How Hormones Play a Role in Social Anxiety

What a change in hormones can do for women’s health

How Hormones Play a Role in Social Anxiety

Hormone dysregulation can complicate issues anxiety and depression

When dealing with mental health issues anxiety and depression, it’s easy to overlook hormone dysregulation—but balanced hormones are vital not only for a healthy body, but also for a healthy mind. Hormones, or chemicals made in glands of the endocrine system, are regulators of many bodily processes. They help to control metabolism, mood, reproductive function, and sexual health. 

Hormone dysregulation occurs when too much or not enough of a hormone is released by the endocrine system. In women, hormonal imbalances can cause or worsen symptoms insomnia, mood fluctuations, anxiety, or depression. Because female hormone levels and fluctuations are complex, it’s important to be aware of how hormones and mental health are connected.  

How hormone dysregulation affects women’s mental health

Hormones have a powerful effect on women’s brain chemistry, mental health, and mood, says Darren Salinger, MD, the chief of Obstetrics/Gynecology for KIDZ Medical Services in Miami-Dade. “Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all have important roles in women’s health and emotions,” he says. These hormones, when balance, can contribute to or worsen existing mental health issues.

Reproductive hormones and stress hormones can also cause mental health symptoms. “Drops in estrogen and progesterone can make us irritable and anxious,” says Gillian Goddard, MD, NY-based endocrinologist. “The stress hormone cortisol can cause anxiety and depression that can be severe if left unaddressed.” 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, continuous stress can result in a wide array of health issues, including mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression. “When stress occurs,” Dr.

Salinger says, “it can raise cortisol and DHEA, which leads to a spike in blood sugar and insulin. This in turn can lead to lower serotonin, which provides the calm, feel-good brain neurotransmitter.

Ultimately, this sequence causes many kinds of psychological issues.”

Hormonal imbalances of the thyroid can also be problematic when it comes to mental health.

“Both an underactive and overactive thyroid can cause anxiety, although the quality of the anxiety can be different,” Dr. Goddard says.

“An underactive thyroid tends to worsen underlying anxiety [and] can also cause depression, [while] an overactive thyroid can cause jittery anxiety similar to drinking too much caffeine.”

Common symptoms of hormone dysregulation

Hormonal dysregulation can lead to emotional problems, says Dr. Salinger. Unfortunately, it also works the other way around. “Hormone imbalance can lead to stress, and stress can lead to hormone imbalance,” he says.

In those with underlying depression or anxiety, hormonal dysregulation can worsen emotional issues irritability, depression and anxiety, Dr. Goddard says.

Symptoms of hormone dysregulation can include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances (fatigue and insomnia)
  • Changes in weight (gain or loss)
  • Muscle aches, stiffness, or weakness
  • Memory loss 
  • Brain fog
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Temperature intolerance

Health conditions caused by hormonal imbalances  

Though thyroid hormone and cortisol imbalances affect men and women similarly, the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause mental health changes that are unique to women. 

“For some women, the regular fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone associated with our menstrual cycles can cause extreme changes in mood called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD),” Dr. Goddard says.

“The more extreme changes in hormone levels after giving birth or during menopause can lead to a lot of sudden changes in mood that can be quite disconcerting, and for some women can cause depression and/or anxiety.

Common hormonal health conditions include: 

Causes of hormonal imbalances

Lifestyle factors such as poor sleep, poor eating habits, not getting enough exercise, or existing medical conditions can lead to chronic stress, which can result in hormone imbalances that contribute to mental health issues. 

Thyroid imbalances may occur during periods of hormonal fluctuations such as menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. Estrogen levels rise during a routine menstrual cycle,  drop a lot after ovulation, and rise again. 

“These shifts can lead to mood changes, eating changes, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and for some people even depression,” Dr. Salinger says. “These chronic stressors can lead to thyroid dysfunction.” 

Elevations in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels during pregnancy can cause hormone imbalances leading to thyroid dysfunction. “About 5% of people during pregnancy have thyroid dysfunction,” Dr. Salinger says, who adds that it can take three to four months for levels to return to normal.

Postpartum thyroiditis, which is the inflammation of the thyroid after giving birth, affects 5% to 10% of people, according to The American Thyroid Association. This condition can be mistaken for postpartum blues or depression because it causes depressed mood and fatigue. 

Menopause is also a period of many hormonal changes. “The ovaries still produce hormones, but the levels may be 50% of baseline, causing symptoms of hormone imbalance leading to stress which can affect the thyroid,” says Dr. Salinger. 

During all of these periods of greater hormonal fluctuation, it’s possible to see an increase in mental health symptoms.

Hormonal dysregulation can be treated with a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.


The following medical treatments may be useful in treating hormonal dysregulation: 

  • The diabetes medication Metformin regulates insulin and sugar, which may cause many mental health concerns when balance.
  • The thyroid medication levothyroxine can help to regulate thyroid function in cases of underactive thyroid.
  • Hormone replacement therapy is considered when a hormonal imbalance is causing concerns with mental health. “Hormones may be replaced with what are termed bio-identical formulations for estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone,” Dr. Salinger says.
  • Estrogen and progesterone can be prescribed individually or together to help regulate mood. “For many people, a low dose birth control pill that contains both hormones will improve mental health even into menopause,” Dr. Salinger says. “There are other hormone replacement formulations for menopausal treatment.”
  • Methimazole, a medication that blocks the release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid, is used in cases of hyperthyroidism.

Lifestyle changes 

The following lifestyle factors may improve hormone levels

  • A healthy diet that both limits sugar and refined carbohydrates and includes sufficient protein and foods high in omega-3 fatty acid ( salmon) may help to regulate hormone levels, says Dr. Salinger, who also recommends drinking decaffeinated green tea and plenty of water. 
  • Get plenty of regular exercise. 
  • Practice stress reduction techniques such as meditation.
  • The supplement inositol, occurring naturally in cantaloupes, citrus fruits, and legumes, may be helpful in improving symptoms.

If non-medicine therapies are insufficient in controlling symptoms, providers such as endocrinologists and obstetricians/gynecologists, internal medicine, or family practitioners should be consulted to develop a treatment plan.


Hormones and Anxiety

How Hormones Play a Role in Social Anxiety

For many adults, anxious feelings can turn up at any corner. It can be caused by excess caffeine, local or global events, or even an ex-partner. So, it shouldn’t be too hard to believe that anxiety is a possible symptom of certain hormone imbalances.

Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers that send signals to different parts of your body.

They’re responsible for regulating many different processes growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction, and mood.

If your hormones become imbalanced (meaning your levels are too high or too low), they can interfere with a variety of your body’s normal processes—causing a variety of complications, including anxiety.

While there could be a number of reasons why a person experiences anxiety, symptoms unrelated to trauma, loss, a major life event, or a mental health condition may be attributed to a hormonal imbalance. Read on or skip to our infographic as we go into more detail on the relationship between hormones and anxiety, and provide tips that can help manage or relieve these feelings.

Can A Hormonal Imbalance Cause Anxiety?

While anxiety is commonly seen in individuals with certain hormone imbalances and vice versa, it can be hard to know which came first, or if one is contributing to the other. Both sexes can suffer from a hormonal imbalance; however, there are significantly more females than males that are affected, putting females at a greater risk of hormone-related anxiety.

Why? Women may have a higher risk for developing anxiety disorders during different phases of their reproductive lives where hormones fluctuate drastically, such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause, and postmenopause.

Unfortunately, hormones and anxiety can be a bit of a chicken and an egg situation. It’s thought to be possible for hormonal imbalances to cause anxiety, and anxiety to cause a hormonal imbalance.

Hormones that May Impact Anxiety Levels, Mood, and Stress Response

A good step to take towards minimizing hormone-related anxiety is understanding some of the types of hormones that can affect your mood and response to stress. These hormones may include sex hormones, stress hormones, thyroid hormones, and oxytocin. While they each play pivotal roles in the functioning of your body’s processes, too much or too little could cause complications.

Sex Hormones

Fluctuating levels of estrogen and testosterone, which are considered sex hormones, may play a role in how much anxiety you experience. Changing levels in these hormones can affect your mood. This is why anxiety sometimes tends to peak during times of hormonal change such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

Estrogen affects mood. For females, estrogen levels are higher during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle (follicular phase) and can induce higher levels of serotonin—which is your “happiness hormone.

” However, during the luteal phase (last ~2 weeks of a 28-day cycle), estrogen levels dramatically drop if pregnancy has not occurred. This fluctuation is often accompanied by changes in mood or increased anxiety.

In fact, as many as 80% of reproductive-age women experience at least one physical, mood, or anxiety symptom during this part of their period.

In general, females tend to experience more anxiety than males. One hypothesis that may partially explain this observation is that low testosterone is linked to increased anxiety.

Testosterone, often called the male hormone, also exists in females—but in concentrations about 10 times lower. Clinical evidence suggests that testosterone has positive effects on anxiety and depression in both women and men.

However, the underlying mechanism of its protective effects is still poorly understood.

Women who are interested in finding out more about their estrogen and testosterone levels can take an at-home hormone level test and share the results with their healthcare provider to learn more.

Stress Hormones

The stress hormones, otherwise known and cortisol and adrenaline, are released in situations where you feel threatened or in danger. These stress hormones are released to initiate your fight-or-flight response to help you cope with the threat and get your body prepared to take action.

That said, if an event or experience triggers your stress hormones while you’re not actually in danger, let’s say while reading a stressful work email, you won’t use or release those hormones during a fight-or-flight response. This can cause excess levels of cortisol and adrenaline and can leave your body feeling anxious.

What’s more, an increase in stress hormones can cause your body to release even more stress hormones in response, which can leave your body stressed and anxious.

Thyroid Hormones

Thyroid hormones can affect your mood, and an imbalance can impact how you feel both physically and mentally. Feelings of anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and/or nervousness can be common symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). On the other end of the spectrum is an underactive thyroid, symptoms of which can include fatigue or feelings of depression.

What’s more, a recent study suggests that autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid could play a significant role in the development of anxiety disorders. The study examined 76 patients with anxiety disorder and found that 71 patients had an increase in blood flow to the thyroid gland, a sign of thyroid inflammation, linking abnormalities of the thyroid to their levels of anxiety.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, nervousness, or irritability, consider testing the levels of your thyroid hormones, and seeing a healthcare provider to discuss your results. They may recommend thyroid management medications or other methods to reduce or alleviate your symptoms.


Some hormones have a positive impact on anxiety and may help reduce it, oxytocin. Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone” as the brain emits this when hugging, cuddling, having sex, and even when a mother breastfeeds.

Oxytocin modulates anxiety, aggression, and the stress/fear response when one is introduced to different types of stimuli. Anxiety and emotional responsiveness to stress may be reduced during periods of high oxytocin activity in the body such as lactation and sexual activity.

4 Ways to Support Balanced Hormones and Reduce Anxiety

Hormones imbalances can feel an emotional rollercoaster. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to support balanced hormones to reduce feelings of hormone-related anxiety.

Exercise daily: Regular exercise is linked to a reduced risk of developing an anxiety disorder by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels and releasing endorphins.

Learn how to manage stress: We now know that stress can cause the production of more stress hormones, creating a vicious cycle. Relaxation techniques meditation and yoga have been shown to help some individuals manage their stress and anxiety levels.

Improve your diet: Research shows that filling your diet with fiber-rich foods, fermented foods, and omega-3s can reduce levels of stress/anxiety and potentially improve mental health.

Get enough sleep: Poor sleep has been linked to imbalances of many hormones. If you’re suffering from anxiety, take a look at your sleep routine and see where you might be able to make improvements.

If you suspect you may have a hormonal imbalance, consider testing your hormone levels. This can give you and your primary healthcare provide clarity on whether your anxiety is a symptom of a hormonal imbalance. Anxiety can be debilitating, so be sure to seek guidance from a mental health professional and/or call this national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Sources: Hormone Health Network | National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine | National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine | National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S.

National Library of Medicine | National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine | Harvard Health | Mayo Clinic | Endocrinology Network | National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S.

National Library of Medicine | Harvard Health | Mayo Clinic | Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences


What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

How Hormones Play a Role in Social Anxiety

Following depression and alcoholism, social anxiety disorder is the third most common mental disorder in the United States. It is an exhausting condition that affects the lives of millions of people and their loved ones.

According to the director of the Social Anxiety Institute, Thomas A. Richards, social anxiety is defined as the fear of looking bad in the eyes of other people. This fear can lead to to debilitating feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, as well as as an overwhelming self-consciousness that makes a person more vulnerable to embarrassment and humiliation.

The symptoms of social anxiety disorder include anticipatory anxiety, worry, indecision, depression, fear, embarrassment, feelings of inferiority, and self-blame. It can be diagnosed as a specific social anxiety or as a more generalized social anxiety.

Many people who suffer from social anxiety report feeling fear, anxiousness, and nervousness when speaking in front of groups of people, in crowds, or in social situations that require interaction with strangers or seldom-seen acquaintances. Often, a person who feels anxious in social situations prefers to be alone or only with close family members and friends.

What Are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety?

Those who experience significant social anxiety often suffer from emotional distress in situations that don’t faze most people. Those situations might include:

  • Meeting new people
  • Facing criticism or being teased
  • Finding yourself the center of attention or being observed while you are performing a task
  • Meeting authority figures or other “important people”
  • Being involved in social encounters, especially those that involve strangers
  • Having to speak in front of small or large groups or friendships

People with social anxiety disorder or those with an avoidant personality can suffer from symptoms and behaviors that include:

  • Intense fear of social situations
  • Racing heart
  • Turning red or blushing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dry throat or mouth
  • Trembling or tingling sensations
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Tense or twitching muscles
  • Shyness
  • Negative thoughts
  • Substance abuse

What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder?

There can be many causes for social anxiety disorder. many other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder ly arises from a complex interaction of biological and environmental factors.

Possible causes include genetics, a person’s individual brain structure, and the living or working environment. Numerous factors can contribute to the development of social anxiety disorder, including a family history of the disorder, a negative experience that reinforces the disorder, the natural temperament of the individual, and new demands from life or work.

Can Social Anxiety Be Caused by a Hormonal Imbalance?

Studies have shown that a hormonal imbalance can affect mental processing, disrupting natural reactions to stressors resulting in social anxiety and its intense symptoms of fear.

In humans, the peptide hormone oxytocin and the steroid hormone testosterone play a key role in the development and execution of social-emotional behavior, both in men and women. Depending on the social environment and its cues, these hormones act via (and interact with) neurotransmitters, the chemicals that send messages to various systems in the body and regulate how they react.

Oxytocin reduces background anxiety and appears to make social interaction more rewarding while testosterone makes it easier to enter into uncertain social situations or environments that cause social anxiety and fear in others.

To make matters more complicated, other hormones could contribute to and exacerbate social anxiety and the fear that comes with it. Adrenaline and cortisol, “stress hormones” that are released in situations where you feel control, full of fear, or overwhelmed, can increase your social anxiety.

Estrogen may also contribute to social anxiety, which often fluctuates during the natural menstrual cycle and menopause.

An overactive thyroid can produce excess hormones that can cause anxiety and result in uncomfortable physical symptoms such as increased sweating, an increased heart rate and quivering.

What Is the Best Treatment for Social Anxiety?

Research and clinical evidence indicate that cognitive behavioral therapy can help people overcome the intense fear and other debilitating mental conditions of social anxiety disorder.

A successful mental health therapy program for social anxiety disorder must consist of cognitive methods, strategies, and concepts that teach your brain to change. Any treatment program must first acknowledge the problem with a recognition that with the proper attention, anxiety can be alleviated or even eliminated.

Many people fail in dealing with their anxiety because they can’t follow through on a commitment to cognitive-behavioral therapy that can sometimes be repetitious and difficult. A treatment plan also includes techniques to help reduce anxiety and fear and participation in a therapy group where people talk about their anxiety and work together to overcome it.

All of us, despite how mentally strong or resilient we to think we are, often have to face situations that can be difficult to cope with. Fortunately, there are coping skills and self-help strategies that can be a vital part of day-to-day life and can also help to address acute or chronic social anxiety.

What if Cognitive Therapy Just Isn’t Enough?

For many people, cognitive behavioral therapy is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t address the underlying problem of a hormonal imbalance. You might be making excellent progress working with a mental health professional but still feel the symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

Pre-menopausal women and those in menopause often deal with a variety of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that can cause stress, frustration, fear, depression, and anxiety. The hormone imbalance associated with menopause reduces the ability to manage stress and can prevent you from feeling positive about yourself, which can increase social anxiety.

A BodyLogicMD-affiliated physician can help you evaluate your previous and current medical and mental health programs to determine if they are effectively managing your individual physical conditions.

A hormonal imbalance that contributes to social anxiety could have the following indicators:

  • Depressed mood (sometimes shows up as irritability)
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life (you don’t enjoy things you used to enjoy)
  • Significant change in appetite (either up or down)
  • Abnormal changes in your sleep pattern (too much or too little)
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate, excessive guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Becoming indecisive or easily overwhelmed
  • Thoughts of death and suicide

Depression and social anxiety are not weaknesses. In fact, it is one of a number of very common mental health disorders with a variety of triggers. Pinpointing the specific factors affecting a person’s mood, physical condition, and willingness to interact with the world, which includes hormones, provides the physician with the key to successful treatment.

In this case, consider consulting with a BodyLogicMD-affiliated physician who has been rigorously trained in how hormones affect the body’s various systems and how they interact with each other.

Can Bioidentical Hormones Help Ameliorate Social Anxiety?

Bioidentical hormones, exact replicas of the hormones that are naturally produced by the body, match the body’s natural hormones molecule by molecule.

BodyLogicMD-affiliated physicians can help determine whether you are experiencing hormonally triggered social anxiety and fear and if bioidentical hormone therapy could help you feel better.

By testing blood, saliva or urine, a BodyLogicMD physician can accurately measure your hormone levels and determine whether hormone therapy is right for you.

Bioidentical hormone therapy is one of the options that might be suggested to help you balance your hormone levels, which can lead to decreased anxiety.

Working one-on-one with you, your BodyLogicMD physician can also help you design a nutrition plan that might include supplements, and lifestyle changes including exercise and meditation, which can decrease or eliminate the symptoms of anxiety.

What Else Can You Do to Combat Social Anxiety?

In addition to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, there are vitamins and supplements that may help deal with the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of social anxiety.

Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These fatty acids provide numerous health benefits that could improve your body’s natural ability to ameliorate the symptoms of social anxiety while also helping to maintain cardiovascular health, improve mental health and overall cognitive ability, and can also aid in weight loss.

A mental health professional might also prescribe a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which can help ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. SSRIs ease depression by increasing the levels of the hormone serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters that carries signals between brain cells. SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available.

Diminished levels of serotonin increase the risk of mental and substance use disorders, which can have a powerful effect on how people interact with their families, their friends, and their communities.

However, SSRIs and other medications often used to treat depression and anxiety can come with serious side effects. In many cases, finding and treating the underlying cause is the best route toward finding true relief.

This is where a physician within the BodyLogicMD network comes in. The physicians within the BodyLogicMD network are highly trained professionals who specialize in restoring health, not just treating symptoms.

Your BodyLogicMD affiliated provider might also recommend a program such as CognitivePro, which is designed to stimulate the brain and improve the cognitive abilities of adults struggling with conditions that contribute to social anxiety including:

  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Brain fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Decreased clarity of thought

Brain health and body health are inextricably linked. The brain helps you make appropriate decisions that can lead to happiness and health, decisions that can keep you on a vibrant path as you age. Most of us understand how our bodies change as we age and take action to stay healthy but neglect to care for our brains.

This is especially ironic because good mental health and an active lifestyle are part and parcel of the same thing.

To learn more how your hormones affect your body and brain, and vice versa, contact the BodyLogicMD affiliated physician nearest you today and take your first step toward restoring your health and peace of mind.


Добавить комментарий

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: