A Common Crossroads

Today, we’ll talk about how hormones affect major depressive disorder (MDD). Imbalanced hormones are a common issue we hear about from our patients. For more on hormones and mental health, check out our posts on postpartum depression and menopausal depression.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are chemical signals that travel around the body influencing the functions of different organs and tissues. Hormones work with the chemical signals of the brain, called neurotransmitters. Hormones are produced and released by glands placed around the human body:

  • Adrenal glands
  • Thyroid glands
  • Pituitary glands
  • Testes
  • Ovaries

Major hormones include cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, thyroid hormones, and testosterone.

According to certified BioTE practitioner Dr. Cory Rice, “If this chemical messaging system or the hormone feedback loops are negatively compromised in any way, this can have profound effects on someone’s health, particularly as it relates to their mental health.”

Common Causes of Hormone Imbalance

At different stages of life, we experience fluctuating levels of certain hormones, and it is easy for imbalances to occur that have negative side effects. Disruptions in mood and physiological function are extremely common. These particular stages include:

  • Puberty
  • Before, during, and after pregnancy
  • Menopause and andropause
  • Conditions like hypothyroidism, acromegaly, and other endocrine disorders
  • Situations where the sufferer is taking hormones for gender transitioning or other purposes.

Biological women are particularly susceptible to MDD that worsens from hormonal issues, as they may experience pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), depression during menstruation, and pregnancy-related depression.

The Effects of Hormone Imbalance on MDD

Hormones can easily exacerbate existing MDD and other depressive disorders. Psychological symptoms include:

  • Pervasive sadness
  • Fragile mood
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of instability
  • Difficulty with focus

Physical side effects can include:

For an example of hormone imbalance in action, look at estrogen. Estrogen is linked to the increase of serotonin and the brain’s quantity of serotonin receptors, as well as nerve growth and the brain’s ability to regulate emotion. For someone who has, for instance, just given birth, their estrogen level plummets, making for an even more difficult time adjusting.

An Individual Issue

Each person’s situation is different, and each person’s overall health should be evaluated by a physician who can check hormone levels, identify any imbalances, identify possible causes, and rule out unlikely factors. If you have diagnosed MDD that is not responding to treatment at all or isn’t responding the way it used to, you have options, like transcranial magnetic therapy (TMS). To learn more, check out our blog and contact us any time. If you need help immediately, the SAMHSA helpline is always open.