Anxiety can have many, many causes. Caffeine, marital problems, money issues, a first date or job interview — the list is seemingly endless. Even talking about anxiety can be enough to inspire anxiety. But there is one common cause that too often goes unexplored. Particularly for women, hormones can be a major catalyst in the development of anxiety and anxiety disorders.
Think of hormones as chemicals that send messages and regulate. How they perform these roles differs between men and women, but if they fall out of balance, you will know. Sometimes this means too high. Other times, it’s too low. But either way, anxiety can be the outcome.
How Does Hormone Imbalance Cause Anxiety?
For women, it has a lot to do with different life stages, e.g.
Some of the hormones that can impact anxiety levels are:
Stress steroids like cortisol and adrenaline
Oxytocin (which actually reduces anxiety and stress)
For an example of how this works, both estrogen and progesterone decrease toward the end of a menstrual cycle and also during perimenopause (during the transition to menopause). These drops have been found to raise a woman’s anxiety level as well as cause other disruptions in mood.
Stuck in a Cycle
As mentioned above, the hormone-anxiety connection doesn’t get as much attention. This is partly because it’s part of how your body is designed to work. Consider this cycle: A woman encounters a real or perceived threat or danger. Her body produces cortisol and adrenaline to prepare her to handle the crisis.
Quite often, though, the risk is not real. We all frequently anticipate bad outcomes that never reach fruition. Well, your body can’t tell the difference. It’s already released the anxiety-causing stress hormones. Cortisol and adrenaline can also reduce testosterone in females. A decrease in testosterone is yet another cause of anxiety. This extra anxiety tells the brain that the danger remains, and the cycle continues from there.
How Do You Know When a Hormone Imbalance Exists?
You’ll get other signs besides an increase in anxiety. Some possibilities include:
Irregular and/or heavy periods
Hair loss or sudden excess body hair
Reduced sex drive
Possible metabolic side effects:
Digestive disruptions like constipation or diarrhea
Losing or gaining weight with no other explanation
Heightened sensitivity to cold or warm temperatures
Discolored patches of skin (usually on the armpits or neck)
How to Manage the Hormone- Anxiety Connection
Your hormones will have to do what they’re programmed to do. Therefore, a logical approach is to reduce the overall risk of anxiety in your life. This will lessen the impact of temporary hormonal imbalances. Elements to consider would fall under the umbrella of basic self-care.
Daily physical activity and exercise: Lowers cortisol and adrenaline and releases mood-enhancing endorphins
Healthy eating and drinking choices: Choose whole foods, reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol, and stay hydrated
Maintain regular sleep patterns: Lack of quality sleep is directly linked to hormone imbalance
Stress management: Look into meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and more
Also, above, oxytocin was identified as a hormone that lowers anxiety levels. It is boosted during childbearing, of course, but you can also increase oxytocin by spending time with trusted loved ones. Hugging, cuddling, laughing, showing generosity, and other acts like this can counter the influence of stress hormones. The same goes for petting an animal.
Anxiety is a Diagnosable Mental Health Condition
If anxiety has been getting the better of you, the best choice is to seek out the opinion of a professional. Once you better understand what’s going on, you are better equipped to take the positive steps you need to move into recovery.
Contacting us is a step in the right direction towards your healing journey.
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