3 ways your mood is regulated by your hormones

Have you ever had days when you feel like crying for no reason? Or you feel irritated or angry and don’t know why? Anxiety, depression, mood swings and rage are all common mood symptoms linked to our hormones. 

 

Key takeaways:

  • The link between hormones and mood is often missed.
  • Even small hormonal fluctuations can have a large impact on your emotions and mood.
  • Women experiencing perimenopause and menopause are often misdiagnosed as having depression.
  • Anxiety is often linked to a drop in progesterone levels. Commonly, anxiety is worse for women in their luteal phase (second half of their cycle).
  • Research has shown that adequate to high progesterone levels in your luteal phase can reduce anxiety, aggression and irritability.
  • Low progesterone is caused by stress, undereating, perimenopause, hypothyroidism and lack of ovulation.
  • Low mood is often linked to low oestrogen.
  • Oestrogen is connected to serotonin – as oestrogen drops so too does serotonin, leading to low mood.
  • Low mood and low oestrogen can be seen clearly in post-partum, perimenopause and menopause.
  • Anger is a common mood symptom of hormone fluctuations.
  • Anger is often experienced during PMS, but it’s particularly common in perimenopause.

 

It’s not you, it’s your hormones!

Our hormones have a profound effect on our mood. Even small hormonal fluctuations across your cycle can have a big impact on how you feel. 

Worryingly, the link between hormones and mood is often missed. Statistics show an increasing number of women of all ages being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, with women twice as likely as men to be prescribed antidepressants. And women experiencing symptoms of menopause are often misdiagnosed as having depression (source).

This article looks at three mood symptoms – anxiety, depression and anger – and the hormones that could be the underlying cause. 

The good news is that once we have identified which hormone imbalance is affecting you, there is so much we can do to support you.

ANXIETY & LOW PROGESTERONE

You are most likely to experience anxiety in your luteal phase (the second half of your cycle) and also in perimenopause and menopause. This is because of the link between anxiety and progesterone. 

How does progesterone impact anxiety?

Progesterone is a magical hormone known for its cool and calming benefits for the mind and body. It is produced after ovulation. If we don’t ovulate (anovulation), ovulate sporadically or the quality of our ovulation is poor – all which lead to low progesterone levels – we are more likely to struggle with feelings of anxiety.

How does this work?

Progesterone has a complex role in the brain and also with our neurotransmitters. To put it simply, progesterone when broken down is broken down to allopregnanolone (a metabolite of progesterone) which is a GABA receptor antagonist. GABA is our inhibitory neurotransmitter that increases a sense of calm, acts as an antidepressant, and also reduces anxiety. Allopregnanolone can bind to GABA receptors and can increase the function of GABA. Therefore progesterone is our natural anti-anxiety hormone. 

What causes lower progesterone levels?

Perimenopause and menopause are times of naturally lower progestereone.

For someone in her cycling years, some of the causes of low progesterone (because of anovulation, sporadic ovulation and poor-quality ovulation) include:

  • PCOS 
  • Stress 
  • Undereating 
  • Over-exercising 
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Inflammation 
  • Low cholesterol 
  • Hormonal birth control, or regularly taking other medications 
  • Blood sugar issues and insulin resistance

LOW MOOD AND LOW OESTROGEN

Fluctuating oestrogen levels or poor oestrogen metabolism can result in mood symptoms such as irritability, anger, anxiety and depression. Many women experience these symptoms across their cycle because of naturally fluctuating oestrogen levels, but we’re more likely to experience them if we have higher levels of oestrogen in the body. This is because if we have higher levels of oestrogen, we’re more likely to feel symptoms when oestrogen drops – for example after ovulation or before our period.

How does low oestrogen affect mood?

There are many mechanisms of action to understand when looking at oestrogen and mood, but one of the most interesting connections is the link between oestrogen and serotonin. Serotonin is your feel-good neurotransmitter; it boosts and stabilises mood while also giving us lots of other benefits like supporting sleep and digestion. 

Oestrogen is interconnected with serotonin – as oestrogen rises so too does serotonin and as oestrogen falls so too does serotonin. Low oestrogen can therefore result in low serotonin and low mood. 

Low oestrogen and postpartum depression

One of the theories suggested for postpartum depression is the fall of oestrogen in the postpartum period. After giving birth there is a dramatic drop in oestrogen, which can contribute to feelings of low mood or depression. 

Low oestrogen and menopause

Another time in your life when oestrogen is low is late perimenopause and menopause. During the late stages of perimenopause this lowering of oestrogen is considered responsible for feelings of low mood and depression. Interestingly, some women find relief from low mood and mood changes in menopause as they no longer are suffering from the fluctuations of oestrogen which can also cause mood swings. 

What causes low oestrogen?

Low oestrogen can be caused by many different factors including:

  • Genetic SNPs, for example on the aromatase gene 
  • Stress
  • Poor adrenal function 
  • Menopause 
  • Thyroid imbalance 
  • Over exercise 
  • Eating disorders

Anger

Anger is particularly common in perimenopause. To understand anger, we have to look at the complex interplay between oestrogen and progesterone.

During our reproductive years, in a healthy cycle, oestrogen and progesterone move together in sync in the second half of your cycle. Oestrogen rises but so too does progesterone – in fact healthy progesterone levels should be 100x greater than oestrogen in the luteal phase.

What happens in perimenopause?

In early perimenopause, ovulation becomes less common and progesterone levels begin to decrease. At the same time, oestrogen starts fluctuating more wildly. The combination of these changes together can result in increased anger and rage. 

Typically this anger and rage is felt suddenly; some women report that it comes out of the blue.

Anger in perimenopause is also exacerbated by the onset of new symptoms such as night sweats, poor sleep, painful periods and other mood changes, which can leave women feeling out of control. Other external stressors from work or family can also contribute to increased anger during this time.

Are you experiencing new mood symptoms?

The good news is that there is a lot that you can implement in your daily life to support your hormones and your mood.

Here are three of our FUTURE WOMAN foundations that we focus on in order to bring hormones back into balance or support a natural hormonal change such as perimenopause and menopause:

  • Balance your blood sugar. Balancing blood sugar leads to improved sleep, more energy, balanced hormones, improved mood and reduced anxiety. 
  • Manage stress. Supporting the HPA axis (which controls our response to internal and external stress) can bring balance to your sex hormones, especially progesterone. 
  • Balance your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm promotes deep restful sleep, balanced hormone production and balanced mood. 

Once we’ve worked on these foundations we can then look at testing, working with a FUTURE WOMAN practitioner and personalised supplementation if required.

How do I test my hormone levels?

You may suspect that you have low progesterone, high or low oestrogen. But in order to confirm this it is important to test. You can test for progesterone and oestrogen with our FUTURE WOMAN Classic, Advanced and Advanced with Cycle Mapping Hormone tests. The benefit of our Advanced with Cycle Mapping hormone test is we can see your progesterone in relation to oestrogen across the course of the month to understand your full hormone picture. 

You can also begin to understand what might be going on with your hormones by tracking your cycle. Sign up to our newsletter to receive our free cycle tracking guide.

Three top takeaways:

  1. Hormonal fluctuations can impact mood and emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression or low mood. 
  2. There are some key foundational changes you can make to start supporting your hormones such as balancing blood sugar, managing stress and supporting your circadian rhythm. 
  3. Testing is an important part of understanding what is actually happening with your hormones. 

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