Sign up FAST! Login

Why Do So Many Women Have Anxiety Disorders? A Hormone Hypothesis...


Why Do So Many Women Have Anxiety Disorders? A Hormone Hypothesis | CommonHealth

Stashed in: Women, Awesome, inequality, Harvard, Health Studies, Anxiety, PTSD

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

According to this theory, we cycle in and out of anxiety with our estrogen levels.

RZ: In your experiments on rats and humans, you and your team use Pavlovian conditioning, as in Pavlov’s dogs, who were famously conditioned into drooling every time they heard a bell because they associated that sound with food. So, in these studies you repeatedly showed a blue light on a screen to men and women who would then receive a mild shock, until they came to expect — and fear — a shock every time they saw the blue light. Then, you stopped giving shocks when the blue light came on, to teach the subjects not to fear it. That’s “fear extinction.” And the next day, the men and women were tested to see if they still had a fear response to the blue light.

The results in these studies were all over the place, but most of the variance in fear response was among women in the experiment, right? The men were much more consistent. Why might that be?

MM: That’s what got me into beginning to think about hormones, because what could account for that other than maybe some women that we’re bringing in to the lab were at a particular phase of their menstrual cycle? And when we did that study we found that women who came in when their estrogen is elevated, they had their [fear] extinction capacity much better, in other words, they were able to control their fear, or express much less fear, compared to the women that came in in the early phase of their cycle… when they had low estrogen.

RZ: So just to be clear, high estrogen was linked to better control of fear, and low estrogen meant more potent and longer lasting fear?

MM: Right.

Why would less estrogen correlate with more anxiety, logically?

So does less estrogen correlate with other feels such as lack of confidence too?

It makes sense that anxiety could interfere with feelings of confidence.

Yes. Post Traumatic Stress can also accompany low estrogen:

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/08/estrogen-and-female-anxiety/

From the Harvard study:

PTSD is common in women after a trauma such as rape or sexual assault, which studies say are experienced by 25 to 30 percent of women in their lifetimes, and the symptoms last on average four times as long in women as in men after trauma. This new research suggests the reason for this susceptibility may be the monthly menstrual change in estrogen.

So in the body's feedback loop, low estrogen creates and environment where it's more likely to remind the brain of a previous trauma.

You May Also Like: