Is it Depression or a Hormonal Imbalance? Is Menopause to Blame?

I believe Oprah touched on this, but I was left confused – how am I suppose to know if I am depressed or if it is my hormones?  I certainly don’t feel cheery and I know I’ve been down lately, but it comes with hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and other frustrating menopause symptoms.  I don’t want to take an unnecessary anti-depressant if the main cause is my hormones, but I also don’t want to delude myself into thinking I’m fine and make it worse.  If you could provide any tips to clarify the distinction it would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Jackie H.


That’s a great question – we’re happy to try and clear the muddy water, but remember that we can only talk in general terms and this is a very individual condition.  Testing your hormone levels, which judging by your other symptoms are likely off and getting balanced would go a long way to clearing that question up, but there are some indications.

First, understand that hormonally triggered depression is still that, depression, but that anti-depressants may not be necessary – dependent upon how you feel.  Hormonally triggered depression as we refer to it is depression that is caused mainly by stress and the other symptoms of menopause; it is a frustrating time in a woman’s life when left untreated and can have serious ramifications on your health and happiness.

Beyond frustration of symptoms and stress, imbalanced hormones put you in a condition to easily acquire depression.  It’s not a weakness, it’s an illness – it can feel like your body is the enemy.  Here’s how the different hormones come into play.

  • Low levels of estrogen decrease serotonin which normally helps to fend off depression and encourage healthy sleep. Additionally, diminished levels reduce GABA production; a neurotransmitter that works to calm you and increase endorphins to keep you happy.
  • Low progesterone prevents your body from balancing the estrogen. Proper progesterone levels have a normal calming or natural anti-depressant effect and are vital for libido or sex drive.
  • Low or high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, also cause havoc, as further elaborated below.

So you have to ask yourself when the depression started.  If it coincides with the symptoms and you felt relatively happy before menopause or perimenopause, then it is not unlikely that a hormonal imbalance is to blame and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can help.  But if it is situational depression, triggered by some other events in your life and it is simply exacerbated by your new hormonal change, then hormone replacement cannot guarantee the lifting of said depression.

Another option is adrenal fatigue brought on by stress.  If your adrenal glands are shot from chronic stress and your body is not receiving the cortisol levels it needs to manage daily stress, then a sort of depression is not unlikely.  This can also be helped by natural bioidentical hormone therapy, proper fitness and nutrition and with stress management techniques – all part of the BodyLogicMD program.

Take a minute to watch this video of Dr. Constance Crisp of BodyLogicMD Little Rock as she explains the symptoms of depression and how it can be triggered by a hormonal imbalance.

So before rushing to anti-depressants, evaluate whether it may be caused by a hormonal imbalance; natural bioidentical hormone therapy can help.

We hope this has helped Jackie.  Thanks again for your question.  We wish you good health!

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