Renowned women’s health and hormone expert Marla Ahlgrimm answers common questions about mood swings, depression, and other mental health issues related to cyclic hormone changes.
Q: Is it true that many young ladies experience their first exposure to mental health issues at the onset of puberty?
Marla Ahlgrimm: A vast majority of girls first experience the mood-changing impact of hormones when their bodies begin to mature. In fact, for some of the most severely affected, puberty is an uncertain and constant state of emotional ups and downs. Moodiness, anxiety, depression, and irritability are all common during puberty.
Q: Why do monthly hormone changes bother some women more than others?
Marla Ahlgrimm: There is no definitive answer to this question. All women’s bodies are different and react differently to their unique hormone fluctuations. I have known women who go through their cycle with very few symptoms and others who have struggled with debilitating physical and emotional issues. Some women experience what is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is triggered by hormone shifts and can cause severe depression up to and including suicidal thoughts.
Q: How does postpartum depression affect a woman’s ability to care for her young infant?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Having a baby is a stressful time made even more difficult for some women who are severely affected by hormones swings. While the “baby blues” are not uncommon, postpartum depression may dampen a woman’s spirits to the point where she has trouble bonding with her baby and acclimating to a new lifestyle. These women need as much emotional and physical support as possible in order to truly enjoy and embrace motherhood.
Q: Aside from sex hormones, are there any other hormonal imbalances that may provoke emotional disturbances?
Marla Ahlgrimm: There are a number of things that can go wrong within the endocrine system that can lead to mood swings and other psychological symptoms. Hyperthyroidism, for example, can cause anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. The adrenal system is also linked to mental health.