Hormones Mood And Anxiety
The first thing that comes to mind with this from a physiological standpoint is how hormones can affect your brain, your nervous system as a whole, and by default your mood. Specifically the hormones we are referring to are the female and male sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, pregnanalone, and DHEA. These hormones can be attributed to female and male differentiation in their sex characteristics. They act like mood stabilizers and can balance out some of the highs and lows that one might experience from time to time. That said they’re not equal in their ability to do this. Some of them are more stimulating and some of them are more calming. This is where the term hormone imbalance comes in.
Too much or too little of certain ones can have a negative impact on your mood leading to more instability and potentially anxiety. What we’re not referring to are hormones like cortisol, thyroid, and other non-sex hormones. We want to look at three different scenarios where this imbalance might take place and how it manifests.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalance
Your hormones have to work together in balance to help your body thrive. However, hormone ups and downs in women are very common, so if you feel that you have a hormonal imbalance, you are not alone.
Doctors from WebMD say that some of the common causes of an imbalance in hormone production in women are pre-menstrual syndrome, pregnancy, and the menopause. However, other lifestyle factors can cause hormones to fluctuate. Being overweight, not getting enough exercise, or a lack of sleep can all throw your hormones off balance.3
Other reasons for hormone fluctuations are an underactive thyroid that doesnt produce enough thyroxine . Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that hypothyroidism can leave you feeling lethargic, cause changes in your menstrual system, or make it difficult to lose weight.4
Also, diabetes is a common cause of hormonal imbalances and can affect, not just the insulin hormone, but also other blood sugar-related hormones, sex hormones, and growth hormones.5
Happy Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to breaking down stigma and supporting those with mental illnesses and their loved ones. To honor the month, here are a few ways that birth control can help support your mental health and help you say #ThxBirthControl.
It can give you a sense of control
As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I rely on my IUD to give me peace of mind in a world where I otherwise feel out of control. A queer friend of mine with an anxiety disorder prefers to use birth control pills to completely suppress her period. For her, being in control of when and if she gets her period is not only convenient, but also reminds her that shes in charge of her body. All our experiences are unique, so always speak to a health care provider and mental health professional about any questions you have.
It can alleviate some causes of depression
Hormonal birth control can help alleviate the depression symptoms associated with conditions such as premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder . For many people, birth control helps to manage and even improve their moods and overall mental health.
There are many types of birth control. How can you know which will best fit your needs? A conversation with your health care provider is essential. Here are some of the things you may want to consider:
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Why Does Birth Control Cause Depression
The addition of hormones in birth control may affect an individuals mental state. While many women report improved moods while taking birth control, others may respond differently. If you notice increased feelings of sadness after starting birth control, consult a doctor to determine whether you should try a different method.
Little Research On How The Pill Affects The Brain
Even though mood swings are one of the most commonly reported side effects of oral birth control, there’s hardly any research into how the pill interacts with our brains. In fact, a 2021 Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology paper called the lack of research on the effects of oral contraceptives on the brain, “one of the largest natural experiments in human history.”
“There’s really very little research I’m aware of on this topic, despite the fact that the pill has been around for more than half a century,” Justin Lehmiller, PhD, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and author of Tell Me What You Want, told Health. “The studies that do exist tend to have quite small samples and aren’t well suited to determining cause and effect.”
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Are All Hormonal Options The Same
There are lots of things to consider when choosing the best birth control method for you. A major factor is what kind of hormones you want to take.
Any birth control method that contains hormones including pills, patches, shots, implants, rings, and hormonal IUDs can have a possible impact on your mood. If you know this isnt your vibe you may want to stick to non-hormonal methods.
Remember: Just because BC can make you anxious or depressed doesnt mean it will.
The Pills Surprising Effects On The Brain
The Pill is the most popular form of contraception in the U.S. with over 9 million women using it. Oral contraceptive pills contain synthetic that hijack your cyclical hormonal process, replacing it with a steady supply of low levels of synthetic estrogen and progesterone. You may already be aware that OCPs have been shown to cause problems with blood pressure and blood clots and increase the incidence of strokes, especially if you smoke or have a history of migraine headaches. But did you know that OCPs also affect your brain and mental well-being?
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Nutrient Depletions From Hormonal Contraceptives:
Most medications have an impact on nutrient absorption, utilization and requirements, and this information can be readily found online or in a Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion handbook. It is a commonly overlooked issue, but can can cause many of the side-effects we associate with various medications, and in many causes can be quite simply corrected with supplementation. Hormonal contraceptives have one of the longest lists of nutrient depletions!
Nutrients depleted by hormonal contraceptives include :
What this means, is that over time your body may become deficient in these nutrients, especially if you may also have a poor diet, issues with absorption, or a vegetarian diet. The deficiencies do not usually show up immediately, but can become more apparent over time.
Low levels of folate can impact pregnancy, creating higher risk of neural tube defects . Low levels of Vitamin B6 and B12 have an enormous impact on mood and energy levels. Magnesium deficiency can create more anxiety, restless legs and muscle pains, and low selenium and zinc levels can predispose to hypothyroidism. Significant deficiencies in any nutrients, especially if there are more than one, can certainly cause fatigue.
Oral Contraceptives Raise Cortisol Levels And Impact Your Stress Response:
When your baseline cortisol level goes up, your body becomes primed for stress. It can cause increased anxiety, trouble sleeping, and more feelings of overwhelm. Over time, this can also contribute to changes in lipids , and glucose metabolism causing abdominal weight gain.
Studies have shown the following:
- Oral contraceptives elevate circulating cortisol levels .
- There are consequences of high cortisol such as raised triglyceride levels .
- Women taking oral contraceptives show smaller hippocampal volume .
- Oral contraceptive usage substantially modifies cortisol effects on emotional learning in women, particularly in memory-related medial temporal lobe regions .
The most common presentation for these effects is an increase in general anxiety.
The impact on hippocampal volume is however, is particularly concerning. The hippocampus plays an important role in the limbic system, and is involved in the formation of new memories, and also associated with learning and emotions. Hippocampus volume shrinks with chronic high stress, PTSD, alcoholism, and more . Having a smaller hippocampal volume is also associated with depressive behaviour, and poor stress tolerance .
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The Pill And Copper Toxicity/ Copper Overload
Copper overload has become increasingly common problem, due in part to the widespread use of oral contraceptives containing estrogen Other health conditions associated with copper overload include things like acne, allergies, Candida overgrowth, hypothyroidism, anemia, hair loss, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, migraines and male infertility. The reason that copper is linked with such a long and varied list of conditions is that copper is absolutely essential to the proper functioning of your
#1 Immune system
#2 Endocrine system, and
#3 Nervous system.
Copper is a co-factor in the chemical reaction which converts dopamine to norepinephrine. So if you look here at the dopamine pathway, when you have to much copper
You will have more norepinephrine and epinephrine . We have all heard of adrenaline- Adrenaline can cause feelings of agitation, anxiety and panic, overstimulation, racing thoughts, restlessness, and insomnia.
In other words, it revs up the nervous system into a state of overdrive or the fight vs flight response. Couple of things I want to show you here, because you may be thinking that this only affects women who are using a copper IUDs.
If we look at this study that comes from European Journal of Clinical Nutrition- we can see that elevated copper levels were found in ALL users of ALL types of oral contraceptives. Not some users but in all users!
And #2 When You Take The Pill You Are Flooding Your Body With Unnatural Synthetic Hormones And These Synthetic Hormones Will Affects Your Thyroid And Affect Your Testosterone Levels
The Pill increases SHBG and TBG.
The best way to understand SHBG and TBG is to think of them like taxi cabs. Hormones, hitch a ride though our bodies by attaching to these proteins or taxi cabs.
SHBG is a protein made by your liver and It binds tightly to Three sex hormones found in both men and women. The three hormones that it binds to very tightly are basically your Estrogens and your Androgens
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Birth Control Hormones And Anxiety
The last scenario I wanted to discuss is with females taking birth control. Birth control pills mimic the main function of sex hormones but they are not actually bioidentical hormones. That is they are not the same hormones chemically and functionally that a woman’s body naturally makes. Instead they are synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone. The problem with birth control is it has a tendency to raise cortisol levels. There is documented research on this too.
Because these birth control pills are very strong hormones, they can lead to higher cortisol levels. l have seen this clinically many times, but it may not happen with all birth control. When women stop the birth control, their cortisol levels will go down. With lower cortisol your stress level and anxiety level will go down too. Keep in mind that not everyone woman will have high cortisol if they’re on birth control. It is pretty common from what I see clinically.
This leads into another topic of taking higher amounts of hormones in general. If you’re getting pellets or doing some hormone replacement therapy, it can sometimes lead to high cortisol. So be mindful of the relationship of all the hormones. As mentioned hormones have a mood stabilizing affect. So too little of them can can lead to more emotional ups and downs. Really what we are talking about is making sure you have sufficient hormones, making sure they are well-balanced, and making sure there is not too much hormones overall.
What Are Some Options For Non
For anyone looking to prevent pregnancy without taking hormonal contraceptives, youve got plenty of options:
- Condoms: When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective , but due to human error, condoms do have a 15% failure rate at preventing pregnancy.
- Copper IUD: If youre hoping for another one-and-done contraceptive, the non-hormonal copper IUD, or ParaGard, might be the best choice for you. Its the most effective form of birth control and can last for 10 years.
- Diaphragm or cervical cap: These two barrier methods can help prevent pregnancy when combined with spermicide . Like condoms, youll need to remember to insert a diaphragm or cap every time youre going to have sex. Diaphragms are 92%-96% effective, while cervical caps are only 71%-86% effective.
- Sponge: Another barrier method, the sponge is 88% effective at preventing pregnancy and must be used every time you have sex.
So, if youre ditching your pill or removing your patch, know that your body is likely to transition back to its before state over your next few cycles. And if youre not feeling great, enlist your primary care provider , OB-GYN, some ibuprofen, or a trusty heating pad for support.
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Hormonal Contraceptives Are For Healthy People
Remember that oral contraceptives and hormonal birth control have all been designed with a healthy woman in mind. Studies also aim to eliminate anyone who has a diagnosis that could skew results.
So, if youre a woman who already has a preexisting condition, like autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, an adrenal condition or a mood disorder, starting off with these hormones may just be a recipe for disaster in your body.
Sadly, many women and young girls are being put on these hormones to treat symptoms, such as acne, irregular periods, PCOS, or extremely painful periods. Hey, you name the period problem, and youre going to get a prescription from your doctor for some hormonal suppression.
I take issue with using the pill to mask symptoms and telling a woman that this is the only way to fix her hormones.
They dont fix your hormones. And if youve had a suspicion this is true, but fear to return to nightmare periods then girl, I got you. You need to attend my free masterclass called The Pill Free Period.
And please ladies, this is in no way judgement if you use hormones to manage symptoms. I did it too. But I want you to know you have options.
Your Doctor Wants To Help
Lets not forget your doctor wants to help you. We all went to medical school with a desire to help. Trust me, we dont give up a decade of our life, go into a crazy scary amount of debt and sacrifice our own health and relationships just to push pills. Nope. Doctors want to help you. Trouble is, when youre provided with a toolkit that includes only hormonal suppression for every female concern then that is all your patient is going to get.
Take a moment to reframe what youve heard and what you may have been thinking. I see a lot of smack talking about how doctors are the worst because their only solution is the pill. They are not the worst. They are just working with what theyve got.
And they are relying on the research they are being presented with during their continuing education.
While I value the research, I think it’s equally important to listen and really hear the story of the woman who is sitting in front of me. If she’s telling me that her mood has changed since beginning a hormonal contraceptive, then that is valuable data that should be considered in her care.
As doctors, we cant rely solely on evidenced-based research because it does not always translate clinically. We also need the information that the woman who’s sitting in our office is providingher story.
Our clinical experience has tremendous value. Bridging this with her story and the research is the sweet spot for individualized medicine.
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How To Manage Anxiety After Stopping Hormonal Contraceptives
If your anxiety is temporary and caused by fluctuating hormones, you might find the following methods help ease your symptoms while your hormones settle down. Keep in mind that these methods may not be as effective if you had pre-existing anxiety.
Take a vitamin B and folic acid supplement
Some evidence suggests that long-term use of oral contraceptives can lead to folate and vitamin B deficiencies which can worsen anxiety. Taking vitamin B and folic acid supplements for a few months after stopping your oral contraceptive might be helpful, as is a healthy and balanced diet.
Keeping active has been shown to effectively alleviate anxiety symptoms, so try to exercise for the recommended 150 minutes each week. High-intensity exercise is proven to have the greatest effect on anxiety, so try to incorporate cardio exercises like running or high-intensity interval training into your routine.
Try mindfulness exercises
A 2013 trial found that meditating or following a mindfulness program can help reduce anxiety symptoms.
Why Can Stopping Hormonal Contraceptives Cause Anxiety
When you stop taking hormonal contraceptives, your hormone levels change. This happens within days of stopping the birth control pill or removing the implant, but it may take a few months if you stop having contraceptive injections.
You might develop anxiety after stopping hormonal birth control for the following two reasons:
1. Hormonal fluctuations
Rising or falling hormone levels can trigger or worsen anxiety, which is why many women experience anxiety during puberty, before menstruation, after having a baby, and during menopause.
Stopping hormonal contraceptives affects your hormone levels as you are withdrawing synthetic hormones and allowing your natural hormones to rise. It can take up to six months for your hormone levels to settle down again.
2. Existing anxiety
Studies have shown that oral contraceptives may alleviate some symptoms of anxiety,³ so taking them for an extended period might suppress your symptoms if you had anxiety before. If this is the case, your anxiety symptoms may be uncovered and become noticeable when you stop taking the birth control pill.
If your anxiety continues for longer than a few months, this is a sign that you may have had anxiety before taking oral contraceptives. In this case, you should speak to a doctor or mental health professional about treatment. If your anxiety was temporary and caused by fluctuating hormones, it would probably have subsided sooner.
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