It is easy to pin the blame on anyone or anything every time things don’t go your way. When you feel anxious, sad, depressed or worried, you probably tend to say stress is the culprit. There are so many things on your plate and you don’t know where to start. Then you start to be cranky, which will drive anyone in the room crazy.Sure, external factors, such as your job, your kids, those persistent money issues, even family and relationship problems could change your mood in an instant and cause depression. But did you even consider it could be a hormonal thing?
Hormones are the substances produced by the endocrine glands, which affects your bodily processes. These substances influence growth, sexual function, metabolism and even your moods. So, how do your hormones relate to depression?
A Glimpse At Depression
By definition, depression is a serious medical illness, which causes constant feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, restlessness and low energy levels.
Feeling sad and worried happens to everyone and usually passes after a while. What sets depression apart from your usual “I feel depressed mood,” is that such feelings are constant and can affect your daily life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are more likely to develop depressive symptoms than men. Consequently, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence reported that in the United Kingdom, 21 in every 1,000 people aged 16 to 65 years old have major depression.
There are many reasons why you experience depression. Although there is no exact cause, experts identify various reasons, such as genes, family history, personal experiences, biochemical environment and psychological factors, which all could cause depression. Aside from this, did you know that your hormones could also be the culprit?
The Hormone–Depression Connection
The endocrine system is made up of small glands, which create hormones and release them in your blood. It also works with the brain to help control various activities and regulates processes, such as sexual development and your reaction to stress or other situations.
It also ensures that your hormones are at their most balanced state. When your hormones are not cooperating, your brain chemistry changes – a situation found in clinical depression.
Depression is a combination of many factors. However, you will find something that completes the equation: hormones. Any imbalance in your hormones could make you feel unwanted, hopeless, sad and angry, among others. The connection is still blurry, which is why experts are constantly examining the link between the two.
1. Blame It On Your Hypothalamus
Fact: Your endocrine system is connected to your brain through the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the portion in your brain that controls normal activities such as mood, appetite, sleep and even your sex drive.
At the same time, the hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland, which in turn controls hormonal secretions.
That’s not all. The hypothalamus uses neurotransmitters associated with depression. These neurotransmitters include dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin – all responsible for managing hormonal function. Various studies show that any disorder in the organs that produce hormones lead to clinical depression.
Therefore, any imbalance in the hormone levels could change your brain chemistry and make you more prone to depression.
2. The Real Deal On Your Thyroid Glands
If the hypothalamus controls your bodily processes, then the thyroid gland is responsible for producing and regulating the hormones, which the hypothalamus needs in order to function well. What happens when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones?
Weight gain, dry skin and hair, a hoarse voice, and frequent heavy menstrual periods could happen when there are either too much or too little hormones produced by the thyroid glands. Aside from the physical changes, thyroid issues could lead to increases irritability, fatigue and sleep issues.
In other words, these show symptoms of depression. Keep in mind that women are more prone to depression, particularly hormone-induced depression. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your thyroid glands are working properly to prevent any issues of depression.
3. Understand How Your Estrogen Levels Affects Your Moods
Estrogen is the hormone responsible for your female characteristics and reproductive function. At the same time, it has a direct link to your emotional well-being. This is why experts recommend estrogen therapy for people diagnosed with depression.
How Does Estrogen Affect Your Moods?
Estrogen is a key player in regulating your moods, thereby has the ability to control your emotions. When there is enough of a supply of estrogen, serotonin or the chemical responsible for balancing your moods, also increases. Therefore, a lack of estrogen means lower serotonin and leads to depression.
Estrogen also affects endorphins, also known as the feel good hormones. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make you feel happier and the lack of it results to depression. The lack or excess of estrogen also explains why you feel depressed prior to your menstrual periods, after giving birth, and even before and after the menopausal stage.
Experts are trying to discover the link between estrogen and depression. In the meantime, it won’t hurt if you maintain the right amount of this hormone through a healthy lifestyle, regular workouts and maintaining a healthy weight.
4. Know The Link Between Depression And Cortisol
You always hear how estrogen has a love-hate relationship with depression. Aside from this hormone, did you know that cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, could be a reason why you are feeling down and blue? In fact, experts discovered that one-half of individuals diagnosed with clinical depression have excess cortisol in their blood.
The hypothalamus starts the process of triggering the production of cortisol. It creates corticotrophic-releasing hormone or CRH, which stimulates the pituitary gland and sends a signal to the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol.
Thereafter, the adrenal glands release cortisol, which assists you during stressful events.
If there is too much cortisol circulating in your body, then there is higher risk of clinical depression. When you are depressed, they hypothalamus encourages the pituitary gland to produce more CRH.
That’s not all. Cortisol is at its peak at certain times of the day, usually between eight in the morning and four in the afternoon, and at its lowest during the night. For depressed people, this normal cycling does not happen, and instead, cortisol peaks in the middle of the night, which explains why you are tossing and turning in bed.
In case you found yourself depressed the entire day, particularly at night, then you might need to check your cortisol levels.
5. Learn About Leptin, Aka The Satiety Hormone
Do you always get enough hours of sleep? When you don’t get enough time in dreamland, you tend to be sluggish, irritated, and crave sweets all the time. On the other hand, getting enough sleep makes you feel better and more energized. This is where leptin comes in.
Leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full and satisfied after a meal. Did you know that any imbalance in this hormone could lead to depression?
According to The Endocrine Society, leptin is related to depression, thanks to its antidepressant qualities. In fact, women with higher levels of leptin have lower risk of getting depressed than those with lower levels of this hormone. At the same time, lower levels of leptin leads to various mood disorders, including anorexia.
Experts are continuously looking for the link between leptin and depression. In the meantime, make sure you get enough sleep every night. It recharges your body, keeps you energized the following day, and helps you stay away from unhealthy foods just to keep you awake.
6. What About The Progesterone?
Fact: The organs, all the way down to the last strand of muscles and ligaments, all need each other to function well. Therefore, when something goes wrong, other body functions are affected.
Take the case of hormones. Estrogen plays a key role, but your body needs support from other hormones, too. There are numerous hormones in your body, which affects your mood. Another hormone that plays a key role in your mood is progesterone.
Progesterone helps your body balance estrogen. At the same time, it promotes sleep and offers a natural calming effect, thereby making you feel good. It is also a natural diuretic and gets you in the mood for love, just in case the situation calls for it.
More importantly, progesterone is a natural antidepressant. This is why when there is not enough supply of progesterone in your body, you feel sluggish, sad and have difficulty sleeping. Abnormal levels of this hormone also lead to bad moods and insomnia. This only shows that estrogen cannot work on its own.
What does this all mean? The connection is still unclear, but hormones have a direct effect on your mood. When something disrupts the balance, this could lead to unwanted symptoms, including depression.
Still, this does not mean its okay to throw a fit anytime you want and blame it on your hormones. If you constantly feel depressed and it is already starting to affect your normal activities and your way of life, it won’t hurt to consult a doctor. Your doctor can pinpoint the cause, and they could help you come up with the appropriate treatments. Once you normalize your hormones, you can say goodbye to depression for good.