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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Katz, Psy.D

Mental Health Issue or Hormonal Imbalance? Where Psychotherapy and Endocrinology Meet

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

As a psychologist my focus is on helping people live full, meaningful lives. Often times this entails a more holistic approach. There are many physiological issues that can cause or contribute to psychological distress. One of my specialties is working with chronic illness and endocrine issues. Hormonal imbalances or disorders can cause the entire body to be out of sync. Hormones have such a huge influence on mood that it seems only natural that there would be a lot of overlap in these two fields.

Psychological issues and hormone disruptions can go hand in hand. In fact, often when a client first comes in and reports a somewhat sudden onset of symptoms I will refer them to and endocrinologist or primary care provider to have their hormone levels checked. A lot of the symptoms of common endocrine issues (such as  hypothyroidism or low testosterone) can mimic depression, including: low energy, low motivation, low sex drive, difficulty concentrating, “brain fog.”  These and other symptoms of endocrine issues can greatly contribute to mood difficulties. I often tell my clients “We can talk for hours about your difficulties but it can only help so much if you have a physiological issue." Psychotherapy cannot fix a hormonal imbalance.

Endocrine issues affect almost all aspects of life. As such they can greatly affect how one feels about themselves. Sudden changes in functioning and body image can do a number on someone’s self-esteem.  Additionally, accepting a diagnosis of an endocrine disorder can be difficult for some people because they have to come to terms with the limits of their body. I have worked with some people who had a grieving process after receiving a diagnosis, because it meant that they had to change their self-concept. They needed to grieve the life they had planned in order to accept the realities of their illness.

I have worked with several people with whom sickness meant weakness. Taking a medication every day was difficult because it made them feel weak. Therapy can help someone reframe and accept their phycological issues. It can also help with ongoing accountability if someone is prone to denial.  Some endocrine issues are chronic and might mean a lifetime of treatment. Certain personalities have great difficulties accepting this and complying with their endocrinologist's recommendations.  

Most endocrine issues can also be helped by behavioral changes like proper diet, exercise, stress management, and medication compliance. Psychologists are experts at helping people change their behavior. Psychotherapy can help people break bad habits and ensure that they are creating and sustaining healthier ones.

Endocrine issues are a subset of physiological issues that can be greatly aided with psychotherapy. A lot of what I wrote in this blog can apply to many medical issues. I really enjoy working with people with chronic medical issues, as they often have aspects that need psychological help as well. Coping with a chronic illness can be difficult. Getting the proper care for our body and mind is vital for long term health and satisfaction.

Founder Houston Therapy

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