Approximately 18% of the adult American population suffers from an anxiety-related disorder and women are more than twice as likely to have mood disorders (McHenry, 2013). Anxiety is a psychological condition that can appear due to a multitude of causative factors. However, this large disparity between genders begs the question as to hormones and their relationship with anxiety disorders. The complicated network of causes of anxiety includes environmental factors, genetics, brain chemistry, use or withdrawal of medications or medical conditions. Environmental factors such as work, family, financial, loss of loved one or school can greatly contribute to anxiety disorders. Individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders are more prone to presenting with anxiety as well. Side effects from medication use or being taken off a medication can lead to anxiety. Traumatic experiences can trigger vivid episodes of anxiety that would not have taken place previously and can alter brain structure in individuals. The last area of focus today for anxiety is hormone imbalance. Some areas of hormonal changes that can create anxiety include estrogen dominance, pregnancy, and thyroid dysfunction.

Estrogen dominance is often associated with perimenopause or PMS, causing surging hormones and a challenge to control emotions during this time. Progesterone is necessary to balance out the estrogen and keep these symptoms at bay. It has been shown that a progesterone metabolite, allopregnanolone is a potent modulator of GABA receptors. Allopregnanolone can affect neurotransmitters in the brain to profoundly affect emotional behavior and anxiety, thus why it is referred to as a calming and soothing hormone (Nillni, 2011). During pregnancy, a woman’s hormones are elevating and fluctuating, causing irritable and anxious behavior. This does not even consider the physical, psychological and social issues that soon-to-be mothers deal with during pregnancy. Anxiety and fear are normal responses during pregnancy and can help ensure a woman keep her baby safe before and after birth. Now, supplementation is out of the question but it is important to know why this is occurring. The thyroid hormone is also responsible for neurotransmitter production that is related to your mood. This balance can get off when your thyroid is not functioning properly, causing panic attacks and anxiety disturbances. 

Just because women are twice as likely as their male counterparts to experience anxiety disorders does not mean they are not present in men. In fact, hypogonadal men exhibit a significantly higher depressive and anxiety disorders as compared to men with normal physiological levels (McHenry, 2013). The majority of studies support the case that testosterone yields mood elevation and other beneficial effects, particularly ones with lower than normal levels. Although clinical studies are more limited with testosterone therapy in women and its anxiolytic effects, a similar positive response can be found as in men.

Anxiety is a general term with many people may have. By no means does that mean that you must live with this disorder or even tolerate it. Having said possible causative factors for anxiety, hormone imbalance should be discussed with your physician, particularly if other symptoms are persistent. Anxiety is normally not the only symptom present in people with a hormone balance, so listen to what your body is telling you and start the change today by getting tested.

McHenry, J., Carrier, N., Hull, E., & Kabbaj, M. (2013). Sex differences in anxiety and depression: role of testosterone. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology35(1), 42–57. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2013.09.001

Nillni, Y. I., Toufexis, D. J., & Rohan, K. J. (2011). Anxiety sensitivity, the menstrual cycle, and panic disorder: a putative neuroendocrine and psychological interaction. Clinical psychology review31(7), 1183–1191. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2011.07.006