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Hormones and Depression

Depression can be described as having feelings of sadness, unhappiness and being down in the dumps. It’s completely normal to have those feelings on occasion. What makes true clinical depression different is that those feelings persist over long periods of time and begin to interfere with everyday life.

The exact cause of depression is not known but research has shown that chemical imbalances in the brain can trigger bouts of depression. There is also anecdotal evidence that hormonal imbalances can cause mood swings and depression.

Depression affects over 21 million people and is the leading cause of disability for those aged 15 to 44. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. Research indicates that hormones released by the thyroid gland can be factors in the cause of depression. Some symptoms of depression are associated with thyroid conditions.

Conditions related to premenstrual syndrome, perimenopause, menopause, and postpartum are also conditions that have symptoms of depression, which in turn leads researchers to believe that hormonal imbalances and fluctuations play a significant factor in depression.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of interest in life
  • Significant change in appetite
  • Abnormal changes in sleep pattern
  • Loss of energy
  • Persistent feelings of worthlessness
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Relationship between Hormones and Depression in Women

Estrogen – Estrogen boosts serotonin levels in the brain which causes feelings of joy and euphoria. Serotonin also promotes sleep and a feeling of calm. Having low estrogen levels can affect serotonin levels which can lead to feelings of sadness.

Progesterone – This hormone helps balance estrogen levels in the body. It is a natural antidepressant and helps stabilize libido. Having elevated or diminished levels of estrogen can lead to insomnia and severe mood swings.

Cortisol – Cortisol is known as “the stress hormone” because it is released in the body when stressful conditions occur. Elevated levels of cortisol are highly dangerous because it contributes to obesity, food cravings, fatigue, low libido and mood instability.

People who suspect they may be suffering from depression should see a medical provider as soon as possible. Clinical depression associated with hormonal imbalances should not be left untreated.

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