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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ingles, CFCP

The Link Between Anxiety, Depression, and Hormones

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Anxiety is one of the most common problems I see when I work with couples, especially in women. Daria previously discussed how anxiety can affect charting and gave tips on how to overcome those struggles. Today, I want to share my story and talk about the link between anxiety, depression, and hormones.

I was standing in a K-Mart (that tells you how long ago this was) when I suddenly got light-headed and started having tunnel vision. A little while later I was being transported to a local hospital via ambulance. After a thorough workup, I was discharged with no known cause for the event and told to follow up with my doctor. I did what I was instructed and went in to see my doctor. He decided that I had a panic attack and diagnosed me with anxiety. When I tried to explain to him that I didn't have anxiety, he crudely saw me out the door, gave me a referral to a psychologist, and, essentially, told me that he knows better than me. For the next year I had the same episode repeat itself about once a month. It wasn't until I started charting with Creighton that I discovered that the episodes happened at the same time of my cycle every month, two days before I started my period. With my new found knowledge, I scheduled an appointment with an gynecologist - because surely a reproductive specialist could help me understand these episodes. Unfortunately, I discovered that this specialist (and four subsequent ones) had no interest in figuring out what was happening. She (and all the others) told me to go on hormonal birth control or just deal with it since we were trying to get pregnant.

Because we were trying to conceive and I was charting with Creighton, I eventually made my way to a NaPRO doctor who prescribed progesterone for me during the second phase of my cycle. Miraculously, the episodes disappeared. So did my irritability and, what I realize now was, mild anxiety and obsessive behaviors (such as checking that the door was locked and the coffee pot was turned off multiple times before leaving the house).

It wasn't until my son was born and nearly died that I started having debilitating panic attacks. At first, I believed that it was due to the stress of the situation. But as the weeks turned into months, I realized that something more was at play. I went to my (new) doctor and was again diagnosed with anxiety. I was put on an anti-depressant and anxiety medication. While the anxiety medication did help (because it sedated me), it wasn't a long-term solution. In search of help I went to a reproductive endocrinologist. I explained the situation, was evaluated extensively over the course of three cycles, then was told that my ovarian reserve was highly diminished and would need to go through Invitro Fertilization. I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure. I explained to the doctor again that I wasn't trying to get pregnant and just wanted help with my anxiety. She looked at me and said, "why would you come here then? We don't worry about things like that. If you don't want to get pregnant, then just go on birth control." I walked away frustrated and angry. But I did find out one thing, my ovaries weren't working properly. That lead me down the path to NaPRO once again. Fortunately, a new NaPRO doctor had just started practicing in my area and he put me on progesterone therapy for my anxiety after a series of progesterone level blood draws. Ever since beginning progesterone therapy in 2016, I have been free from anxiety and panic attacks. I am not alone in this. Natalie has talked about her struggles with PMDD and how progesterone therapy gave her relief. And I have walked with many women who have had similar experiences with anxiety and progesterone. But what is the link between anxiety, depression, and hormones?

NaPRO Technology has studied how PMS and postpartum depression and anxiety can be alleviated with progesterone therapy, and a meta-analysis of 32 research papers found a significant link between poor mental health and the different phases of the menstrual cycle and how the lack of estrogen and progesterone can cause mental health episodes. While the exact mechanism of estrogen and progesterone on the brain is not fully understood, an emerging consensus shows that hormone dysfunction is a major contributor to poor mental health in women. This is also shown in studies linking endocrine disrupters in hormonal birth control to an increase in depression and suicide. The more we begin to understand how a healthy menstrual cycle affects mental health, them more we recognize the importance of balanced hormones. So what should you do if you are struggling with anxiety and/or depression. If its an emergency, call SAMHSA hotline for help. If it's not an emergency, you can begin to understand how your hormones are working by charting with Creighton. Our Practitioners have extensive training in recognizing biomarkers that indicate hormone deficiencies. We also work with doctors who specialize in treating hormone dysfunction and helping you find relief. We are here to help.

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