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‘It’s just hormones’ – and other lies we tell ourselves about female mental health | The Flow

It’s 2018, let’s stop belittling our mental health issues


Welcome to the first article from The Edinburgh Tab's new weekly column The Flow, where we talk all things female – from mental health and periods to LGBTQ+ issues and relationships, gaining insights and experiences from the everyday lives of anyone who identifies as a woman.

Someone close to me recently explained that, after weeks of feeling up and down, anxious and sad, and not wanting to go to classes, that the way she was feeling was just down to "hormones". What really struck me about this sentence was that she'd just been describing symptoms of depression – but due to the arrival of her period, she'd whittled everything down to "just hormones". This annoyed me.

The phrase "just hormones" gets bandied around frequently these days, using it to describe almost every bad feeling women get, and it's damaging. After centuries of our genuine physical and mental pain being brushed off as hysteria, we've come to use the these hormones as an excuse, arguing that there's nothing really the matter – as if we become werewolves once a month when our period arrives, and once it's gone, all the bad feelings disappear and the raging hormones are put aside for another month.

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Putting my werewolf to bed

It is true that, for some people, our periods – and thus our hormones – can be controlled by contraception, however more often than not, women experience more emotional fluctuations when taking a form of hormonal contraception than when they go without. Often, the side effects affecting our mental health are overlooked in favour of how they alter our physical health. It's a lose lose situation, basically.

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Pills can make you sad too

Putting emotional trauma down to "just hormones" belittles some of the very real mental health problems that we may be facing, often stopping us from acknowledging that a) they exist, and b) they are enough for us to require help from people, be that a specialist doctor, or just a friend to talk to.

Suggesting that female emotions are ruled by our hormones has also long been a way to demean our genuine frustrations and anger. I'm sure every girl has been asked "are you on your period?" in a situation where they've been angry or upset about something, and it's damn annoying. This question is usually synonymous with the idea that an angry woman is a crazy woman, but let's be real – if any woman is genuinely angry, then OF COURSE her anger is justified.

The way to stop this belittling has to come from ourselves. We need to acknowledge that it's okay to feel the way we do, and that there's usually a valid reason for feeling anxious, angry, sad or emotional. In a world so full of barriers, we have to be kind to ourselves – and that means looking after our own mental health, and knowing that the things we feel are more than "just hormones".