Is It Depression or Just Your Hormones?

Is It Depression or Just Your Hormones?

Feeling blue? Can’t seem to find the energy to get off the couch? Having trouble focusing on anything? You may assume it’s depression, and if you talk about your concerns with your healthcare provider, you could very likely walk away with a prescription for antidepressants. But what if it isn’t really depression? What if your symptoms are due to something else—something that antidepressants won’t help? For example, did you know that hormonal imbalances can lead to many symptoms of depression?

The Impact of Hormones on Mental Health

Hormones are chemical messengers that can have a powerful influence on the brain and your mental well-being. When hormone levels are balanced, you tend to have stable moods and feel energetic, motivated, and mentally sharp. When hormone levels are out of whack, however, you may experience symptoms that are associated with psychiatric illnesses, such as depression. Symptoms can include:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Low libido
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble concentrating

Common Hormonal Imbalances That Can Cause Depressive Symptoms

Of the hundreds of hormones our bodies produce, here are four that are known to lead to symptoms of depressive disorders when they are out of balance.

  • Thyroid: The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that plays a powerful role in keeping your brain and body healthy. It is involved in the production of many neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA—all of which are involved in mood regulation. Problems occur when thyroid dysfunction causes the gland to produce too little hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much hormone (hyperthyroidism). In fact, thyroid dysfunction is directly linked to one-third of all depressions.
  • Estrogen: Estrogen also influences the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. Too much or too little estrogen can alter neurotransmitter levels and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Progesterone: Often called the “relaxation hormone,” progesterone has a calming effect when it is produced in optimal levels. When hormones are off-kilter or when the relaxation hormone is in low supply, it can lead to depression, as well as irritability, anxiety, sleepless nights, and brain fog.
  • Testosterone: In both men and women, testosterone helps wards off depression, in addition to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Low testosterone levels have been shown to increase symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as trouble concentrating, lack of motivation, and fatigue.

What Causes Hormone Problems?

Many things can interfere with healthy hormone production, including:

  • Eating a diet high in refined sugar: Consuming too much sugar disrupts normal hormone function and can result in excessive levels of estrogen in relation to progesterone, which increases the risk for mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
  • Chronic stress: When stress hits, our bodies respond by releasing hormones that put you into fight-or-flight mode. But when stress is unrelenting, the constant flood of these stress hormones disrupts the production of the body’s other important chemical messengers, leading to hormonal dysfunction.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins: Many everyday environmental toxins, such as pesticides, are known to interfere with normal hormone production.
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs): Head injuries often cause damage to the pituitary gland, a tiny, pea-sized organ located at the base of the brain. Known as the body’s “master gland,” the pituitary regulates hormone production, but when it is damaged, it can disrupt the entire hormonal system.

Overcoming Depressive Symptoms Related to Hormonal Dysfunction

When hormonal imbalances are behind your feelings of sadness and loss of energy, antidepressants won’t get your mind right. But if no one ever tests your hormone levels, you will never know that hormonal dysfunction could be contributing to your depressive symptoms. This could leave you going from one antidepressant medication to another in search of relief without success.

It’s also important to investigate whether a past head injury may be contributing to hormonal dysfunction. Brain imaging studies can reveal signs of a TBI that could be the root cause of the hormonal problems that are contributing to your symptoms. In this case, healing your brain is the key to achieving healthier hormone levels.

This is why it is so important to make sure you visit a healthcare professional who will check your hormones and scan your brain as part of a comprehensive evaluation. When you get your hormones right, it may improve symptoms of depression by stabilizing your moods, boosting your energy, and clearing away the brain fog.

At Amen Clinics, we take a unique brain-body approach to treatment that includes brain SPECT imaging as well as laboratory testing to check hormone levels and other important biological factors that could be contributing to symptoms of depression. By understanding the underlying issues causing depression, we can create a more effective, personalized treatment plan for you.

Find out how we can help you today at 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.

13 Comments

  1. I am in the over 65 crowd, have a decent amount of energy, but have some OCD and anxiety. I tend to obsess over things, am irritable most of the time and feel I don’t sleep very soundly at night. I don’t have the means to afford brain scans, have tried a couple of anti-depressants that gave me awful acid indigestion so I stopped taking them. Are there any supplements that I can take that will not harm the rest of me, but calm my thinking and let me enjoy my relaxation time. I eat well, am trying to lose weight, but just can’t enjoy life the way I used to anymore.

    Comment by Margie K. — September 13, 2019 @ 1:09 PM

  2. I have been diagnosed with depression but know this is not the case as I was on the contraceptive pill for 10 years & had 8 IVF cycles. Now I will not take any more anti-depressants but take Bach Flower remedies

    Comment by Dawn — September 16, 2019 @ 2:41 AM

  3. Hi,I am anxiety patient for last 12 years mood swings .Fear is main factor which causes heart palpitations and acidic indigestion .I am using Xanax .5mg for 7 years and Rivotril 2mg for last 5 years doctor gave me and I blindly followed it gave relaxation in the beginning now they are wanting increase in dosage as I am in trap of addiction oh my God …But Xanax immediately relaxes within 20 mnts …Now doctor gave me SSri Fluxotine 20mg I started today is 6th day .First I tried seroxat 20mg but it gave me gastric problems then doctor changed it to flux which is reasonable to take …Please guide me I am going on right or wrong way ..Will I enjoy my life as previously or not ..My social gatherings are related to mood and happiness .My experience with lots of herbal medicines is not good …please advice …love you sir ..longlive

    Comment by Abdul sattar — September 16, 2019 @ 3:19 AM

  4. How do you test for hormones? What levels do you consider optimum and if numbers are not optimum how do you treat, or recommend getting hormones to the optimum numbers. Thank you
    Lori

    Comment by Lori — September 16, 2019 @ 3:33 AM

  5. Ashwaganda 2xday helps tension and anxiety.
    St. John’s wort helps anxiety, sleeplessness,, depression and being unfocused, usually within 20 minutes.

    Comment by Danna Munsey — September 16, 2019 @ 4:23 AM

  6. I forgot- drink 2 quarts of water a day, and exercise helps everything

    Comment by Danna Munsey — September 16, 2019 @ 4:29 AM

  7. L theanine

    Comment by Z — September 16, 2019 @ 6:07 AM

  8. What blood test do we do ? I have sjogrens and fibromyalgia. Have lot of issues.

    Comment by 8ev A Peltz — September 17, 2019 @ 1:47 PM

  9. Abdul I have taken fluoxetine for about 15 years. Plan on it taking a good 6 weeks before you feel better. What I love about it is that it has minimum side effects. Please make sure you take it regularly and if you decide to switch meds talk to your doctor first about weaning off of it and on to another med.

    Comment by Martina — September 17, 2019 @ 5:57 PM

  10. A multivitamin a day. Vitamin helps depression vitamin D vitamin B fruit and sleep 8 to 12 hours of sleep don’t try to over-stressed . by putting to much on your list to do always leave time for emergency, appointments and just to get a breath in pamper your self feeling stressed or acky take a nice Epsomsalt has magnesium in the tabs to sooth your body and mind. To feel aeso

    Comment by Theresa. Chunko — September 20, 2019 @ 6:28 AM

  11. I was diagnosed with Bipolar almost 30 years ago. I go in cycles of 2 weeks feeling fine and two weeks depressed, so I’ve always wondered if it has to do with my hormones. Curious how you check hormones especially if they seem to fluctuate?

    Comment by BeBe — October 1, 2019 @ 6:49 PM

  12. Hello BeBe, thank you for reaching out. We have an Integrative Medicine Program at Amen Clinics (https://www.amenclinics.com/services/integrative-medicine/) that involves hormone panels and evaluations. Here is additional information: https://www.amenclinics.com/services/hormone-evaluation-and-replacement-therapy/. We have trained Integrative Medicine specialists at many of our clinic locations and we’d be happy to reach out to you to explain this process further.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — October 8, 2019 @ 6:47 AM

  13. jeez – i only it was that simple. my 16 year old daughter tired st john wort for depression and hormonal issue; we’ve never seen her as bad; it made a right old mess of things.

    Comment by brig — May 22, 2020 @ 4:06 AM

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