Depression and Anxiety May Be Caused by Hormone Imbalance
The extended “down” feeling that characterizes depression is familiar to all of us because, at some point, we all experience it. Anxiety is another common experience, but for women who regularly suffer from depression and anxiety, they can become debilitating.
Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
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Depression commonly refers to feeling low and a lack of interest in doing anything, but the condition has other symptoms too. Feeling tired or sad are usual symptoms, and depression also can manifest as feelings of guilt or hopelessness, fatigue, loss of interest in favorite activities, changes in appetite (either no desire to eat or overeating), weight change, and trouble concentrating. Also, changes in sleep patterns to include either not being able to sleep or sleeping too much can be symptomatic of depression.
More serious depression is called “major depression,” and these negative feelings become stronger and last longer. It can also lead to thoughts of suicide, so it must be addressed. The lack of desire to do anything makes it hard to go to the doctor, but if you have these symptoms, it is very important to work with your physician to make sure there isn’t some cause that you don’t know about.
Anxiety seems very different, with its intense feelings, including worry and nervousness, but the overall effect can be very similar if it causes you to not want to go out and do anything, or not eat and sleep well.
Depression and Anxiety Can Be Caused by Your Own Hormones
Hormones are substances produced in your body that affect all your major internal systems. Production slows down as you age, and this often results in an imbalance. There are three of these hormones, which affect depression: estrogen, progesterone and cortisol.
Estrogen is familiar because for decades (or longer), women’s hormonal problems associated with menopause were all attributed to the decrease in estrogen production that comes with the premenopause stage of life. Hormone replacement therapy was thought to be necessary, but sadly, was found to have severe side effects, so thankfully it is falling out of common usage.
It makes sense to look at estrogen when considering anxiety and depression because it is a hormone that boosts serotonin, so it can help with sleeplessness and your overall feeling of wellbeing. However, progesterone is a hormone that helps balance estrogen, promotes sleep and is cooling and calming. The balance between estrogen and progesterone has been found to be extremely important in combating depression.
The third hormone to look at for relief from depression is cortisol, which has come to be known as the “stress hormone.” Depression can result if the level of cortisol is too low or too high. When it is too high, the symptoms are often agitation, insomnia, craving sugar—and increased belly fat. Too little cortisol results in feeling stressed and not able to handle it, fatigue, unstable moods and low libido.
What You Can Do
If you are suffering from major depression or severe anxiety, it is important to discuss your feelings with your doctor. Antidepressant medication may be necessary. While it’s understandable not to want to be on meds forever, depression can be very serious, and you may need the extra support for a time, so it is important to discuss your options with a professional.
There are some additional ways to start feeling better, whether you are on medication or not. Daily exercise is very important for staying healthy and flushing out your system. Yoga can be particularly effective for those with depression because it doesn’t require bursts of energy or running around, and in addition to the physical benefits, it has a mind-calming effect.
Getting sleep is always important to recovering from any mental distress, so take steps to ensure that you get sufficient rest. Schedule at least eight hours (even if you aren’t sleeping well, you should have the time available for the nights you do sleep well, and so you can start catching up on your rest as you start to recover), avoid electronic screens and stimulating activity for at least half an hour before bed, and sleep in a cool, quiet room.
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