Dr. Jennifer Payne Visits Brookhaven Retreat in October

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Dr. Jennifer Payne visits Brookhaven Retreat, a unique residential treatment facility exclusively for women with mental health and/or substance abuse issues, and discusses the influences of hormones and genetics on mood disorders.

Dr. Jennifer Payne, an expert on genetics research and mood disorders, visited Brookhaven Retreat October 15-16. Dr. Payne’s visits enable her to oversee the psychiatry team, discuss complex client cases and contribute her expertise to women’s mental health treatment. During her visit, she shared relevant information about the influences of hormones and genetics on mood disorders.

Dr. Payne studies the genetic and epigenetic influences on women’s mood disorders. Mood disorders clearly run in families and genetic influences are stronger in bipolar disorder than major depression. Despite this, science has been unable to identify a clear gene related to increased risk.

Mood disorders are believed to be the effect of a combination of biological susceptibility and emotional influences such as stress, hormones, head trauma or drug use. Although women have twice the rate of major depression as men, this difference is limited to the reproductive time between puberty and menopause. Before and after this time period, women exhibit no difference in depression rates from men. Because of this, cyclical hormone changes are thought to significantly contribute to mood disorders and mental health issues.

The timing of mood disorder symptoms can determine if a woman’s disorder is hormone related. If a woman’s illness is indeed hormone related, hormonal treatments may be used to stabilize mood, though other non-hormonal treatments may be recommended as well.

Most women who have underlying mood disorders experience stronger mood symptoms related to hormonal fluctuations. In any mood disorder, women are at increased risk for mood changes during the premenstrual and postpartum time periods.

Women who destabilize premenstrually can address this risk during treatment. It is also important to follow women at risk for depression and mood disorders very closely during the pregnancy and postpartum period.

Emotional sensitivity to hormonal fluctuations appears to be a marker for more difficult to treat illnesses. One study reported that women are more prone to relapse of mental illness when they experienced stronger premenstrual symptoms. Even at-risk women who take medication during pregnancy experience a greater risk of postpartum depression and must be followed very closely during and after pregnancy.

An increased awareness of genetic and hormonal risk factors could help women prepare for the possibility of a mood disorder. Dr. Payne is currently working to find the epigenetic and genetic markers associated with postpartum depression by isolating and studying a group of women who experienced postpartum depression shortly after giving birth.

It is important for all women to be vigilant of the genetic and hormonal influences that could affect their mental health throughout life. With knowledge of individual risk factors and periods of vulnerability, women are able to take their mental health in hand and get appropriate treatment as soon as necessary.

About Brookhaven Retreat
Brookhaven Retreat is a women's treatment center nestled on a naturally beautiful 48-acre site secluded in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. It has helped hundreds of women across the United States overcome depression, trauma, anxiety, substance use and a range of other behavioral health challenges. Brookhaven’s Founder, Jacqueline Dawes, has predicated its gender-specific treatment on “healing emotional breakage” for women. In this way, she has established a sanctuary and a place where women can feel safe, secure and cared for by a staff of highly trained professionals.

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Jessica Wirth
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