The author makes a good point about women not being biologically inferior because of our hormones – but their is no doubt that the role they play is affecting women’s mental health. We cannot afford to be stigmatized. Hormone imbalance is becoming a very serious issue. Only we can take our physical and mental health in hand. Are your ready to do that? It is so obvious that the medications, birth control and the toxic tampons and pads we are putting into our bodies are affecting the chemical messages that affect every cell in the body. Not to mention the xenoestrogens in the products that we use.
We need to understand the sacred balance of the neuro-endocrine-immune system. We need to start living with cycles instead of against them.
We need to get back to being our sacred cyclical, mystical, mysterious and powerful selves.
Female Hormones Can Make a Bloody Mess of Your Mental Health
May 1, 2015
By Nell Frizzell
Mood swings, depression, tiredness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, reduced cognitive ability, aggression, anger, sleep disorders and food cravings. One of the fun things about having a womb is that the aforementioned are simply considered par for the course. That’s your lot. Sorry gals, but if you’ve got the temerity to be biological, then you’re also going to have to suffer the psychological.
The relationship between female hormones and mental health is a razor-sharp, gravel-scattered line to walk for a woman like me, because of course we should take the time to consider this shit. As Gloria Steinem argued in If Men Could Menstruate, were the bleeding tables tipped to the other gender, “Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps.” We’re not a second sex and this stuff is worth the investment of our time and attention, not to mention money. But as a woman who cries, cuts all her hair off and then realises two days later as her gusset fills with blood that it was that pesky progesterone all along, I am extremely wary of painting women as somehow weaker as a result of our hormones. The last thing in the world I want to do is add fuel to the fire of dickhead Mark who sits by toilets in the Finance department and makes jokes about how one of his female colleagues “must be on the blob” because he just saw her giving someone their P45.
No. Women are not biologically inferior because hormones affect our mental health. But Jesus Christ, it would be nice to have that mental health taken seriously once in a while.
I knew a man who, after several months of depression, weight gain, crying and an inability to concentrate on his job finally went to an endocrinologist to be told that, due to an excess of testosterone, his body had started to convert testosterone to oestrogen. “Oestrogen?” He asked. “Like the stuff in the pill? This is what that feels like?” This is what that feels like. He is the only man I will probably ever meet who knows what it’s like to be swayed by the waves of female hormones and he swore sombrely that if the contraceptive pill was designed to increase female suicide, he wouldn’t be the least surprised.
Talking of death, when another friend went to her GP, telling him that her PMS made her feel like a psychopath, all he did was “calmly look at me with half-closed Garfield eyes and say, ‘Most of the murders committed by women are when they’ve had PMS’.” He then discharged her. That, as far as he was concerned, was that.
The first question, of course, is: How. How do female hormones affect our mental health?
The answer is: we don’t really know, but we know that it does. “The precise aetiology of PMS remains unknown,” writes Nick Panay, the Chairman of the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome. “But cyclical ovarian activity and the effect of estradiol and progesterone on the neurotransmitters serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) appear to be key factors.” In short, the monthly cycle of those all-important reproductive hormones, released at different stages into the baby-making system, seem to affect the way signals pass through our brains.
They change the functioning of neurotransmitters, i.e. can actually change the chemistry and engineering of that big wet cauliflower responsible for our thinking. Or so we suspect because, as Panay puts it, “Rapidly changing estradiol levels, not only premenstrually but also postnatally and perimenopausally, lead to this triad of hormone-dependent depressive disorders often in the same predisposed individual.” Of course, some of us are more predisposed than others.
As a working definition, Parney characterises PMS as “a condition which manifests with distressing physical, behavioural and psychological symptoms that are not due to organic or underlying psychiatric disease”. Some women with PMS suffer from an underlying psychological condition, but many of us also don’t. The definition also adds that these symptoms occur regularly during the luteal phase of each menstrual cycle but then “disappear or significantly regress by the end of menstruation.” For some women, that’s only the half of it; for them, the symptoms of PMS tip over into a rarer, even less understood condition: PMDD.