What role might hormones play in depression and anxiety?

Dr. Michael J. Mufson, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Some studies have found that people with anxiety disorders have increased levels of excess corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) in the cerebrospinal fluid, a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Research sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed that individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder have above-average levels of CRF. One study showed higher-than-normal levels of pituitary and adrenal stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), in the bloodstreams of women who had been physically or mentally abused as children. The levels were especially high in women who were experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression at the time of the study.

This research suggests a biological explanation for why early stress or trauma increases the risk of developing an anxiety disorder in adulthood. Early trauma may cause a lasting increase in CRF and other stress hormones, and the pumped-up levels of these hormones may keep the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the autonomic system in a state of alert.

Continue Learning about Endocrine System

When Hormone Replacement Therapy May Be Good
When Hormone Replacement Therapy May Be Good
Fear-mongering about hormone replacement therapy isn’t good science. For the right woman with nasty menopausal symptoms and the right man with low tes...
Read More
What foods can help keep my pancreas healthy?
When you want a healthy, happy pancreas, you've got plenty of foods to choose from. Try these, for i...
More Answers
How do I know if I have multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2)?
Jumo HealthJumo Health
A blood test can determine if a person has multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2). A person with...
More Answers
What Are Effective Treatments for an Underactive Thyroid?
What Are Effective Treatments for an Underactive Thyroid?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.