While there are countless things that can cause you to feel "off," if you've been experiencing subtle mental and emotional changes, it could be a sign your
hormones are imbalanced and need to be checked out. "Hormones are produced by specialized cells that regulate nearly every biological process in the body," Dr. Laurence Orbuch, MD, FACOG, tells Bustle. "Neurotransmitters regulate the release of hormones, and if there is an imbalance in the equilibrium between them, the impact can be significant to one's mood and mental state."
That's why, if you haven't been feeling like yourself, it may mean
a hormonal imbalance is to blame. And this is especially true if you've noticed other subtle — or not so subtle — changes. Physical manifestations of a hormonal imbalance, for example, can include changes in your menstrual cycle, sensitivity to heat or cold, dry skin, rashes, and even changes in bowel or bladder habits, Dr. Orbuch says.
Your hormones play a major role, including impacting
how you feel emotionally and mentally. If you notice anything out of the ordinary point it out to your doctor ASAP, so they can help you get back on track. Here are some possible changes you might notice if your hormones are imbalanced, according to experts.
"If you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, it could be that your estrogen levels are too low,"
functional practitioner Dr. Mariza Snyder, tells Bustle. "Your estrogen levels normally fluctuate during your cycle, but sometimes they can drop too low, which can really mess with your body."
But that won't be the only side effect you notice, if estrogen is low. "When your estrogen levels are too low your brain’s natural serotonin production suffers leading to depressed and anxious mood, insomnia, [and] fatigue," Dr. Snyder says. If you notice any of these changes, let your doctor know.
"While estrogen is important for maintaining healthy emotional balance, progesterone is equally important for maintaining your hormonal equilibrium," Dr. Snyder says. And that's why an imbalance here can lead to feelings of depression, as well as anxiety.
"Progesterone is a calming hormone, and it has antidepressant-like effects," Dr. Snyder says. "It also helps to regulate your estrogen levels. Without the proper balance between estrogen and progesterone, you can experience a range of mood disorders."
Of course, there are a multitude of reasons why you might be feeling anxious. Going to
therapy can be a big help for general anxiety, as can seeing your doctor in order to figure out if your hormone levels are a factor.
"Chronic stress [...] is a major factor in
elevating cortisol levels," Dr. Snyder says. "Your other hormones suffer because of it, leading to imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormones, which then lead to dropping levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that keep your mood balanced."
If your body is constantly being flooded with cortisol, which comes from your adrenal glands, it can eventually
lead to irritability as well as symptoms of fatigue and difficulty concentrating — among other issues. Finding ways to cope with the ups and downs of life can make a difference, which might include seeing a therapist.
Now, if something is amiss with your thyroid, you may feel a whole host of vague but annoying symptoms, including brain fog. "[The thyroid]
controls your metabolism, helps regulate your blood sugar, and helps control the release of stress hormones, among other things," Dr. Snyder says. "When you have a deficiency of thyroid hormones your neurotransmitters can be affected, leading to depression, anxiety, and brain fog."
If you have an overactive thyroid, on the other hand — otherwise known as
hyperthyroidism — it can lead to insomnia, mood swings, depression, and even panic attacks, Dr. Orbuch says.
"Some women have even been mistakenly misdiagnosed as having panic disorder [...] before being properly diagnosed with an overactive thyroid," he says. While it's always possible that your symptoms are stemming from
generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, imbalanced hormones may be playing a role, as well.
If your estrogen is too low, you might notice that you've been feeling overwhelmed, or even as if you need to spend more time alone than usual. So if you've been blowing off your friends, and it seems out of character, take note.
"This hormone is vital for balance," hormone expert
Nisha Jackson, PhD, MS, WHCNP, HHP, tells Bustle. It improves mood and gives you a sense of energy and vitality.
It also "stimulates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain (such as serotonin)," Dr. Jackson says, "reducing depression, anxiety, and pain." If you don't have enough estrogen, you
just won't feel like yourself.
Have you been feeling extra stressed? Or as if you can't handle what life throws your way? According to Dr. Jackson, this could be a
sign of low testosterone, which can also come along with feelings of fatigue and impaired concentration.
If you have
too much testosterone, though, other symptoms can take over. As Dr. Jackson says, these might include unexplained moments of anger, irritability, depression, and mood swings.
If you notice any of these mental or emotional changes, let a doctor know. From lifestyle changes, to medical treatments from an expert, there are things you can do to
balance out your hormones, and feel better again.