Hormones and behaviour: what’s the connection?
Have you ever had someone say to you…I don’t feel like myself today, or maybe your partner, close friend or child had remarked — are you ok? You don’t seem yourself.
Hormones run a large number of functions in the body, so much more then our sex drive and our menstrual cycles. While they do not directly cause behaviour, they can affect the frequency and intensity of our expression of our behaviour. Here are a few examples of some of the most common hormones in the body and how they can impact your behaviour.
Testosterone. This hormone isn’t just a male hormone, it is also present in females. For both genders it drives our sexual desire, influences bone and muscle density. Some research also suggests that testosterone has a role in cognition and spatial ability. Testosterone has been linked to behaviour that is aggressive and risk taking, and in some cases can increase anxiety as well as self-confidence. Knowing that it serves us in all these ways demonstrates the importance of keeping it in balance.
Cortisol. Cortisol is best known as the hormone that helps to mediate the stress response in the body. It also increases carbohydrate metabolism. No longer will you be wondering why the more stressed you are, the more those donuts and sweet carbohydrate-rich treats are luring you in. If you have lots of cortisol being released, you might feel ‘wired’ (but tired), while if you have too little cortisol you can feel sluggish and tired.
Melatonin. In the absence of light, melatonin is released in the body to help regulate our sleep/wake cycles. It is also a powerful antioxidant that can be helpful in all types of repair mechanisms in the body. Melatonin has been shown to be important in learning and memory, balancing moods for those struggling with depression, season affective disorder and bipolar disorder, as well as helping to prevent migraines and cluster headaches. We all know how our personal behavior (and those close to us) changes when we lack sleep so the importance of this hormone is critical to keeping the peace.
Insulin. Most of us are familiar with the role of insulin in the regulation of carbohydrate and fat metabolism by balancing blood sugars. Evidence has shown that people with diabetes are more prone to anxiety and depression. There is also evidence that memory, as well physical and emotional functioning at work can be impacted by insulin balance in the body.
In the simplest of terms, balancing your hormones cannot only affect your health but also your behaviour. Yet hormones don’t command all aspects of behaviour, our environmental and social situations also impact how we react, act and behave. However, hormones are an essential driving component to our overall behaviour and function in the body, and keeping them in balance can definitely go a long way to helping us regulate our actions and reactions.
Note: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed health care worker.