How Hormones Affect Depression
If you struggle with depression, there may be a hormonal imbalance at work rather than a chemical one. With the right help you can overcome this issue and get well.
How the Brain Affects Depression and the Body
Through a system of chemical signals the brain controls physiological and psychological functions, including the following ones:
- Waking and sleeping
- Optimism and cheerfulness
- Sadness and mourning
- Sexual attraction and response
- Appetite and eating
- Motivation and reward
- Anxiety or stress management
Two of the main chemicals involved in this process are neurotransmitters and hormones. Imbalances in these chemical levels can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including the following:
- Eating disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Emotional numbness
- Anger or rage issues
- Panic attacks
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
There are many medications that manipulate hormone and neurotransmitter levels to correct psychological disorders. While the science behind this type of treatment is still relatively new, it is well understood that most of the medications carry a high risk of dependency or addiction.
How Hormones and Neurotransmitters Work
To understand how hormones and neurotransmitters work, picture hormones as the messages being sent to trigger various responses throughout the body and the mind. Furthermore, think of neurotransmitters as the chemicals that the hormones send their messages through. The main neurotransmitters involved in mood and depression issues are as follows:
- Norepinephrine is the chemical linked to the “fight or flight” instinct. When this level is too high it may result in heightened anxiety or panic attacks as well as sleeplessness and irritability. When it is too low it may contribute to lethargy or depression.
- Serotonin is the neurotransmitter connected with sleep. As such it is directly connected to mood. Healthy sleep is critical to emotional health and low levels of serotonin are directly connected to depression, obsessive disorders and even suicidal thoughts or actions.
- Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) manages anxiety, stress, panic, sleep and pain tolerance. It interacts with many other neurotransmitters and hormones and seems to be one of the key ingredients in emotional health.
- Dopamine works throughout the body to affect everything from cardiac and digestive function to thyroid health and mental focus. High levels of dopamine are associated with anger and aggression, while low levels are associated with confused thoughts, lack of focus, depression and even schizophrenia. Healthy dopamine levels allow for relaxation, good mood and general pleasure. Many addictive behaviors (including alcohol abuse, smoking cigarettes and using other drugs) cause spikes in dopamine levels that the brain then craves.
Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone interact with these neurotransmitters in many ways. In some cases they actually stimulate the brain’s production, while in others they help accomplish general functions. Relatively little is known as to how these hormones work, but significant studies recognize possible connections between these natural chemicals and various aspects of mood and depression. Major hormonal changes, such as those brought on by puberty, menopause (natural or surgically induced) and childbirth have known connections to depression.
Additional Information on Depression and Hormonal Issues
If you are concerned about issues related to hormonal balance and depression please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline for personal, confidential and professional advice. Depression is very serious, and help is available for those who need it. Call today and begin getting help now.