Women and the Impact of Hormones on Anxiety
Hormones play a significant role in regulating anxiety in women. Fluctuations in hormone levels during various stages of a woman's menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can all impact anxiety levels.
Menstrual cycle: Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can affect anxiety in women. The levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are the two main female sex hormones, fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. In the luteal phase, the second half of the menstrual cycle, some women may experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which are characterized by mood swings, irritability, and anxiety in the days leading up to menstruation. Some women are very susceptible to a rapid decline of hormones that contribute to anxiety and PMS.
Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also impact anxiety levels. During pregnancy, there is a significant increase in estrogen and progesterone levels, which can affect the neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood and anxiety. Some women may experience increased anxiety during pregnancy due to these hormonal changes.
Menopause: Menopause is a phase in a woman's life when she stops menstruating and is associated with significant hormonal changes. Estrogen and progesterone levels decline during menopause, which can affect the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. This hormonal imbalance can increase anxiety, mood swings, and irritability in some women.
It's important to note that not all women will experience changes in anxiety levels due to hormonal fluctuations. Some women may be more sensitive to hormonal changes than others, and many other factors can influence anxiety, such as genetics, environmental factors, and personal circumstances.
Anxiety is a part of life, but it might be time to pay attention when it starts to impact the quality of your daily experience. Any mental health problem is a complex interplay between environment, stressors, genetic makeup, and hormones. We will examine how hormones affect mental health in general and what you can do about it- with our help!
What is anxiety?
Occasional anxiety is normal. However, some people with anxiety have intense, excessive, persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. When extreme anxiety reaches a peak, often within minutes, it is called a panic attack. Or feelings of anxiety are a consistent part of your life. Talking with your doctor or a mental health professional can help you determine a treatment path, including therapy, medications, and hormone replacement.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety According to the Mayo Clinic
Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
Having an increased heart rate
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Feeling weak or tired
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having difficulty controlling worry
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Progesterone and Anxiety
Research shows that an increase in progesterone resulted in an improvement in premenstrual anxiety, irritability, and nervous tension and that progesterone produced an anti-anxiety response.
Research also shows low progesterone levels can be linked to anxiety symptoms, particularly in women undergoing hormonal changes such as perimenopause or menopause. Low levels of progesterone can also affect mood and lead to irritability, depression, and sleep disturbances. Progesterone has a calming effect and can help you get a better night’s sleep.
Estrogen and Anxiety
Estrogen is known to calm the fear response in women. Women who have low estrogen levels may be more prone to developing anxiety and mood disorders. They may also have worse anxiety when they face stressful or traumatic events. Women with high estrogen levels may be more resilient and cope better with stress and trauma. So, who has low levels of estrogen? Women who have gone through menopause.
Testosterone and Anxiety
Low testosterone has been linked to increased anxiety. Social anxiety, in particular for both men and women, is associated with low testosterone. Testosterone can help regulate the part of our brains that assess others’ emotions and respond to social threats. Low levels can contribute to symptoms of social anxiety by making it more difficult to assess social situations. If you have a social anxiety disorder and have explored other options, talk with us about testing your testosterone. Researchers have found that testosterone can make it easier to make eye contact — an essential ingredient to a healthy social life.
The other significant impact of testosterone on women is libido. During menopause, libido can drastically decline. This alone can cause significant anxiety before, during, and after sex. The impact on relationships can be considerable.
Other factors affecting anxiety
One way to look at anxiety responses is to consider whether anxiety is related to situational factors. Let’s examine some of those.
Alcohol and drug abuse. People with social anxiety may turn to alcohol and drugs. And the abuse of these substances can increase anxiety.
Stress in your life is a significant contributor to anxiety. Stress can be job-related, relationship problems, caregiving, financial- you name it.
Hypothyroidism (in which your thyroid produces too few needed hormones) has also been linked to anxiety disorders. If you have anxiety symptoms, neck swelling, weight loss, weakness, fatigue, or heat intolerance, ask us to check your thyroid levels.
Certain medications can cause anxiety.
Other health issues such as cancer or any other stressful diagnosis
Caffeine- too much can cause anxiety.
Anxiety can be motivating or crippling. Managing feelings of anxiety is a process of examining the stressors in your life, your overall health, and the possibility of hormone fluctuations. At Optimal Hormone Health we take the long view, with an individual and holistic approach to your well-being. Talk with us about checking your hormone levels, the possibility of supplements, and a strategy to improve your diet. When you look and feel better, your mood will improve!