Mental Health and hormones have a significant relation. Let’s explore this relationship.
Hormones are chemicals in our body which act as messengers, and are released by different types of glands such as pituitary gland, pineal gland, testes and ovaries into the bloodstream, where these hormones are carried to organs & tissues where they perform their functions.
Types of Hormones
Different glands produce different hormones which are responsible for different kinds of roles. Some of the hormones in our body are:-
1. Melatonin- Melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycle. It is blocked by the sun, and hence more melatonin is produced at night by the pineal gland, making us feel sleepy.
2. Serotonin- The mood stabiliser, it helps in regulating bodily functions such as digestion, appetite, sleep, and mood. Lower levels of serotonin are often one of the causes of depression.
3. Endorphins- The pain relievers, they kick in to reduce pain when your body is in stress, helping you maintain the pain. When you exercise, endorphins are released, making you feel good and motivating you to continue the activity.
4. Dopamine- The feel good hormone, it is associated with pleasurable sensations and cognitive and motor system functioning, and helps in the brain’s reward system.
5. Oxytocin- The love hormone, it has an important role in childbirth, parent-child relationship, interpersonal connections and helps in promoting feelings of trust, empathy, love and kindness.
6. Cortisol- The stress hormone, it is released by our body when we are under stress to help us cope with the immediate needs presented by the stressor in the environment. However, prolonged exposure to stress means increased and sustained cortisol production, which leads to a variety of mental health problems.
Roles of Hormones
Hormones perform a number of roles in our body, and it only takes a small amount to be released in the bloodstream to bring about major changes.
Some of the roles performed by hormones in our body are:-
- Growth & development
- Maintenance of reproductive health and growth, helping in sexual functioning
- Body temperature regulation
- Cognitive functioning and mood regulation
- Digestion, thirst and metabolism
Hormones & Mental Health
Hormones are essential for having a proper functioning mental health. Hormonal imbalance is a major cause of many mental health disorders such as depression & anxiety.
For example, people with endocrine disorder have also been observed to be prone to poor mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, lethargy, confusion etc.
In cases of people who have thyroid imbalances, which is a hormone secreting gland, it may be possible that an overactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism, can cause aggressive behaviour along with irritability and restlessness in the person.
Lack of serotonin has been linked to Clinical depression by a number of studies. The development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) draws upon the importance of the serotonergic system with regard to the treatment of mental disorders. SSRIs essentially balance out the imbalance in serotonin levels in our body, which has been proven to be an effective treatment method for Clinical Depression.
Dopamine, which is often called the feel good hormone, is a neurotransmitter which motivates us to achieve our goals and is involved in pleasurable activities. Low levels of dopamine cause us to be moody, irritable and result in low levels of motivation, which can have an adverse effect on our academic, professional, and social lives. This neurotransmitter conveys messages from nerve cells to the brain, interruption in this has been linked to depression, anxiety and substance dependency. Since most addictive substances initiate a rush of dopamine in our brain, it gets easy to start depending on these substances for another dopamine rush, which is basically a rush of feeling good. Hence disruption of dopamine levels in the brain can adversely impact one’s mental health.
Mental health and hormones are inextricably linked together, wherein hormones bring about a biological basis to understand the cause of various mental disorders. Excess or lack of these hormones are primary causes of many mental and physical health conditions and hence one should pay due importance to these chemicals in order to have a healthy mind and body.
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Lin, S.-H., Lee, L.-T., & Yang, Y. K. (2014, December). Serotonin and mental disorders: A concise review on molecular neuroimaging evidence. Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience : the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4293164/
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