Hormones refer to chemical messengers in the bloodstream. The bloodstream transports them to various organs and tissues to perform a particular function. Hormones are responsible for different roles in our bodies. The main tasks in general include:
- Reproduction and sexual function and health
- Growth and development
- Maintenance of body temperature
- Digestion of food
- Cognitive function
Hormones are secreted from a variety of endocrine glands in the body. Each endocrine gland specifies a particular function. The various endocrine glands include:
- Adrenal glands
- Pituitary glands
- Thyroid glands
- Pineal glands
These glands secrete hormones in microscopic amounts. A slight increase or deficiency in the number of hormones secreted can lead to diseases.
The endocrine system releases the hormones into the bloodstream. The hormones then communicate with the target cells, which have the receptors for that hormone. The receptor acts as a signal to the released hormone. The hormone binds to its receptor on the target cells, thus causing a biological response.
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of this article is to establish the effect of hormones on our mental health. Mood is a vital part of our mental health. Several hormones affect and intertwine with mood.
Progesterone. Progesterone hormone stimulates our GABA receptors. GABA neurotransmitters are a set of neurotransmitters in the body which help us feel calm. Less progesterone leads to higher levels of anxiety and higher chances of brain fog and insomnia.
Insulin. Insulin hormone regulates blood sugar levels in the body. Insulin signals the storage of blood sugar and releases it into the bloodstream. Excess insulin levels in the bloodstream lead to brain inflammation, which causes mood problems.
Cortisol. Cortisol hormone is the primary stress hormone, thus commonly referred to as the stress hormone. It increases blood sugar level, enhances your brain utilization of glucose, and increases the accessibility of materials that repair tissues.
Cortisol is also essential for reflexes such as fight or flight. Most cells in the body have cortisol receptors. The more cortisol moves around the body, the higher the anxiety and stress levels. Cortisol hinders other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, GABA, and serotonin, which are vital in mood regulation. Thus, high cortisol levels affect mood negatively.
Testosterone. Testosterone is mainly a male sex hormone made in the testicles. Both males and females produce testosterone, however, males produce a higher amount. Less testosterone released leads to increased anxiety levels. Having adequate testosterone levels leads to pleasurable moods and increased motivation.
Estrogen. Estrogen is one of the primary female sex hormones. The hormone is also known as estrogen. Both males and females have estrogen, but it plays a more significant part in women.
Estrogen primarily affects female emotions and mental health. For example, if we have high estrogen levels, we tend to be highly irritable and have higher anxiety levels. On the flip side, low estrogen levels cause low and tearful moods.
Triiodothyronine and thyroxine. Thyroid hormones work as a group and affect all the cells and organs of the body. Thyroid hormones also affect body temperature, energy, and metabolism. A hyperactive thyroid leads to a tense and stressful mood, while an underworking thyroid affects concentration, causes fatigue, and affects our mood negatively in general.
How does sleep affect mood?
To explain the relationship between sleep and mood, we need to understand the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is responsible for managing our sleep, wake time, thinking, metabolism, and other roles. The circadian rhythm responds to signals that help manage its roles. These signals can be light and/or physical activities.
In relation to sleep, the pineal gland senses when it is dark and releases melatonin. Melatonin hormone is responsible for making us sleepy. When it gets lighter, the pineal gland senses the change, and melatonin production is stopped, thus making us feel awake.
Sleep has an immense impact on our mood. Less sleep causes bad moods, high anxiety levels, and increased irritability. Lastly, sleep deprivation suppresses growth hormone production. Prolonged sleep disturbances can be the cause of growth hormone deficiency in adults. This may lead you to a doctor where you will be prescribed growth replacement therapy. And the average cost of HGH therapy is about $1000 per month, so get enough sleep to save you that amount.
There is another hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle known as adenosine. Adenosine hormone is the opposite of the melatonin hormone. Adenosine is released in large amounts when we are awake and fewer amounts when asleep. Adenosine slows down the activity of nerve cells by binding with our cell receptors, this causes drowsiness. Therefore, the more adenosine levels you have in the bloodstream, the drowsier you will be.
There is an unsteady production of hormones during puberty, leading to fluctuating moods and anxiety levels in some individuals. Studies show that estrogen is linked to depression. Thus, females tend to go through more psychological challenges.
During puberty, we go through physical changes. Our mental health may be interfered with as we try to cope with the physical changes. Most individuals struggle with self-consciousness and self-esteem during this stage.
As we grow older, there is a decrease in progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. Usually, it begins to decrease at the age of 35. As mentioned earlier, lower progesterone leads to higher cortisol levels, leading to anxiety, brain fog, and insomnia. Around the mid-40s, there is a decrease in melatonin, the sleep hormone, leading to sleeping problems.
Menopause is also a significant stage in aging that affects our mental health. During menopause, progesterone and estrogen levels drop, leading to low mood and high irritability. Menopause has also been found to affect sleep, thus causing fatigue and anxiety.
Hormones affect our physical health since they play a role in biological processes within our bodies. Therefore, inadequate or excess production of hormones might lead to physical health problems. Physical health problems directly impact our mental health. For example, when we experience challenges such as infertility and terminal illness, we tend to be in a low mood, become stressed, depressed, and experience high anxiety levels.
Hormones are vital in many processes within our bodies, including our mental health. Different levels of hormones affect anxiety levels, stress levels, and mood. Knowledge of how hormones affect mental health is essential in helping manage mental health. For example, people with sleeping problems can regulate the light to enhance melatonin production and take melatonin supplements if the problem persists.