Hormones and Mood

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Hormones and Mood: Most Women Experience the Mood Changes

Mood swings and depression can occur anytime in woman’s life. But women seem to be more vulnerable to mood changes during the time of hormonal fluctuations – peri-menopause, pregnancy, or their periods. Eighty percent of women acknowledge some increased emotional sensitivity before their period starts, 8-10% have severe ‘hell-on-earth’ mood changes the 2 weeks before their period. For some women hormonal flux can trigger mild to severe mood disorders including depression and bipolar disease. Postpartum depression can affect 10 to 15% of women and can last up to a year after the child is born.

Hormones and Mood: Premenstrual

Research suggests 8-10% of women experience PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) which is characterized by severe moods swings, depressed mood, irritability, anxiety and physical symptoms (occurring exclusively during the luteal phase (weeks 3-4) and remitting within 3 days of the onset of menses.

Hormones and Mood: Brain Chemistry

Hormonal problems are believed to be linked to the imbalance in neurotransmitters that are directly responsible for mood state, particularly serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, GABA, and acetylcholine. Estradiol is a hormone known to affect mood. It increases serotonin and beta-endorphins that are associated with the positive mood state. Estradiol acts to increase neuronal excitability thus producing a brain stimulant-like effect.

Decreased level of estradiol was shown to be linked to panic attacks. Additionally low estradiol can cause headaches, foggy mind, memory lapses, and sleep problems.

The progesterone metabolite, allopregnanolone (ALLO), produces a sedating/calming Valium-like effect. ALLO works on GABA receptors in the brain and is a powerful anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, and anesthetic agent which decreases anxiety and depression.


Chandler Marrs MS, MA, PhD spent the last dozen years in women’s health research with a focus on steroid neuroendocrinology and mental health. She has published and presented several articles on her findings. As a graduate student, she founded and directed the UNLV Maternal Health Lab, mentoring dozens of students while directing clinical and Internet-based research. Post graduate, she continued at UNLV as an adjunct faculty member, teaching advanced undergraduate psychopharmacology and health psychology (stress endocrinology). Dr. Marrs received her BA in philosophy from the University of Redlands; MS in Clinical Psychology from California Lutheran University; and, MA and PhD in Experimental Psychology/ Neuroendocrinology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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