When the stress hormones are out of balance, the symptoms can stop you in your productive tracks. Your body’s stress hormones include cortisol, adrenaline and DHEA, a precursor hormone. An imbalance may cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and insomnia, as well as unwanted physical effects such weight gain.
For many women (and some men), puberty is the first experience with changing hormones.
For young women, PMS – premenstrual syndrome – is an unavoidable recurring event and can cause continual emotional problems such as brain fog, mood swings, irritability, anxiety and depression.
Side Note – Young men can also experience these symptoms of anxiety and depression, and also anger, by the fluctuating hormone, testosterone.
Some women fly through the days of their monthly cycles with little or no symptoms, while others struggle constantly with fatigue, depression and anxiety because of their hormonal shifts.
During and After Pregnancy
Besides their menstrual cycle, women may experience hormonal surges during or after a pregnancy. Post-partum depression can cause intense mood swings and other symptoms of hormonal fluctuations.
Perimenopause and Menopause
Perimenopause and menopause usually cause severe progesterone, estrogen and testosterone dominances or deficiencies, leading to symptoms of anxiety and depression. This phase of life is renowned for the emotional instability it may bring.
Hormone production operates independently of conscious thought, so it is common to feel driven by something beyond your control. Women at this stage of life can become depressed and cry and not know why.
They may also experience hot flashes, sporadic menstrual periods, weight gain or redistribution, brain fog, mood swings, fatigue and low libido. These symptoms can compound and lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall during the perimenopause and menopausal years – and some women begin to experience these symptoms as early as their early thirties.
Some hormonal imbalances are directly caused by thyroid problems and depression and anxiety are among them. An underactive thyroid – hypothyroidism – can produce symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as moodiness and fatigue.
Anti-depressants are often only a band-aid solution and don’t effectively address the issue if hypothyroidism is the cause. Hypothyroidism affects mostly mature-aged women and is believed to affect many more than are diagnosed.
In much rarer cases, hyperthyroidism, where excessive thyroid hormones are produced, can cause problems.
Adrenal issues may also cause symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as nervousness, insomnia and irritability. A chronic deficiency may cause extreme fatigue.
Hormonal imbalances may make a diagnosis difficult because of fluctuating levels and variable symptoms. Adrenal fatigue is also an under-diagnoses or recognized condition, and once again, older women are the largest demographic.
Hormonal imbalances have a huge effect on mental and emotional stability and are often a large part of the cause of anxiety and depression. Be sure to get a complete medical history, complete exam and blood testing to evaluate hormonal imbalances before automatically taking anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications.
Take the time to record all your symptoms daily so your health care provider can make a more accurate assessment. A correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment can make to world of difference to coping ability, productivity and personal happiness.