That Wild Ride: The Emotional Roller-coaster of Birth Control
Emotions, sigh. They make us, they break us; they make us happy, they make us sad. And, oh, can they be overwhelming. If you’re just starting birth control, your emotions may be taking a wild ride as you traverse this new land of synthetic hormones, especially when you may be experiencing any number of other common birth control side effects. Are you ready for your journey? Here’s a little bit of what to expect.
What’s going on with my emotions? They’re going haywire!
Girl, it’s okay! We’d be lying to you if we said we’ve never been through the emotional ringer as well. Most of us have. Especially those of us who have used hormonal birth control.
See, when you start oral contraceptives, your hormone levels fluctuate. These fluctuations affect your body and can cause any number of birth control side effects, from nausea to sore boobs to weight gain, and you can bet that while your hormones go up and down, your mood can, too.
Estrogen is a big player when it comes to your mental health. High levels of the hormone can make you happy, while low levels can seriously get you into a funk. It makes sense that when your estrogen levels are imbalanced, your mood is too.
Estrogen affects the production of feel-good neurotransmitters, most notably serotonin. When you mess with your estrogen levels, you mess with your serotonin, and therefore mess with your mood. Serotonin works as a mood stabilizer, and when there’s not enough of it, you can feel blue.
The sex hormone can also make changes to your brain. When estrogen levels are high, the “reward” part of our brain thickens, making it hard to reap the emotional benefits of our good deeds. Rewards help us to keep going, and without them, well, we can feel like we’re stopped in our tracks. Imagine, you finish first place, crossing the finish line with fury, and afterwards you get absolutely no recognition and no sense of accomplishment is reached. Not fun.
Progesterone can also affect mood. Progesterone has a calming effect on the body, which helps you sleep and relax. When your progesterone levels go down, you can have trouble sleeping and trouble feeling cool and collected. During this time, you may experience heightened feelings of fear and agitation.
Is birth control actually making me depressed? Could I be depressed already?
Do you have a personal or family history of depression? If you do, you’re more prone to developing depression when taking the pill. Birth control can exacerbate underlying symptoms.
How do I know if I’m developing depression?
There is no “on” switch for depression. There is no light-up sign that says, “I am depressed.” Depression is subtler than that and can manifest itself in numerous ways. If any of the following scream “that’s me!” to you, you could be experiencing symptoms of depression.
- You’re super emotional. We already know this one to be true, but sometimes you can be beyond emotional. Is the latest Nike commercial making you sob uncontrollably? Can you not even think about Toy Story 3 without bursting into tears? (Honestly, we feel you.) Be aware of how you feel and take note.
- You can’t sleep. Insomnia is the worst, and persistent insomnia is worse. Can you not bring on the Zzzzs? It could be a symptom of depression.
- You’re always exhausted. Feeling tired AF? Napping throughout the day? Even if you’ve slept the full 8 hours and get plenty of rest, when you’re depressed, you often feel sluggish 24/7.
- You can’t make a decision. This goes beyond the regular “pizza or Thai?” If you’re suffering from depression, your sense of self can seriously be put into question. Feel like you’re drowning in self-doubt? Talk to someone.
- You feel like doing… nothing. When you’re depressed, daily living can feel like a chore. Nothing seems worthwhile and there’s little motivation to be found–even when it comes to things that usually make you happy. You’d much rather lie in bed and stare at the ceiling.
- You can’t focus. Brain fog getting to you? It could be a symptom of depression.
- You feel incredibly irritable. Did you just blow up at your Uber driver for not speeding through the yellow light? Does even a simple “Hey! What’s up!” text drive you up a wall? Getting mad over the little things can be a symptom of depression.
- You don’t like yourself very much. Forget about being irritable with your friends, are you getting angry with yourself? It’s no secret that those who suffer from depression also suffer from low self-esteem.
Are you sure it’s my birth control?
A recent study showed that oral contraceptives and depression are correlated. The study focused on the use of hormonal contraception, especially among adolescents, and found that subsequent use of antidepressants and a first diagnosis of depression, was higher after hormonal contraceptive use.
What else could be making me emotional?
If you’re feeling down and out, several factors may be at play:
- Genes. Like mentioned before, if you have a family history of mood disorders, you’re more prone to suffer yourself. So, crack down on that family tree and do some research to see if anyone else has been going through the emotions.
- Gender. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than men. Yep, you read that right: just being a woman can make you more likely to experience depression or anxiety.
- Poor diet. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. If you’re eating some Fritos while reading this, put the bag of chips down. Processed foods, hydrogenated oils, sugar and refined carbohydrates can all contribute to depression.
- Leaky gut. Your gut and your brain are connected. When your stomach is unhappy, you not only feel bloated and gassy, you can often feel unhappy as well.
- B12 deficiency. So you might have heard about your favorite celeb getting a B12 shot recently. There’s a reason for that. B12 is essential for positive mood, and when we don’t get enough, our mood can seriously suffer.
- Social media. Did it make you feel sad when some random person from your high school got married and posted all of her perfect pictures of her perfect wedding on Instagram? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Social media has become our lives, and with it has come FOMO, rejection, inadequacy and pending friend requests. Social media can be a recipe for emotional disaster.
What can I do to get off this rollercoaster?
There are plenty of ways to get your emotions back on track. Here are just a few:
- Exercise. Exercise works magic for your emotions. It may be a daunting task to get started, but once you’re there, you’ll build up momentum. Exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins, and if we remember from Legally Blonde, it make us happy. If the gym seems scary, no problem. Start by doing small stretches in your apartment followed by walks around your neighborhood.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps make you one with your environment, so you can be in the present without thought or judgment. Mindfulness, meditation and yoga can help calm your spirit and your emotions.
- Eat well. Comfort food may be comforting, but it could be messing with your emotions. Eat well-balanced meals and feel yourself lighten. Also, cut down on alcohol and caffeine. Those can definitely take their toll on your mind and body.
- Treat yourself. You may have learned this one from Parks and Rec: treat yourself. Seriously, go get that mani-pedi. Self-love is always a good thing.
- Take probiotics. Remember that gut-brain connection? When your tummy is healthy, your mind is healthy. Probiotics work by introducing friendly bacteria to your tummy and you can get them by eating fermented foods like kimchi and kefir, or taking a supplement.
- Up your B12 intake. B vitamins are crucial to mental health, especially Vitamin B12. When you don’t get enough, you can become sad and defunct. Try taking B vitamin supplement.
- Talk therapy. If your anxiety is affecting your everyday life, you could benefit from talking to a mental health professional. There are several methods of talk therapy and you should find one that works for you. Even talking to a friend can help with depression, so think about calling your bestie.
- Switch your type of birth control. Your emotions are tied to your fluctuating hormones. So, if you’re seriously having trouble with depression and an anxiety, an option would be to switch to a copper IUD which releases no hormones. If your emotions are slowly taking over all together, you may want to stop taking hormonal birth control altogether.
Going on birth control can be a bumpy ride, but it doesn’t have to take you for a trip. Birth control is known to cause depletion in B vitamins, such as B6 and B12, which are critical for mood balance. Top Up Tonic can help you ride the wave, giving you the nutrients that the Pill is know to strip away. It also contains probiotics, which help you maintain a healthy gut. Remember that super important Gut-Brain connection when it comes to mood? Take Top Up Tonic and start feeling like yourself again. Learn more about Top Up Tonic here!