Stephanie Sieberhagen
Psychologist

Relationship Specialist

Why female hormones are important for mental health

My Phd thesis is entitled, 'The relationship between female hormones and mood - a multi-method study'. But why did I conduct this study - what is it about and why is it important?

Female hormones are important for mental health -which, incidentally, is why men get even more excited about it, than women!

We are all, to different extents, aware that we have a hormone cycle, and that this cycle plays a role in how we feel.

The role is, in fact, relational - your hormones are closely related to your feelings.

If I were to say to you that I will, after studying your cycle and related moods, be able to give you a personalized 'mood forecast' for every month, alerting you to when you will feel most energetic, most tired, most sexy, most angry or irritable, and that you would then be able to plot your activities, wouldn't that be fab?!

You would be able to plan when you have a romantic weekend with your partner; when you could take on art projects with your kids; when you would feel like confronting the bank manager about your loan and also when it might be best to take a day off; stay away from people and let those around you know that you are feeling sensitive and might be irritable and difficult to deal with.


Imagine being able to tell your partner all of this, and them embracing this new plan, because it empowers them to know what the heck is going on - and act accordingly.


They could bring you flowers or give you a foot rub rather than both of you getting pulled into a pointless domestic.  The kind of disputes which leave you thinking - where did that come from?!  And of course, also leaves you and your partner with all the work of sorting the mess out between the two of you and having to find a way forward.

Whereas all you really needed, was some time off from the kids and away from everybody.

Well, that is what this study was all about.


I believe there is a relationship between hormones and moods, and I believe the pattern is predictable and can be analyzed to help us plan better.


My PhD is now complete and the results are available. That means you can benefit from it right now!  I am happy to host some workshops and information evenings where I will explain how to track your hormones and moods and how you can benefit from recording your feelings. You will be able to start using the information straight away.


A little bit about hormones

People don't talk about menstruation.  It's a no-no.  It doesn't matter whether you are a teenage girl, a mother or a corporate business woman, nobody wants to know you are having your period.  They just expect you to get on with the exam, the swimming gala, the fetching and cooking or the deposition.  Anyone who dares talk about it soon finds herself in an ever widening circle as colleagues, friends and family find somewhere else to be - anywhere but close to the woman who is talking about the unspeakable red tide.


But the female hormone cycle is not just about menstruation or PMS.  


You have estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and a host of other hormones fluctuating to a rhythm of their own during your cycle.  Each hormone brings with it certain messages to your body and your brain.  The body stuff we mostly understand.  Like estrogen has to drop for your period to start and testosterone peaks in the middle of ovulation.  That's biology and endocrinology.  But what messages are these hormones giving to your brain about how you feel?  Hormones are chemicals, and the brain functions like a chem lab.  The right combination will tell your heart to beat and your hair to grow and your ovaries to release an ovary.  But hormones all have emotional markers too.

Through studies like this one - we look at when a hormone peaks or drops and we work out when you will be feeling depressed, lonely, ecstatic, energetic, sexy.  From women's experiences in pregnancy - when the hormonal map is very definite and clear - we already know that all women do NOT react the same way to the various hormones.  That's why it's important to track your feelings alongside your cycle - to see how you personally react. 

It appears as though there are mainly two groups - women who react positively to progesterone, and those who react positively to estrogen.  Tracking your cycle will show you where you fit in.  Creating a personal map of your highs and lows.

Did you know, for example, that when your testosterone peaks, your male qualities are enhanced?  You feel more energetic, stronger, more agile and more able to work with mathematics and spatial dimensional challenges.  This kind of insight could help you a great deal if you were an athlete or an architect - or even if you are planning some renovations or extensions on your home.

What might also help you, is knowing that the emotional qualities men have - a shorter fuse, aggression and irritability, peak alongside the more beautiful qualities listed above.  So even though you might feel like taking on a DIY project and have the mental ability and the physical strength to do it, you could find yourself quite impatient and easily frustrated by obstacles such as a missing hammer or a skew shelf.

The beauty of 'quantifying yourself', a term for measuring yourself (or in this case, your cycle moods) is that you will be forewarned and can put strategies in place to get the benefit of the positive qualities of testosterone, while not having to suffer from the more tricky ones.

That is really what this study is all about.  All women have this beautifully in-built map and the ability to navigate through life at a conscious level which promotes wellness and peace of mind - and yet we choose not to use it.  Our choice might be through ignorance, or through societal pressure ('just don't talk about it!'), but whatever it might have been, we can change it.

Understanding why you feel a certain way removes all confusion and makes it possible to communicate openly and plan accordingly. 


And THAT is why I love this work.