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Thread: Mental effects of HRT

  1. #1
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    Mental effects of HRT

    If my decision to transition were to affect only myself I would be on that path now but but among other complications I have a wife who didn't sign up for this so to speak. That being said I am considering a short trial period of HRT (about three months) as a means to evaluate the mental effects but short enough so the physical effects aren't irreversible.

    Currently I find that gender related thoughts occupy an enormous amount of mental real estate and it is only increasing as time matches on. Concentration can be difficult and it is affecting my work and other aspects of my life as well.

    So my question to the group is, during your initial period of HRT how did it effect you from a mental standpoint?

    Thank you,
    Elizabeth

  2. #2
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    It definitely reduced the constant thoughts about being a woman, and reduced the negative thoughts and feelings about not being a woman, aka dysphoria. it took about two weeks. whether or not this was a placebo effect, or actual physical/chemical effect in the hormone/neurotransmitter soup of my brain, I’ll never know. I do know that after 3.5 years, how i think and perceive, and how i experience emotions has definitely changed.

  3. #3
    Silver Member Aunt Kelly's Avatar
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    Estrogen is not a psychoactive substance. Period.

    Yes, there is some documentation that long-term use can produce changes in the brain, but to my knowledge there have no studies on how that might affect the psyche of a trans person.

    All that said, do not underestimate the effect that the very act of embarking on a course of HRT will have. While not exactly the placebo effect, there are many here who have related significant relief of their GD very early on. Nikki has confirmed the effect (if not the chemistry) and I can say the same.
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  4. #4
    formerly: aBoyNamedSue IamWren's Avatar
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    I found a study from 2019 that suggests otherwise. It can be found here:

    Effects of Estradiol Therapy on Resting-State Functional Connectivity of Transgender Women After Gender-Affirming Related Gonadectomy
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6692765/

    In the conclusion statement of the study it does acknowledge that mental health turning positive could be (as Kelly states) because of simply starting cross sex hormone therapy however it also says:
    Although these improvements can be partially assumed to be a consequence of the reduction of the body incongruence once CSHT has started, they might also owe to changes in functional connectivity of areas involved in emotions and cognition.”

    And I can tell you from personal experience, that after having been on cross sex hormone therapy for more than a year and then stopping for a month… it took about three weeks for me to turn back into a raging jerk and I KNEW it was going to be a temporary stop. I knew I would be going back on the Femme n M’s. There was something DEFINITELY going on in the chemical and electrical firing in the lump of meat inside my noggin.

    I still contend I had very little if any dysphoria. I didn’t desperately want to physically change my body toward being female. I didn’t hate my male body… I was simply indifferent.

    I sat on my prescription for estrogen for a month and a half. And when I finally started, I continued to question whether it was the right thing to do. So for me, it was NOT placebo or psychosomatic.

    There is something in that little pill that is scrambling my brain up in such a way that I am now no longer indifferent about my body but really like what I see. I cry… at crazy, silly dumb things that I normally wouldn’t have given a second thought toward. And I’m nicer. I’m a nicer person than when I had a testosterone based body.

    There may not be conclusive studies that say it is a psychoactive substance but for me…

    it’s done something to my brain for the better.
    Last edited by IamWren; 03-13-2022 at 07:42 AM. Reason: Clarify awkward sentence structure
    I am not a woman nor am I a man... I am an enby. Hi, I am Wren.

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    hrt has definitely affected my consciousness and how i perceive the world. my sense of humor has changed, there is a subjective softness to my perceptions that wasn’t present before, my emotions are more labile and i feel different. this was apparent before i came out as well. i had to stop hrt before ffs and perceived a change as well.

  6. #6
    Member HelpMe,Rhonda's Avatar
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    I definitely felt a mental relief within days of starting HRT, and since I had read mostly medical site explainers about what HRT can do, had no idea that it was possible to feel such a thing so fast, so not sure if that's a placebo effect. Was only expecting mental relief would come after enough physical changes had happened, so was thinking months or years and not days.

    I described the change at the time that there was a relaxation of a tension that I must have felt so long that it didn't even register until it disappeared.

    Went online looking to see if what was happening was even possible, and gradually found other anecdotes of people feeling something like that.

    Months, now years, in, and who knows if it's the HRT or just being halfway out of the closet, but I'm told I'm happier by people who know or don't yet know, I can laugh out loud for real instead of just muttering, 'that's funny' when amused, and I'm way more social than I used to be.

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    Hi Elizabeth,
    I have been on this journey 5+ years. What I can say is that thoughts themselves about gender, still occupy a larger portion of my mental real estate as you put it. I think it what makes me a trans person. I would never be a cis-gender person who doesn't thinks about their gender. The key difference for me from before and after are the kind of thoughts. I do not feel helplessness, despair, anger, etc. I feel happier, calmer, and can concentrate on my work. With time, my brain shifted a bit a became very sensitive to how others see me. Whether they dead name me or not, use the right pronouns or not, and whether socially accept me as a woman or not. It just I'm more sensitive to this and the self consciousness remains. This results in some emotional setbacks but also full of small moments of gender euphoria.
    But again, I am still on this journey and it is just something I am getting used to. However, I would never want to return to where I was before the transition, as dysphoria was really crippling at times.
    Good luck!
    Last edited by Katya@; 03-13-2022 at 08:06 AM.

  8. #8
    Member Charla's Avatar
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    I’ve been less angry and more agreeable, according to my wife. I feel more at ease and less anxious.

  9. #9
    Silver Member Aunt Kelly's Avatar
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    Correlation and causation are two very different things. Nevertheless, they are commonly conflated, and from this springs the belief (in this case) that the medication is the cause for this or that emotional change. It is not, and there is, again, no clinical study that supports the notion that it is, especially in the short term. HRT, like many other measures, is prescribed to treat gender dysphoria by producing physical changes in the patient. Those changes typically take many months, or even years to fully manifest.

    So how do we explain the rather common accounts of emotional changes in the short term? Correlation. Concurrent with the beginning of the first "real" steps being taken to align one's body with one's gender identity is a change in emotion. Emotion is a complex and powerful thing. It is influenced by so many things, so why is it so hard to accept that these other things are the actual cause?
    Last edited by Aunt Kelly; 03-14-2022 at 10:23 AM.
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  10. #10
    Member HelpMe,Rhonda's Avatar
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    Hadn't realized there was enough clinical studies to say that there is no causation. The Journal of the Endocrine Society wrote about it last year, saying more research was needed, but...


    Despite the limitations of the available evidence, however, our review indicates that gender-affirming hormone therapy is likely associated with improvements in QOL, depression, and anxiety. No studies showed that hormone therapy harms mental health or quality of life among transgender people. These benefits make hormone therapy an essential component of care that promotes the health and well-being of transgender people.

  11. #11
    Gold Member Lana Mae's Avatar
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    I don't know about the research, but I am the happiest I have ever been! My mind is more clear! Placebo effect or not I don't care! I am happy where I am! Hugs Lana Mae
    Life is worth living!
    "Foxy lady! You look so good!!" Jimi Hendrix

  12. #12
    Aspiring Member April Rose's Avatar
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    Wren! "Femme n M's"You're killing me!
    I am a vessel of the goddess. Let me express my calling to a feminine life through nurturing love and relatedness.

  13. #13
    Aspiring Member Dorit's Avatar
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    "Estrogen acts everywhere in the body, including the parts of the brain that control emotion. Some of estrogen's effects include: Increasing serotonin, and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain. Modifying the production and the effects of endorphins, the "feel-good" chemicals in the brain."

    I brief quote from one of the many online articles about the effects of hormones on emotions.

  14. #14
    Little Mrs. Snarky! Nadine Spirit's Avatar
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    Over those first three months I generally just felt better than I ever had. No physical changes happened. I could have easily stopped and I would have had no long term effects. My three month experiment showed me that I didn't ever want to stop having E be my main hormone.

    Being as this is not a scientific journal or outlet, and people are asking for anecdotal experiences, my story is that I felt that change in my hormones on day one. I didn't suddenly feel more feminine nor did I suddenly grow boobs, but I felt something. It wasn't huge, and overwhelming, but subtle and under the surface. Something was different. That is really the best I can describe it, I could feel a difference. I didn't even feel the very first tingle of possible breast buds until about three months in, but I for sure felt something on that first day. It was such an undeniable feeling that I knew by the end of that first week that I would never go back.

    Good luck to you Elizabeth, I wish you my best in your journey of self discovery.

  15. #15
    Silver Member Devi SM's Avatar
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    I think that's no needed to go for research and complicated mental studies or estrogen effects on the brain.

    Many trans report great emotional changes. In fact, HRT help to stop suicides.

    In my case, I had a problem waking up in the middle of the night, always around 3 am, with big fears for whatever in turn could be, religious, financial, social, work, etc. Since the very first day of the HRT I sleep like a baby.

    You can say placebo, I thought it too but i feel great.

    At week eight, after seeing the evident boobs were growing, I quit of hormones, just one week and i had to go back again on them.

    Those night wake ups keep from time to time, now .the fear of the future as a woman were the disrupters but that's dissapeared, fully whole nights sleeping well.

    I do t need toention the happiness from the satisfaction on living as my real me because that's a n effect of the changes and no and effect of the hormones..

    Good luck...
    HRT 04302018 Full time 03/2019
    Orchiectomy 06/03/2020 gender, name10/26/2020
    Electrolysis face 08/2019, genitals for GCS 06/2021
    Breast augmentation surgery 01/31/2022

  16. #16
    Silver Member Aunt Kelly's Avatar
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    This is the problem with people reading things that the don't fully understand.

    This...
    "Despite the limitations of the available evidence, however, our review indicates that gender-affirming hormone therapy is likely associated with improvements in QOL, depression, and anxiety..."

    ...does in no way state that HRT causes those improvements."

    It states only that those improvements are likely associated with gender-affirming HRT, a phenomenon that is not in dispute here.

    If you want to assert that estradiol is a psychoactive substance, cite the study that proves it. No, opinion pieces and anecdotal accounts are not that.
    Last edited by Aunt Kelly; 03-16-2022 at 07:48 PM.
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  17. #17
    Member Jane P's Avatar
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    I don't think that anyone is saying that estradiol is a phychoactive substance. From my point of view people are saying that that the hormone changes that take place in their body, that take place in their brain affect the way that they feel. Affects their emotional state of being. It doesn't seem too far fetched to believe that hormone changes can affect your brain or thought processes. To me it sounds better than antidepressants, in some cases it seems that it **is** the cure to what ails them.
    I don't know why , but I am .

  18. #18
    Silver Member Aunt Kelly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jane P View Post
    I don't think that anyone is saying that estradiol is a phychoactive substance. From my point of view people are saying that that the hormone changes that take place in their body, that take place in their brain affect the way that they feel. Affects their emotional state of being. It doesn't seem too far fetched to believe that hormone changes can affect your brain or thought processes. To me it sounds better than antidepressants, in some cases it seems that it **is** the cure to what ails them.
    Again, the anatomical changes to the brain take years to develop, if at all. The scientific attention paid to the phenomenon is currently at the point of, "Hey, look at this." Attributing emotional changes to a virtually undocumented phenomenon, especially changes that take place within days or months of the start of HRT, is not based on reality. More importantly, I believe such belief minimizes or ignores the powerful effect that the act of such a positive move has on us. A friend recently explained, when I recounted that I cry more easily (pain, emotional movie scenes, you name it), "You do that because you've given yourself permission to feel that way, the way women have always been allowed to feel." That explanation borders on the glib when considered against the complex web of changes that come with embracing our true gender identity, but I believe that it's a far more plausible explanation than some imagined effect of a well-studied drug.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aunt Kelly View Post
    A friend recently explained, when I recounted that I cry more easily (pain, emotional movie scenes, you name it), "You do that because you've given yourself permission to feel that way, the way women have always been allowed to feel." That explanation borders on the glib when considered against the complex web of changes that come with embracing our true gender identity, but I believe that it's a far more plausible explanation than some imagined effect of a well-studied drug.
    Not only I gave myself permission to cry before hormones, I wanted but I couldn't. Not even on funerals of my close family members I loved. I felt something is wrong with me, that I some kind of heartless person. My emotions were mute, to even offer a hug to comfort. ALL of that has changed. I was crying a lot when our friend's child died in an accident. I am getting emotional watching movies and have tears. My first thought is to offer a hug to someone who I think may want one. It comes naturally too now. Call it a long term effect of hormones (noticed some time into it, not right away of course) or whatever you want, but this just is for me (and I love it).
    Last edited by Katya@; 03-17-2022 at 09:53 PM.

  20. #20
    Member HelpMe,Rhonda's Avatar
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    Oh I was always a crier, if not a laugh out loud-er, so crying has just upped its game since I started.

    Lucky to grow up in a family where being 'sensitive' was OK, even if no one ever guessed what was going on deeper inside-even if it took me decades to figure out wanting to wake up the next day a girl (and later on a woman) just might possibly mean you're trans and not just a crossdresser.

  21. #21
    If only you could see me sarahcsc's Avatar
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    Your end goal

    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth G View Post
    If my decision to transition were to affect only myself I would be on that path now but but among other complications I have a wife who didn't sign up for this so to speak. That being said I am considering a short trial period of HRT (about three months) as a means to evaluate the mental effects but short enough so the physical effects aren't irreversible.

    Currently I find that gender related thoughts occupy an enormous amount of mental real estate and it is only increasing as time matches on. Concentration can be difficult and it is affecting my work and other aspects of my life as well.

    So my question to the group is, during your initial period of HRT how did it effect you from a mental standpoint?

    Thank you,
    Elizabeth
    Hi Elizabeth,

    I've got patients like you who would like to 'experiment' with HRT as a way to move forward because they feel very stuck for whatever reason. Generally speaking, I'd encourage them to go ahead because any tiny experimental step is a tiny step towards knowing oneself.

    In your case, the only thing I'd point out is this: Taking HRT for 3 months will probably affect very little (if any) physical changes. Therefore, any changes in the way you feel are likely due to a placebo (or nocebo) effect. In other words, regardless of how you feel, it is most likely due to a psychological rather than a biological change.

    The pros of taking HRT for just 3 months is that you can always stop it, return to your baseline, and nothing would have changed. The cons? Well, NOTHING would have changed.

    You don't have to experiment with HRT to find out if it will affect how you feel because you are already guaranteed to feel something by virtue of the placebo/nocebo effect. Why conduct an experiment to find out something you already know?

    Most people want to experiment with HRT because they want to know what biological changes will ensue and how they might feel about those changes, not the other way around.

    Taking it for 3 months, in my opinion, is not harmful or beneficial, except it is kinda pointless. If you really want to know if HRT is right for you, try taking it for 12 months. Most of the changes brought on by HRT within 12 months are reversible, except for breast growth. Therefore, you can stop your experiment before 12 months is up depending on how comfortable you feel with your breast development.

    Again, I'm not stopping you with your experimentation, I'm just recommending a better way to go about it. You should of course discuss this with your wife and endocrinologist before proceeding.

    Yours,
    S
    "The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me" - Ayn Rand

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    As always, Sarah's comments are worth of gold!
    I wanted to share a personal experience on one point, should you choose to "experiment" for longer period of time as Sarah noted, specifically related to breast development. Going into HRT, I was hoping I would not experience any significant breasts growth. I even told my endocrinologist that, and asked if there's anything that could limit the breasts development. Long story short, it turned out to be a pure fear on my end that has evaporated shortly after starting the HRT, long before I felt anything changing. By the end of 90 days, I was already waiting for my breast development to kick in and I was hoping to have the best growth possible my body could have. My favorite t-shirts were the tight ones, where breasts was the most projected. Go figure!
    I would add though, that the first reaction of my partner was negative. I think she was disgusted seeing my breasts developing for the first time. But, here we are 5 years, and we overcame that too. She just needed time to adjust to it.
    Last edited by Katya@; 03-19-2022 at 09:11 AM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Laura912's Avatar
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    As a retired OB/GYN, I would like to congratulate both Kelly and Sarah for their accurate responses about HRT having a causative effect on one’s mental state. If one experiences psychological benefits from estrogen, that is wonderful, but do not think that is a direct biological cause. It clearly is a direct association with beginning a treatment for which one has a lot of expectations and benefits. In reality it doesn’t matter which way it works as long as the expected benefit occurs.
    Last edited by Laura912; 03-20-2022 at 08:38 AM.

  24. #24
    Silver Member Aunt Kelly's Avatar
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    Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your learned point of view. In your opinion, is the risk of adverse effects low enough to be an inconsequential consideration in "experimenting" in this way?
    Last edited by Aunt Kelly; 03-20-2022 at 03:17 PM.
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  25. #25
    Member HelpMe,Rhonda's Avatar
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    I asked a friendly endocrinologist about how dangerous HRT is and the answer, paraphrased, "NO. NO. It's not significantly dangerous when done correctly by a appropriate clinician, it's not dangerous. It's just making a person have the hormones they should have always had. No more dangerous than any other medicine. Oxygen has side effects. Water has side effects. Everything has side effects. We weigh the benefits and the risks and HRT is not significantly more dangerous than any other medication."

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