The Relationship Between Hormones and Mental Health
Hormones are chemicals that exist in our bodies as part of the endocrine system. They function as chemical messengers, allowing cells in various sections of our body to communicate with one another. Distinct hormones perform different functions and convey different messages. Each one serves a specific purpose and has a unique composition.
When hormones are off-balance, it can manifest as other symptoms. Mental illness and stress may be one of the manifestations of a hormonal imbalance. Many people don’t understand the connection between hormones and mental health. Understanding the link between the two can help people understand when there is an issue at hand.
What’s the Science Behind Hormones?
Hormones tell our bodies what to do, when to do it, and for how long. Small changes in hormone levels can have a big impact. Hormones circulate through our bloodstream. They are transmitted from cells and glands in one part of the body to cells in another. Each cell contains hormone receptors. They typically have a number of distinct receptors, allowing them to receive more than one type of hormone.
Every hormone has a unique form. When hormones bind to cell receptors, it’s like a plug to a socket. Hormones can only be accepted by cells that have the appropriate receptors. The receptor must be a precise opposite shape of the hormone to ensure a connection.The greater the number of receptors a cell possesses for any given hormone, the more responsive it is to that hormone. The amount of receptors on a cell’s surface can alter throughout time. When a hormone contacts and binds to a receptor, it sends a signal that causes that cell to behave a certain way.
What is the Endocrine System?
Most living creatures have endocrine systems, commonly known as hormone systems. They are divided into different components. The endocrine system is composed of glands throughout our bodies, hormones that the glands produce then let out into our bloodstream or around cells, and receptors. These receptors exist within our various organs and tissues.
The Connection Between Hormones and Mental Health
The connection between mental health and hormones is that they directly correlate. Hormones like cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands, have the ability to make us feel stressed out. When people are stressed out, they will likely have higher levels of cortisol. This hormone impedes chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which help regulate sound mood, sleep, and digestion.
While the hormone cortisol can be helpful (small amounts of stress can be good at times), too much of it can lead to health complications. Namely anxiety disorders can manifest as a result of too much cortisol, but physical conditions may arise as well. Cushing’s disease is one health disorder that results in weight issues, physical deformation, and anxiety.
Can Hormone Imbalance Cause Depression and Anxiety?
Yes, hormone imbalance can lead to anxiety and depression. The body is a machine with many moving cogs that work independently and together all at the same time. When one of the “cogs” stops working, it creates problems within the machine. When people’s levels of hormones are off, it may manifest as a mood disorder.
At the time, individuals may not understand that they have irregular hormone levels. They might just feel restless, irritable, constantly fatigued, or just have a low mood overall. It’s important to recognize when your body and mind feel off as it can signal a larger problem. A hormone imbalance can result in larger health complications, meaning it’s important to seek medical attention at the first symptoms.
What is Depression?
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a widespread and significant medical ailment that has a negative impact on how you feel, think, and act. As a result, many people have lost their lives to this mood disorder from suicide.
It is, thankfully, treatable. Depression creates feelings of melancholy and/or a loss of interest in previously appreciated activities. It can cause a number of mental and physical problems, as well as a reduction in your general capacity to function. Depression can manifest as different symptoms depending upon the person, especially if hormone imbalance is involved.
What is Anxiety?
People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns disproportionate to the situation at hand. Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People who constantly feel this emotion may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as excessive sweating, trembling, an irregular heartbeat, or fainting spells. As mentioned prior, a cortisol imbalance can manifest as anxiety.
ADHD and Hormone Imbalance
Sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen appear to hold a significant influence in the development of ADHD. Increased levels of testosterone, the principal male sex hormone, have been demonstrated to impede cognitive function, encouraging symptoms of ADHD. This may be why men have an increased chance of developing ADHD than women.
Many scientists believe that the neurotransmitter dopamine, influences the development and symptoms of ADHD. According to research, increasing testosterone levels may have an effect on the cerebral routes used by dopamine, limiting neurological development overall.
Healthy Habits to Regulate Hormones and Mental Health
Making sure that you practice healthy habits can help keep hormones at bay that induce stress and encourage the production of those that can lower stress levels. A few simple activities practiced daily will help regulate hormones and mental health. In order to stay stable, people with mental health disorders should make sure to schedule specific times to engage in these activities.
1. Exercising Consistently
Exercising every day, even if it’s just for a bit each day, can help regulate hormones. Cortisol in particular is a hormone that can become higher than necessary without regular exercise. Adrenaline is another. When you exercise it lowers the levels by releasing them at the time of exercising.
Endorphins, like dopamine, increase from exercise as well. The body rewards the brain for exercising within its limits. People should aim to get 30 minutes of exercise a day where their heart levels elevate. As exercise has many forms, you can choose one that makes you happy instead of making you feel like you’re doing a chore.
Meditating is the act of practicing mindfulness of one’s thoughts. It’s more than chanting with fingers curled in an “okay” sign. In fact, contrary to what many might believe, meditation can be imagining a scenario or any mantra. One meditative scenario is picturing the place that brings you the most peace (eg. a beach or forest).
While you may not feel any changes overnight, the act of meditating improves mindfulness over time. As one continues to meditate regularly, one will be able to regulate their emotions more easily. From there, they can choose to stay calm in emotional settings with greater ease.
3. Go to Therapy
Talk therapy is a powerful, non-invasive way to regulate hormones. Time and time again, research shows that talk therapy has the power to alleviate some of the worst symptoms of mood disorders. Additionally, talk therapy can help individuals practice healthy skills overall to reduce stress and increase positivity in their lives.
There are different forms of talk therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may suit someone more than dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Or they might find both ineffective and try out another kind. There is a therapy option that works for each individual which can help them combat both physical and mental ailments potentially without surgery or medication.
4. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Hygiene is more than the soap you scrub behind your ears in the shower. It also involves other practices that keep you physically well, which means sleep. Specifically, sleep hygiene is the practice of setting yourself up for the best night’s rest. Limiting screen time an hour before bed and keeping activities mellow right before bed can help.
Other ways to improve sleep hygiene are to exercise each day, keep activities in bed to sleep (versus being on your phone), as well as going to bed and waking up at the same time. Our circadian rhythms influence hormone levels, making it all the more important to get a good sleep routine.
5. Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Part of keeping the body in balance is feeding it the right nutrients. In turn, your body can work at its best. A diet full of leafy greats, unprocessed food, and complex carbohydrates can keep hormones at the levels they need to be. Too little or too much of a vitamin can cause the body to feel off-kilter.
Foods with vitamin D are particularly helpful to keep your mood at optimal levels. Research suggests that individuals who have a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to suffer from mood disorders. Fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms can add a little more vitamin D to your diet.
The Importance of Regulating Hormones and Mental Health at Montare
Here at Montare Behavioral Health, we strive to provide individuals with a holistic plan. By holistic, we mean that we approach each individual’s recovery journey with their body, mind, and spirit in mind. One of the factors we make sure to check is our patients’ hormone levels as they learn the causes behind their mental illnesses. To learn more about how we help individuals conquer their emotional turmoil, contact us today.