• Dr. Jillian Smithers

Are Your Hormones Causing Your Depression?

While depression can be quite complex and the causes of it can be multifaceted, hormones can play a huge role in feeling down, sad, more emotional, etc. I see this everyday in clinical practice where a woman comes in after noticing that her moods may have changed over 'x' amount of time and it's affecting her quality of life.

Hormones like progesterone and estrogen, which guide the female menstrual cycle, can play huge roles in depression and are often overlooked in the medical community. But hormones are chemical messengers that send a message from one part of the body to another, so wouldn't it make sense that if something were imbalanced that you would feel off? It makes sense to me, and probably does to you, too. The tight relationship between hormones like estrogen and progesterone to neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA have been studied for years, but hormone testing is rarely offered to women who have concerns about depression, even if they notice that it appears in a pattern shortly before their period.

I like to explain to my patients that progesterone is our warm, fuzzy blanket hormone. It helps reduce anxiety and promote feelings of calm. When it's low, we can feel more anxious, have trouble falling or staying asleep, and also notice changes in our menstrual cycle because of its relationship with estrogen.

Estrogen also plays a role with the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is related to increased happiness and well-being. However, when estrogen is too high OR too low, this relationship can be compromised and moods can shift.

It's always important for a woman to listen to her body and remember that symptoms are messengers, so listen to them and trust your intuition because your body is trying to tell you that something is off!

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