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Horemones and Depression – Dr. Sean Breen Chimes In

Dr. Sean Breen

Dr. Sean Breen

If you ask the majority of doctors in practice how they typically treat depression their answer will be by prescribing antidepressant drugs and recommending psychotherapy.  If you speak to patients who have suffered and been treated for depression they will say they have tried multiple antidepressants.    Very rarely do doctors think about hormones when it comes to mood.   If you ask women if there is a link between hormones and there mood you will probably get a big laugh.    It is no secret that when women get their menstrual cycles they suffer from irritability and depression.    Yet when it comes to patients who come in complaining of depression and not PMS, the first place doctors turn to are neurotransmitters in the brain.

There are volumes of medical studies demonstrating the link between mood disorders and estrogen, DHEA, testosterone, thyroid and growth hormone.   For example, there is no question that progesterone improves mood in women and is very calming.   Progesterone levels in the blood during pregnancy can reach levels into the 400’s.   Following the birth, progesterone levels drop precipitously and it is fairly common that mothers suffer from post-partum depression.    There are also volumes of literature on the effect of thyroid hormone on mood.   Medical students are taught from day one that when patients complain of depression to get thyroid levels in the blood.

Dr. Sean Breen tells Jennifer’s Story.

When I was a battalion surgeon with the marines at Camp Pendleton I shared space with the dental battalion.  Jennifer was the regimental dentist and became a close friend of mine.   One day she came in asking me to take a look at her.   Twelve months prior to this day she gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Jessica.   Within a few weeks of this birth she developed what was diagnosed as postpartum depression.   She had no energy, was often tearful and just “did not feel like myself”.  She recalls being on a cruise with her husband and he joked that she was an “old women” who just wanted to sleep and never wanted to have fun.   When she followed up with her OB-GYN they started on an antidepressant and sent her for counseling.   Neither improved her symptoms at all yet they continued to tell her to be patient and it will pass.    When I took a medical history it was clear that she had overwhelming fatigue in addition to her depression.  She said that she had a history of being anemic and wanted me to check her blood count.     As part of the routine workup for her depression I ordered thyroid studies.    Two days later when the results came back my eyeballs widened as her TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level was 265.  The normal range is 0.45-4.5 which means that she was severely hypothyroid (under-active thyroid)   I immediately started her on thyroid hormone and as expected within a week her energy levels improved and her depression lifted.   She could not understand why this was missed for over a year by her OB-GYN doctors.     Had they thought of looking at her hormones she could have avoided a year of taking unnecessary antidepressants and weekly therapy sessions.

If you are a patient and suffer from depression I highly encourage you to ask your doctor to evaluate all your hormone levels.  Sometimes all you need is a little thyroid in addition to optimizing testosterone, estrogen, DHEA and progesterone.    Feel free to read about the benefits of hormones at  DoctorBreen.com. You can also connect with Dr. Sean Breen on LinkedIn, Dr. Sean Breen on Quora and Dr. Sean Breen on Facebook.

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