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

March 18, 2009

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!

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

  1. Elenor says:

    My getup and go got up and went. I went through menopause about a 1 1/2 ago. And my life has been going down hill ever since. No sex drive at all. Depression, I have to take sleeping pills just to get a nights sleep. I still get night sweats.
    I just feel I can not function as I did before. I don’t want to see people, go out.
    I need help just need to know where to start

  2. Janice says:

    I started experiencing symptoms of depression at puberty. Oddly they cleared up during my pregnancies. As I entered menopause it got much worse. I became a slave to anti depressants. I gained 100 lbs. Nothing helped. One day my nurse practioner suggested my depression was caused by homones. She suggested bio-identical hormones. I started taking them and they changed my life. Recently I ran out of them and haven’t been able to get to the Dr for a new perscription. The depression is back. I have an appointment with the Doctor tomorrow. I can’t believe I lived this way for so long with such a simple solution.

    • lucy says:

      would love to get my hands on some bio identical hrt but my doctors know nothing about them!
      am really struggling with the menopause, have been period free for one year now & feel like my
      my life has ended, have no interest in anything, have never had depression in my life but have it
      now but doctors just want to dish out therapy or anti depresants but i know its my hormones!

    • cherie says:

      I have been taking antidepresents for 10 years. I sincerely believe I was born depressed and in my early childhood until about 9 years old I was neglected in everyway including nutrition. Around the age of 21 I started to try and take antidepressants and would always stop after a few days because they made me feel disconnected. At the age of 32 I hit a life altering moment. I started having panic attacks and was severely depressed. Several doctors tried mood stabilzers and other meds which threw me into a black hole of hell. I wanted to die. Finally they prescribed clonazapam with the zoloft and I was able to get it into my system. I did feel better for a couple of years. As an adult I have had a wonderful life and have a beautiful family. I am not sad but the depression has made so ill, I don’t brush my teeth, take showers, leave the house, and most importantly I am unable to take care of my family. I feel that I have always had some kind of hormone imbalance. The Dr.s I have seen could care less that I would rather be dead than live another day like this. It is unfair to my husband and my children. I am wondering if bioidentical hormones would work for me. My body and brain are so fried I cant even make simple phone calls. I once was a top sales person for a major homebuilder.. went 90 miles a minute, was organized, took care of my kids, kept my home spotless. I have basically been in bed for 2 years. If anyone out there has felt like me and tried bioidentical hormones, and they worked, please let me know. I feel I have no choices. I don’t want to go to a mental facility because i know the sadness is chemical or hormones… I have nothing to be depressed about except that I cannot find a solution and cannot take care of my husband and children.

      • Betty says:

        Hi Cherie,
        I, too, have experienced debilitating anxiety, depression, insomnia from menopause. I started on Bio-Identical Cream (Biest) 1.50/75 Progesterone November 2 because my saliva test revealed they couldn’t even find 1 Estradiol hormone in my body. I was quickly deteriorating physically. It’s quite frightening.
        I have been on the compounded cream for 6 weeks. It has helped dramatically; but I am still not all the way there yet.
        I do recommend trying BioIdentical Creams, not pellets. I think you may find some relief. Good Luck.

  3. Cindy says:

    I had a hysterectomy at age 30, they left one ovary so I have not been on hormone replacement. Lately I feel like I’m loosing my mind. I phoned the doctor this morning crying asking if I can get an appt next week to come and chat to see what is going on. I don’t want sex anymore, could care less about anything in my life at this point. I don’t know if it’s the hormones or depression. I make myself go to work every day, smile whether I want to or not and stay living in this house when in fact, I just want to get in my car and drive and where I end up is where I end up. I’m not even 42 yet and feel like I’ve lived a lifetime. We renewed our vows last year and right now my husband feels like more of a buddy to me than an actual husband. I have 2 kids, one almost 20 and the other is 18, I think I stay for them becuase it certianlly isn’t for me. I have to go to a lot of functions for my husband and lately I feel that the only way I can get through them is to drink, heavily. I know that’s not good either and this is why I broke down and called the doctor this morning. I do suffer from the winter blues but have never taken anything for it. I hate feeling like that and feel completely useless. Hopefully someone here can answer some of these feelings…thanks

  4. christine says:

    I went through menopause in 9 months at 41. A freak thing. I suffered from severe depression the entire time,almost ending my life.Three Dr.’s and one specialist did not listen to me when I said it was my hormones.They gave me very high doses of an anti-depressant. Two actually.To no avail.I suffered this way for five years only to find out that it was indeed my hormones. The proof was in my blood work. The other Dr’s gave me a very general blood test so I was “normal” for my age. But I clearly did not go through menopause “normally.” Upon personal research I discovered that the only other women that have gone through menopause the way I had had indeed gone through some physical trauma like chemo or a hysterectomy. I had or have not had either one. The day I started bioidentical hormone replacement therapy,the depression left and has not been back. I experience some of the mood changes I did when I use to menstruate, like sadness watching a sad commercial,but I NO longer feel like “jumping off of the cliff”. I had never even had true PMS so this was hard for me to know where this was coming from. However I had no prior history of depression that was not self inflicted or situational. I can not say enough about the benefits. Its a shame insurance will not cover something that literally saved my life.

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