If you’ve ever met a teenager, you’ve likely encountered the result of rampant hormones before. When we go through adolescence our bodies change massively, and one of the things they do is start producing more adult levels of certain hormones. The typical mood swings experienced by teenagers are caused by fluctuations in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and can have a big impact on the way they think and feel, and their moods.
But hormones aren’t just for teenagers. As adults we have hundreds of different hormones in our body, all helping keep our body functioning as it should. They are just chemicals, signalling to your body what you should do and when. And when they get thrown out of sync, they can cause all sorts of problems. Some of these will be physical, like Addison’s disease, where your adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol, and some of them can be mental. Our hormones can change the way we think and feel, and that can have a big impact on our mental health.
How It All Works
Your hormones are controlled by something called your endocrine system, and produced from different organs all around the body. So while your adrenal glands produce cortisol and your pancreas produces insulin, it’s the endocrine system that manages it all. The endocrine system runs in tandem with your nervous system to understand what’s going on in your body, and they work together to achieve what’s known as homeostasis. That’s when everything in your body is in perfect balance, working as it should. But when something’s out of balance, a lot can go wrong, and it can manifest in your body and your mind.
How Our Hormones Make Us Feel
There has been a lot of research done into the link between hormones and emotions. Studies have shown that drops in certain hormones or fast changes in their levels can cause moodiness and depression. For example, changes in oestrogen can affect key brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all of which can affect your mood. It’s one of the reasons some women experience mood swings just before their period – it’s a significant drop in oestrogen at that stage of your cycle. Testosterone is another hormone that can impact mood. Because testosterone and cortisol are closely linked, when one is high and one is low it can cause stress irritability, anger, hostility, anxiety and depression. If your serotonin levels aren’t right, or your body struggles to absorb it properly, then it can lead to general low mood, anxiety and depression. So while some of these chemical messengers don’t have an impact that we can perceive, many of them can influence the way we feel without us even knowing.
Hormonal Imbalance Issues
So now the question is, what kind of issues can hormonal imbalance cause? While the list can be quite extensive, the most common symptoms include:
- Sleep issues
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
An important one to also recognise is anger and aggression. We tend to see this more in men who have higher levels of testosterone than they should or who are producing more cortisol than they should. Between stress and hormonal imbalance, angry outbursts are fairly common and big swings in mood and depressive episodes. We wanted to highlight this in particular, because for a lot of people there is still a stigma around men and mental health. But mental health problems can occur for a lot of different reasons, and in fact, some of the traits of toxic masculinity from this blog can be traced back to a hormone imbalance.
The point is, in many cases, mental health struggles aren’t just down to one thing. Sometimes there may be multiple reasons behind an issue. Depression could be caused by a life event, by a low production of serotonin and a general sense of stress and overwhelm. In order to understand the roots of mental health problems, we have to acknowledge how varied they can be, and support each person in getting the type of help that’s most useful for them. That’s one of the reasons we developed MELP. MELP is like having a personal therapist in your pocket, giving you access to a range of mental health resources and supports whenever you need them. If you would like to find out more, click here, or get in touch with the clinic to see how we could help.