Considering the links between hormones and anxiety during a recent interview for a Bustle article brought me (almost immediately) back to my teenage days. I couldn’t help but recall the overwhelming feeling of stress that would accompany challenging emotional urges. Of course, as a teenager, my body was producing higher levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone than ever before. While exact relationships between hormones and anxiety have not been identified, professionals in the medical field largely agree that the two are related.
Hormones and anxiety
We know that estrogen levels can affect both anxiety and depression. The exact science behind this is more of a mystery, but it’s clear that estrogen plays a part. Interestingly, stress impacts hormones as well. You might say that the two have a sibling-like relationship where one eggs the other on, and vice versa. Chronic stress affects both adrenaline and cortisol, which can in turn throw the entire endocrine (hormonal) system out of whack. Estrogen-driven anxiety will manifest itself during times of estrogen surges and dips — around your cycle, postpartum, menopause, and so on.
Signs your anxiety is hormone-related
By tracking your menstrual cycle (online apps can help), you’ll be able to monitor whether your changes in stress and anxiety have a connection to menstruation. You can use this same tracking for calendaring out those days you might feel your highest levels of anxiety and see if you can establish a correlation. Then take the information to your healthcare provider for advice.
Is there help?
While we know that estrogen levels play a role in anxiety, we don’t know precisely how they do so — is there too much or too little? That’s why it’s essential to talk with your healthcare provider about changes in anxiety levels or any other emotions that negatively impact your life. We should never shy away from speaking about anxiety or other emotions that impact our lives. Please know that there are solutions.
Another, often overlooked strategy (one I try to teach my children) is emotional resilience. This means working toward becoming more aware of ourselves and how we react in difficult or unexpected situations. By focusing on strengthening resilience through practices like patience, empathy, critical thinking and problem-solving, you’re better able to manage any anxiety impact from hormonal (estrogen and other) changes.
Whether you’re going through puberty, a gender transition, your monthly cycle, menopause or any other hormone surge or dip, understand that you’re not alone. Speak with your healthcare provider about your experiences and consider taking steps to strengthen your emotional resilience.
Meet Dr. Savita Ginde
Dr. Savita Ginde is an advocate and thought leader for reproductive health and served as Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains for over 13 years. And, until very recently, she served as the Chief Healthcare Officer for STRIDE Community Health Center where she oversaw all of STRIDE’s healthcare services and led their COVID-19 vaccination efforts.