Hormones and severe depression are closely related. In fact, hormonal fluctuations may cause severe depression, along with a wide range of associated symptoms.
Hormones refer to chemicals produced by the endocrine system, which helps the body regulate metabolism, sleep, and other functions. Hormones travel to tissues and organs via the bloodstream, and tell tissues and organs how to operate.
When hormonal fluctuations occur, there is either too little or too much of a particular hormone in the bloodstream. This leads to a hormonal imbalance that causes a variety of side effects, including:
- Sadness and depression
- Weight gain or loss
- Dry skin and/or skin rashes
- Excessive sweating
- Blood pressure changes
- Bone weakness
The causes of hormonal fluctuations vary, and hormonal fluctuations may be linked to the adrenal glands, gonads, and other parts of the endocrine system. Common causes of hormonal fluctuations include:
- Underactive or overactive thyroid
- Poor nutrition and diet
- Hypoglycemia (a condition that causes insulin production to exceed glucose production in the body)
- Exposure to toxins or pollutants
Hormonal fluctuations can occur at any time, and affect both women and men. However, the impact of hormonal fluctuations sometimes varies based on gender.
How Do Hormonal Fluctuations Affect Women and Men?
A January 2019 study of 2,000 women between the ages of 30 and 60 highlighted the impact of hormonal fluctuations on women. In the study, researchers found that 47% of women said they experienced symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. Among these women, 72% said they initially experienced hormonal imbalance symptoms and only later realized their cause. The study also indicated that women experienced a broad array of hormonal imbalance symptoms, such as:
- Mood swings (56%)
- Weight gain (54%)
- Sleep disturbances (53%)
- Hot flashes (53%)
- Anxiety (52%)
Additionally, study participants cited the following as the top areas affected by a hormonal imbalance:
- Lack of energy (50%)
- Sex life (39%)
- Self-confidence (27%)
- Feeling like a woman (19%)
- Feeling alienated (18%)
In the study, the average age of women who experienced a hormonal imbalance was 36. Ultimately, a hormonal imbalance can affect a woman at any time throughout her lifetime, but women may be more prone to hormonal fluctuations during any of the following periods:
Medical conditions sometimes increase a woman’s risk of hormonal fluctuations, and ovarian cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, and early menopause are among the medical conditions that may increase a woman’s risk of hormonal fluctuations. As a woman experiences hormonal fluctuations, she may also experience any of the following symptoms:
- Increased hair growth
- Weak and/or brittle bones
- Breast tenderness
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes and/or night sweats
- Irregular and/or painful periods
- Uterine bleeding outside of menstruation
When it comes to hormonal fluctuations in men, puberty and aging are among the most common causes of hormonal fluctuations. For men, puberty and aging are frequently related, though occasionally men will go through puberty symptoms earlier or later in life than expected.
Puberty generally begins between the ages of 9 and 15 in boys. At this time, hormones travel to the testes and start to produce testosterone; testosterone is a male sex hormone that promotes the growth of the testicles, penis, and pubic hair, as well as causes a boy’s voice to deepen and muscles and body hair to grow. Testosterone production increases during puberty but often declines after the age of 30. If a man’s testosterone levels fall below average, he may experience fatigue, moodiness, and a decreased sex drive, among other symptoms.
Regardless of gender, it is clear that hormone imbalances can cause depressive symptoms that, when left untreated, can become severe.
Can Hormone Fluctuations Lead to Depression?
Research indicates that women are more likely to experience depression than men. One reason why this may be the case is the occurrence of depression-related illnesses associated with changes in ovarian hormones.
Hormonal fluctuations during puberty, prior to menstruation, following pregnancy, and at perimenopause may trigger depression in women. In addition to depression, these hormonal fluctuations may cause women to experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression, and postmenopausal anxiety.
An estrogen imbalance sometimes plays a role in a woman’s depression, too. In a July 2017 study published in Menopause, researchers examined the effect of estradiol, a form of estrogen present during a woman’s reproductive years. Estradiol fluctuations during menopause transition are universal, but estradiol exposure in adulthood varies among women. During the study, researchers found that extended estrogen exposure from the beginning of menstruation until the beginning of menopause helped reduce a woman’s risk of depression during menopause and for up to 10 years post-menopause. They also noted that a longer duration of birth control use reduced a woman’s risk of depression.
Hormone fluctuations also put a woman in danger of experiencing “menopause blues,” according to The North American Menopause Society. Women going through menopause are susceptible to a depressed mood that leaves them feeling sad or blue. But if depression lingers throughout menopause, a woman may be dealing with Major Depressive Disorder that requires medical treatment.
How to Diagnose Hormonal Fluctuations and Severe Depression
A hormonal imbalance requires medical attention, and a doctor should perform a physical exam, review a patient’s medical history, and conduct blood tests and other assessments to find out if a patient is dealing with hormonal fluctuations, depression, or both. If a doctor believes a patient is dealing with hormonal fluctuations and severe depression, various treatments may be recommended, like estrogen or testosterone therapy or medication. Sometimes, a doctor recommends natural remedies for hormonal fluctuations and severe depression; these remedies may include lifestyle changes like the development and implementation of a weight loss regimen or dietary program.
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) therapy is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression, and it is sometimes used to treat women and men dealing with hormonal fluctuations that cause depression symptoms. dTMS therapy involves a non-invasive procedure in which a patient receives magnetic pulses that stimulate neurons in the brain regions responsible for depression. A typical dTMS therapy program requires five sessions per week conducted over the course of six weeks, with each session lasting approximately 20 minutes. Upon completion of a dTMS therapy session, a patient can resume his or her normal activities.
At Achieve TMS, we use cutting-edge technology to deliver the most efficacious dTMS therapy on the market. Our expert physicians customize each dTMS therapy program to accommodate a patient. Plus, we offer 21 locations, a relaxing and comfortable office environment, and other benefits that have helped us become the leading provider of dTMS therapy in the United States.
Achieve TMS values the whole person, and we are happy to meet with you to discuss dTMS therapy and help you determine if dTMS therapy is right for you. To learn more, schedule a free dTMS therapy consultation online, or call or text us at 877-296-5032.