Many things can impact anxiety, especially in women. Often, it’s the environment or circumstances. Sometimes, however, hormones can affect anxiety. Understanding how women’s hormones can impact your anxious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can make a big difference in getting to the root cause of your anxiety. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the connection.
Dealing With Hormonal Shifts
Women tend to go through more hormonal changes than men. Some of the specific hormones that have been linked to anxiety include estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. Women can experience an influx of these hormones during things like PMS, pregnancy or postpartum, and menopause.
During these times of hormonal shifts, women can be more likely to experience feelings of anxiety. Something as simple as a drop in estrogen at the end of a menstrual cycle can contribute to anxiety and other mood changes that can elicit worry and fear.
Lower Testosterone Levels
Women have some testosterone, but not as much as men. When testosterone levels in women decrease, it can lead to a rise in cortisol production. Cortisol is often known as the stress hormone. Your body produces more of it as a response to fear, whether it’s a legitimately fearful situation or not. Cortisol production isn’t bad when there is a legitimate threat. However, if it’s only a perceived threat causing the production and there’s nothing you can do to eliminate that threat, you’re left feeling uneasy and anxious.
The hormones released into your body can make you feel anxious, to begin with. However, since those hormones are designed to help you in times of distress, the increased levels in your body can make you even more anxious. The combination of increased cortisol and reduced testosterone works as a “vicious cycle” for women, boosting feelings of anxiety over and over again.
What Can You Do?
Obviously, you can’t control the changes that happen to your body throughout your life. They are natural and necessary for a woman. However, making a few healthy behavioral changes can significantly affect how much these hormonal shifts impact your mental well-being. Many times, simple self-care habits can help to regulate your hormones and help with anxiety. Things like prioritizing a healthy sleep schedule, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy diet can all be beneficial. Meditation and mindfulness practices can also help to reduce stress and make it easier to combat negative, anxious thoughts.
You should also focus on increasing the production of oxytocin in your body. It’s a helpful hormone that actually reduces the effects of anxiety. Thankfully, the best way to release oxytocin is to be in close contact with friends and loved ones. Spend more time with people you care about. Cuddle with your pet. Hug someone you really love. These simple actions go a long way in boosting oxytocin and reducing stress.
Getting the Help You Need
There’s not much you can do on your own to change the way your hormones work, but practicing self-care and committing yourself to a healthy lifestyle can help to balance them. Often, making some simple behavioral changes can make a big difference in managing your anxiety. Daily exercise, eating a nutritious diet, and prioritizing sleep are fantastic ways to balance your hormones and combat anxiety. If those things aren’t working, consider reaching out for help.
As a woman, it’s important to be careful when trying to regulate your hormones in any way. Talking with your healthcare professional or a mental health specialist can help you determine if therapy can help with your anxiety or if greater medical steps need to be taken to balance your hormones.
If it feels like anxiety has started to take control of your life, it’s never too early or too late to get the help you deserve. Feel free to contact me for more information.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.