Hormones and Mood — Introduction

(Updated 12/2014)


It’s amazing how little is known about some really basic things — like what causes PMS, for example. But finally this is becoming an active topic.  For example, (Jarva, 2007):

  • 85% of Canadian women use oral contraceptives at some point during their lifetime (presumably United States women are not too much different?)
  • 50% of women stop using oral contraceptives within 6-12 months of starting; “mood changes” are among the top three reasons for stopping (some women become extremely agitated and anxious, whereas others become depressed).

I keep worrying that I am missing something. So, even though the news is not good, I was slightly reassured by an article in the daily newsletter for the journal Science, entitled “What Is the Link between Women’s Hormones and Mood Disorders?” Referring to a recent review of this issue published by faculty from the University of Alberta, the article concludes that although women are 1.5-3 times more likely to suffer from depression than men, “researchers are only beginning to recognize the complex interactions among estrogens, serotonin and mood.”

Recommended resource

To read from the researchers who actually study these things directly, go to the Harvard team’s Center for Women’s Mental Health. Read on if you want my personal opinion after reading the experts’.

For example, in my opinion you won’t hear enough from most sources about approaches for PMS that do not involve medications at all. You need a balanced presentation of your options, whether you have “PMS” or something else. You may also need some help learning how to decide among them.

Specific topics covered on this site

From the point of view of a general (not specialist) psychiatrist interested in the complex relationship between hormones and mood, here are some specific topics you may find interesting:

You may have noticed I am particularly interested in complex mood disorders like Bipolar Disorder. These disorders are strongly affected by hormone changes. Here is my working model for now on how these conditions relate.

A Working Model of Hormones and Mood Disorders