin when women are still in their thirties. The result can be depression, anxiety and insomnia, amongst a handful of other symptoms.

Early signs of hormonal imbalances, sometimes referred to as the stage when a woman experiences per menopause; include irregular periods that may be accompanied by heavy bleeding, weight gain, dry eyes, difficulty sleeping and ultimately depression.

The cause of the problem is an imbalance of the hormones progesterone, testosterone and estrogen. The perimenopause is a transitional stage between fertility and full-blown menopause, and during this time a woman’s hormones fluctuate causing mood swings. Diet, exercise and stress also play a role in increasing or decreasing depression at this time in a woman’s life.

Months, or years after the onset of perimenopause women enter into menopause, when their hormonal levels alter dramatically. Hormonal depression is likely to be heightened in women who undergo hysterectomy, as this results in estrogen levels falling fast, rather than at a natural pace.

Estrogen helps give serotonin a boost. When it drops considerably women can feel very depressed, and may even have consistent thoughts of suicide and death. Estrogen is also responsible for raising endorphin levels, and increasing the neurotransmitter GABA, which has a calming effect.

As the menopause begins to strike women can experience a fluctuation in the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels rise, the result can be weight gain and insomnia. When it drops, mood swings are likely, along with a lowered libido and trouble dealing with stress.

The hormone progesterone has the job of balancing estrogen. However, during the menopause it fluctuates, resulting in depression and further anxiety. When progesterone levels are normal they act as an antidepressant. Once they begin to fluctuate, along with estrogen and cortisol, it is no wonder that many women become depressed.

Women experiencing depression due to hormonal imbalances can expect to show signs of other related symptoms, such as insomnia, a sense of being overwhelmed, indecisiveness, fatigue, appetite fluctuation, and feelings of worthlessness, guilt and decreased pleasure in life.

Those who think they may be experiencing hormonal imbalances can benefit from seeking help from a medical professional for diagnosis. They may be prescribed hormone replacement therapy, also referred to as HRT, or an alternative therapy to address imbalances and put them on the road to a more joyful life.

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