Depression is a life-impacting condition that all too frequently is misdiagnosed or disregarded. Unfortunately, it is shockingly prevalent in our society impacting over 19 million Americans annually, and over 350 million worldwide. To treat depression, we must better understand it and its various contributors.
No matter the age, race, gender, or social standing, one can experience depression. Too many people who have depression have had friends, loved-ones, and strangers tell them to simply “get over it” or “it will pass, just give it time.” Unfortunately, depression cannot simply be willed away.
Symptoms of depression manifest themselves in numerous ways including discomfort, mental fatigue, and emotional abnormalities. If you or anyone you know is experiencing some or all the following symptoms, it is critical that you seek appropriate medical assistance.
- Feeling sad or lonely
- Lost interest in hobbies
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced libido and disinterest in sex
- Difficulty concentrating
- Pain including muscle aches, joint pain, and weakness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Those who are depressed often experience hopelessness, a disinterest in what was once interesting, a general lack of motivation, and many other debilitating symptoms. Associated difficulties of depression can make daily activities including work, school, or even social interaction challenging. This condition has many possible causal factors, including hormonal imbalance and malfunction.
Causes of Depression
Depression is a multifactorial condition that can develop from a variety of difficult to diagnose conditions. The following factors can contribute to depression:
- Low thyroid in the brain
- Malfunctioning mitochondria
- Stress level
- Various prescription medications
- Chronic conditions
In addition to the elements above, hormonal dysfunction, imbalances, and deficiency are all major factors in developing depression. Hormones are powerful tools that are integral to one’s overall bodily function. They also play an important role in mood regulation and mental well-being. Because of their significant impact on the body, one should attempt to keep their hormones optimized. The following hormone groups are critical to one’s health and if properly cared for can help alleviate depression.
Thyroid dysfunction is closely associated with depression. Both hypothyroidism, underactive thyroid, and hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid, can result in insomnia, mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Unfortunately, these conditions frequently go unnoticed and therefore untreated. This is likely due to ineffective testing standards. Most physicians rely solely on TSH levels to gauge thyroid function, which provides an incomplete image of one’s thyroid health. Accurate measurement of thyroid function can only be achieved through testing multiple aspects of the thyroid including Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies.
Hypothyroid patients who experience depression frequently have poor T4 to T3 conversion. As the storage form of thyroid hormone, T4 must be converted into T3, the active form of thyroid hormone, to effectively impact the body. Optimizing this conversion may assist in resolving both hypothyroidism and depression. Recent studies have found that T3 may increase the efficacy of antidepressants and even improve depression symptoms on its own.
The primary sex hormones consist of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. Deficiency, excess, or imbalance of these hormones can bring severe symptoms and psychological difficulties. Even though testosterone and estrogen are respectively referred to as the male and female sex hormones, they can cause depression if either sex has a deficiency or imbalance. Testosterone deficiency is closely correlated to depression, irritability, and poor sense of well-being.
Overabundance of estrogen, also known as estrogen dominance, in men can cause one to experience mood swings, depression, and further hormone imbalances. Women more frequently experience estrogen dominance due to hormonal fluctuations during menstruation. Increased estrogen levels are a primary contributor to severe PMS symptoms including depression.
When we experience sensations of intimacy and closeness, particularly with partners, oxytocin is likely the cause. Decreased levels of this hormone can cause one to experience depressive episodes and shifts in mood. Studies have found that new mothers with reduced oxytocin levels are more prone to experience postpartum depression after childbirth. Supplementation and treatment with oxytocin has shown to promote self-esteem, optimism, confidence, and improve social interaction. Further studies have presented data that shows oxytocin helps relieve pain that contributes to depression. This hormone is often administered through injection or nasal spray and may prove to be an effective method of treating depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The adrenals are the primary system involved in the body’s stress response. The three hormones most important to the adrenals are adrenaline, cortisol, and the precursor hormone, DHEA. Imbalance or deficiency of these hormones can result in anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Disruption of these hormones can be caused by a condition known as adrenal fatigue. As one experiences increasing levels of stress, or chronic stress, the body continues to produce and releases stress hormones like cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol can cause one to feel jittery yet fatigued. Furthermore, elevated cortisol levels effectively drain the adrenal glands, meaning that they are unable to properly recover. Eventually the adrenals become incapable of maintaining adequate levels of adrenal hormones, resulting in anxiety, insomnia, difficulty handling stress, and depression.
Dealing with Depression
Depression has many possible contributors and causes with hormone dysfunction being a significant one. It is critical that depression is respected as a true medical condition deserving of appropriate care. Frequently, depression is recognized by those experiencing it through the many infamous symptoms associated with it. Even if a person correctly diagnoses their condition, it is important that they seek out the assistance of a physician to rule out the presence of any underlying conditions such as thyroid dysfunction or hormonal imbalances. Common conditions such as thyroid disorders, adrenal fatigue, chronic infections, diabetes, obesity, and sleep disorders can wreak havoc on hormone function and have significant influence over the occurrence of depression.