The Effects of Estrogen Deficiencies on Mental Health in Women
by Christian Ziegert
Women deal with a delicate balance of hormones in their bodies on a daily basis. From a young age when they reach puberty, and throughout most of their lives, a fragile balance of hormones exists within a woman’s body – one that can potentially wreak havoc on her once again when she reaches menopause. One hormone that plays a key role in a woman’s health – and mental health especially – is estrogen.
We have all heard about how difficult it is for women going through menopause and other situations that cause estrogen deficiencies. But what exactly are they going through? Good question. Let’s talk about the effects of estrogen deficiencies and how women can suffer when they are experiencing a hormone imbalance.
Let’s start with a brief introduction as to what these hormones are doing in the first
place, and why we need them. In short, hormones serve as messengers in the
body. They travel through the blood stream and serve to start, speed up, stop, and
slow down the body’s chemical and physical functions and processes across all the
The ovaries, in particular, are the body’s source of progesterone and estrogen.
These are the two primary hormones that work in a woman’s reproductive system
and control its functions, including her menstrual cycle and fertility. Eggs are
found in follicles within the ovaries, and a woman is born with all of the eggs that
she will ever have.
However, when menopause comes around, the number of ovarian follicles
declines. The ovaries then become less responsive to two other hormones that
work in the reproductive system, which are Luteinizing Hormone and
As a woman’s ovaries age, they release fewer hormones that are unable to perform their typical functions – including regulation of testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen. These changes in hormones are inevitable, but the natural decline of a woman’s estrogen levels during menopause can significantly affect a woman’s health for many years.
When it comes to hormones, the most important thing is for them to be “balanced” for a person to feel like themselves. Too much or too little of one thing in relation to the other hormones can have significant effects. Let’s focus on how one key player – estrogen – can affect a woman’s body if there isn’t enough of it, whether from menopause, a natural occurrence in the body, or any other condition.
Low levels of estrogen in the body can throw anyone “off track,” leaving them feeling just not like themselves. It’s good to note that estrogen is a hormone that can be found in men and women alike, although women have it in higher amounts than men. This is because of the hormone’s essential role in reproduction cycles and menstruation.
Estrogen also has many other additional functions in a woman’s life. This includes everything from preventing the growth of hair on their chest, the development of breasts, to the ability to conceive a child. A deficiency of estrogen, often experienced by post-menopausal woman, leaves them feeling everything from mood swings to hot flashes and everything in between.
Estrogen brings about antidepressant effects on the brain’s receptors and neurotransmitters, resulting in feel-good emotions. Estrogen also enhances the activity of serotonin and norepinephrine, improving and stabilizing moods as well as giving a person a sense of well-being.
Considering all the good that estrogen does for your body, it is easy to imagine what would happen in its absence. Lowered levels of estrogen result in the opposite effect, including sadness, dismal moods, and listlessness.
An imbalance of estrogen has been linked to anxiety in women. If the decreased estrogen levels are brought about by menopause, physical symptoms often include hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, and more. Women also often lose their sense of well-being when their estrogen levels are low. If these conditions persevere long-term, they can often lead to states of anxiety or worry, and some women even experience panic attacks.
Remember that sense of well-being mentioned earlier that comes with having estrogen in your body? Well, the absence of the hormone does just the opposite. As a result, women with low estrogen levels often experience low self-esteem. A decrease of estrogen in the body can also result in low levels of the enzyme monoamine oxidase, resulting in the damage of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters often provide chemicals, such as norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, that aid in good moods and positive behavior. These chemicals all help to regulate behaviors, emotions, and moods, so when their levels fluctuate, human responses, feelings, and attitudes do as well.
For women going through menopause, this can be extremely difficult, as they are left to face the loss of their childbearing years and the threat of aging on top of the physical symptoms that come with menopause. In these cases, the results can be a detrimental effect on a woman’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
As you can see, hormones do a lot to keep women’s bodies in check and prevent them feeling like themselves. When things, for whatever reason, start to get out of whack, it can leave women feeling lost and confused – wondering whether it’s themselves or simply a result of hormone imbalances. Because estrogen does so many good things for the body, without it women often are losing something they never knew they had.
If a woman is experiencing the above symptoms, it’s best for her to contact her physician. In addition, there are hormone home testing kits available online.