Gabrielle Lichterman from Hormonology tells us just how much hormones actually affect our mood… and then some.
It was a very strange scene: me, sobbing on the couch while watching a commercial for beer, with my very confused-looking dog sitting next to me. I knew it wasn’t the ad that put me to tears, but I couldn’t figure out why I was being so dramatic. So, I figured there’s an app for that. Soon, it all became clear. I was at the end of the third week of my cycle, so the level of progesterone in my body was peaking. Feeling like my emotions were validated, I breathed a sigh of relief and continued to cry.
The app I opened, Hormonology, has helped explain my weird moods to me for the last couple of years. All I have to do is input the length of my menstrual cycle, let it know when I get my period, and it shows me a science-based explanation — cheekily called “Hormone Horoscope” — of what my hormones are doing that day and how they affect my mood, energy, libido and impulses.
As a devoted user, I interviewed Gabrielle Lichterman, the creator of Hormonology and a health journalist, to find out more about the inspiration behind Hormonology.
How did you get the idea for Hormonology?
I came up with the idea in 1999 when I was doing research for a health article I was writing for a magazine. I came across a then newly-released study about how women are more attracted to masculine-looking romantic partners on high-estrogen days in their monthly cycle and feminine-looking romantic partners on low-estrogen days in their cycle.
Back then, no one talked about how hormones impacted women during their cycle, so this was an intriguing study. However, I had a hunch there were plenty more intriguing facts just like this one hiding in medical journals.
So, I went hunting after them, and over the course of several months, I found hundreds. All were more interesting than the next and showed how the ups and downs of hormones throughout our monthly cycle impacted us in ways our doctors never told us: our moods (of course), but also our energy, memory, sleep quality, libido and health, as well as how we spent money, when we were more likely to take risks and much more.
When did you start it?
I began my research in 1999 and Hormonology was officially launched in 2005 with my book, 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals about Your Love Life, Moods and Potential.
What do you want to achieve with Hormonology?
I started out wanting to make all cycling women’s lives easier and better. By showing them how their hormones impact their moods, health and behavior all cycle long, they could live in sync with it by planning events, job interviews, dates, parties, networking functions, projects, shopping and everything else they do according to the best days of their cycle.
But that goal has evolved into a larger mission: to share hormone information with everyone — girls, women, parents, caregivers, teachers and partners — so that every girl and woman has all this practical knowledge starting with their very first cycle.
How do women react when you tell them about Hormonology?
I get mixed reactions. Right now, most women love to learn about how their hormones impact their moods, health and behavior all cycle long and are excited about it, but it wasn’t always like this.
In the beginning when my book was first published, I was criticized by women who felt I was pushing back womankind 100 years by pointing out that we’re influenced by our hormones. To them, this was playing into stereotypes about the hysterical hormonal female.
While I understood where they were coming from, I knew that Hormonology was 100% science-based, so I was disappointed that they couldn’t see past that knee-jerk reaction and embrace the fact that, yes, we women are influenced by our hormones — because that’s how we’re naturally wired. And that’s okay.
By the way, men are influenced by their hormones just as much as women because they have a hormone cycle, too! Their hormone cycle lasts 24 hours and starts with testosterone high in the morning and this hormone gradually gets lower as the day goes on.
So, it isn’t misogynistic to talk about how our hormones impact us. It’s useful, it’s insightful and it helps us all live better lives.
Is Hormonology for everyone?
Hormonology teaches everyone — girls, women and men — about how cycling hormones in the female menstrual cycle impact mood, health and behavior. The girls and women who can use Hormonology for their own cycles are those who get regular healthy monthly cycles of any length –it could be the average 28 days or shorter or longer.
Women who use hormonal birth control or who have a disorder that disrupts their hormone cycle, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), would not be ideal for the apps.
What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned since launching it?
The most surprising thing has been the vast number of women who write to me saying they thought they were going crazy until they found out about how their hormones affected them. I think I was unprepared for just how common a reaction this was going to be.
I’m really glad that Hormonology can help relieve women [by] realiz[ing] what they feel is normal and that they’re not alone, but at the same time, I find it sad that so many women have had to endure this self-doubt and worry for so long. Many of the earlier studies upon which Hormonology is based have been published decades ago — so we [could] have known about all this so much sooner and saved millions of women from this kind of inner turmoil. But, the studies were all hidden away — and no one thought to tell us about them!
This is really what motivates me to keep spreading this information: No woman should have to wonder if she’s losing her mind when what she’s experiencing is just normal — and entirely predictable — effects of her hormones.
So… is “being hormonal” a thing?
Well, we’re all impacted by our hormones — women and men — to some degree, all day. But, there can be times when those hormones take center-stage, like when you’re feeling teary or irritable or tired for no reason at all. Then, yes, you’re “hormonal.” But, if we’re using “hormonal” in that sense, then we also have to remember all the good ways we’re “hormonal,” too –those moments when we’re inexplicably upbeat, energized, euphoric or chatty. So, “hormonal” isn’t a bad thing. It’s just another way to say our hormones are impacting us.
You can download the Hormonology app on iTunes or PlayStore.
Some answers have been condensed for clarity.
Header image edited by Marcy Gooberman
Pau is a Mexican feminist and journalist living in Madrid. Writing for tabú is a part of her scheme to empower young women through education.