Blame it on the hormones

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:41 AM

One of my clients is the Pituitary Network Association. They have hired me to do a number of things, one of which is to write a book for patients dealing with hormone issues. It’s entitled The Definitive Guide to Sex and Hormones: What they are, why you have them, how they affect your desire for sex (physically and mentally), and how it’s all related to the health of your pituitary gland. It delves deeply into all of the hormones that race through every body on any given day, explaining their role, where they originate (many in the pituitary) and how an imbalance can wreak havoc in a life.

It’s not just women, regardless of the stereotype of “she’s just hormonal.” I use the stereotype myself sometimes, and sometimes, it’s actually true.

Today comes news of a study by University College London which has evidently linked the phase of a woman’s reproductive cycle to going a little mental. By mental I mean vulnerable to some of the psychological side-effects associated with stressful experiences. The research, using 41 women between the ages of 18 and 35, is the first to pinpoint a window into the prevention of common mental health problems in women.

Evidently a symptom of mood and anxiety problems is the tendency to experience repetitive and unwanted thoughts. The researchers call these thoughts “intrusive.” In their study, each woman watched a 14-minute film that contained a death or injury. Immediately following the viewing of said film, the women provided a saliva sample to assess hormone levels. Over the course of the next few days, they were asked to record instances of unwanted thoughts about the video.

Women who were 16 to 20 days past the start of their period had three times as many bad thoughts as the other women. One of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Sunjeev Kamboj, said that this information could help the way women are treated after experiencing a traumatic event.

Women are 40 percent more likely than men to experience psychological disorders. And the World Health Organization claims that incidents of major depression are twice as common in women as they are in men.

Hormone issues are also common in women. But they’re common in men, too. And in teenagers. Hormones affect everyone. This study is interesting because it shows that hormones can lead to unruly behavior. This study is also irritating because it plays a bit to stereotypes. Women have long been faulted for being hormonal, a malady that strikes most women of child-bearing age in one form or another. Hormones do rage when women are ovulating. And because they’re raging, sometimes we’re raging too. But men have raging hormones as well, causing them to be more aggressive and even violent.

So when people act out, yes, hormones can be to blame. But here’s what I’ve learned from my work with the Pituitary Network Association, from editing a professional book where most of the text was penned by world-renowned physicians, surgeons and psychologists, and writing the current book I’m working on: Hormones make us work, make our bodies function. And they drive us crazy, sometimes literally.

But ultimately the reason we are who we are is because of hormones. They regulate our blood sugar, our thyroid levels, how we think, how we feel, how we react to stress and process adrenaline; how we develop into thinking, feeling, reacting human beings.

Yes, women are hormonal. We all are. It’s something to celebrate because it means we’re alive. So go ahead and blame it on the hormones. That’s living it out loud.

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live out loud

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