Stress and Your Mental Health: How Hormonal Imbalance Plays a Role

 

Your body runs like a well-oiled machine, balancing your hormones for peak performance. Long-term stress can throw this balance off, putting you at risk for health problems — including anxiety and depression.1 In this article, we’ll explain the interplay between your physical and mental health and what you can do to best care for it. 

How Does Stress Affect Hormone Levels? 

When stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol to prime your “fight or flight” instincts.2 As your blood sugar levels increase to supply more energy, your body prioritizes essential functions over non-essential ones, enabling you to focus on reaching safety. This stress response seems more harmful in modern times, throwing our hormone levels off further. Notably, it seems to raise your risk for mental health problems like anxiety and depression.2 

Anxiety is a feeling of dread or fear that everyone has experienced at one point or another.3 Anxiety disorders extend beyond occasional feelings of anxiety. It begins interfering with your daily life, preventing you from accomplishing what needs to get done. You may find yourself constantly stressing or worrying about things completely outside of your control.3  

Depression works the same way — it’s an intense and overwhelming feeling of sadness that prevents you from doing what you enjoy. You may have extremely low energy levels, have trouble sleeping, or even feel guilty or worthless.4  

Studies have found that chronic stress and exposure to cortisol negatively impact your mental health. Specifically, stressful life events activate the part of your brain known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis — which controls many of your body’s hormones.5 Several decades of research show that around 70% of people with depression have changes in this axis.6 

Stress and Testosterone Levels

Researchers have also discovered that stress negatively impacts testosterone levels. Low testosterone and depression share many symptoms, including7:

  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Lowered libido or sex drive
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulties sleeping 

Mental health issues and hormonal imbalances can mutually influence each other, exacerbating the symptoms of both conditions. For example, if you’re struggling with low sex drive from decreased testosterone, it can amplify your anxiety or depression. In turn, these feelings continue negatively affecting your sexual performance, creating a slippery slope for your mental health. 

Addressing Your Physical and Mental Health

We’re not here to tell you that addressing anxiety or depression is easy. With plenty of stigma around mental health these days, it’s key to address the facts. Both anxiety and depression are treatable conditions. Many doctors recommend a combination of medication and counseling to help.8 There’s no one magical fix to these problems, so it may take time to find what works best for you.  

It’s also important to identify the stressors in your life and create new, healthier habits to manage them. Check out our other blog article for some ideas, including prioritizing your sleep, enjoying a hobby, and getting more exercise.  

You can also look into supplements like RELAX, which is formulated to support stress relief. With natural ingredients like Rhodiola rosea, L-dopa, piperine, and 5-hydroxytryptophan, RELAX helps boost your mood, enhances energy levels, and supports your overall mental health.9-14  

In summary, stress disrupts your body's carefully balanced hormonal equilibrium, increasing the likelihood of mental health disorders. By addressing anxiety or depression and managing stress at its root, you can enhance your overall well-being.

 

References

  1. How Stress Affects Your Health. American Psychological Association. Updated October 31, 2022. Accessed March 8, 2024.
  2. Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk. Mayo Clinic. Updated August 1, 2023. Accessed March 8, 2024.
  3. Anxiety. MedlinePlus. Updated October 17, 2023. Accessed March 8, 2024. 
  4. What Is Depression? American Psychiatric Association. Updated October 2020. Accessed March 8, 2024.
  5. Yang L, Zhao Y, Wang Y, et al. The effects of psychological stress on depression. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015;13(4):494-504.
  6. Pariante CM, Lightman SL. The HPA axis in major depression: classical theories and new developments. Trends Neurosci. 2008;31(9):464-468.
  7. Can Low Testosterone Cause Anxiety and Depression? Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. Updated October 5, 2022. Accessed March 8, 2024.
  8. Treatment. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Accessed March 8, 2024.
  9. Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, Vol'skij VB, Korovin YP, Khristich MP, Roslyakova NA, Wikman G. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine. 2003 Mar;10(2-3):95-105.
  10. Cropley M, Banks AP, Boyle J. The effects of Rhodiola rosea L. extract on anxiety, stress, cognition and other mood symptoms. Phytother Res. 2015 Dec;29(12):1934-9.
  11. Edwards D, Heufelder A, Zimmermann A. Therapeutic effects and safety of Rhodiola rosea extract WS® 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms--results of an open-label study. Phytother Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):1220-5.
  12. Lekomtseva Y, Zhukova I, Wacker A. Rhodiola rosea in subjects with prolonged or chronic fatigue symptoms: results of an open-label clinical trial. Complement Med Res. 2017;24(1):46-52.
  13. Gandhi KR, Saadabadi A. Levodopa (L-Dopa). StatPearls [Internet]. Updated April 17, 2023. Accessed March 8, 2024.
  14. Gorgani L, Mohammadi M, Najafpour GD, Nikzad M. Piperine–the bioactive compound of black pepper: from isolation to medicinal formulations. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2017;16(1):124-140.