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Hormone Therapy

In order to heal from addiction, people need to learn a significant amount about their bodies, as well as their minds. Some addiction cues lie deep within the body’s natural cycles, and only through understanding can those cues be overcome. For women, this means learning more about hormone shifts that occur monthly, as well as hormonal shifts that take place later in life. These changing hormone levels have a huge role to play in a woman’s recovery from addiction, and they could help women develop the skills they’ll need to maintain sobriety for the rest of their lives.

The Four Hormonal Stages

Hormonal Shift Awareness

At The Orchid, hormonal shifts therapy is broken down into the four stages of a woman’s life :

  1. Menstruation
  2. Peri-menopause
  3. Menopause
  4. Post-menopause


Most women are familiar with the monthly hormonal stage known as menstruation. In the course of the month, the uterus creates a lining to support the fertilization of an egg released by the ovaries and, if that egg is not fertilized, the lining is shed during menstruation. During the stages of menstruation, different hormones are released, creating symptoms that include bloating and cramps, headaches, muscle pain and insomnia. Menstruation, and few days just before menstruation, can also cause anxiety, tension or irritability. Some women report mood swings and crying spells. Symptoms of monthly distress might be much more common than the average woman expects. In fact, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 85 percent of menstruating women have at least one symptom of distress each month. Some women might not even know that the mental symptoms they face each month are caused by their hormones.



Peri-menopause is sometimes called a transitional period. Here, a woman’s body moves from a regular, predictable monthly cycle into menopause, in which no cycles take place at all. Some women experience peri-menopause in their 30s or their 40s, although they may not even realize that the symptoms they are feeling are due to approaching menopause.

According to the Mayo Clinic, women in perimenopause may experience:

  • Hot flashes
  • Sleep problems
  • Irregular periods
  • Vaginal dryness

Women may misinterpret these signs as illness, or they may believe that their bodies are somehow defective. It’s easy to see how this might lead a woman to depression or fear.



Menopause is defined as the singular moment in time in which the woman’s body is no longer considered fertile, and the monthly cycle has ended for good. This moment may be tremendous for a woman, on a psychological level, but it can pass by so quickly that many women simply don’t know that it has happened.


Post-menopause, on the other hand, may stretch out for years, and the symptoms that are commonly attributed to “menopause” in mainstream media are, technically, better considered symptoms of post-menopause, when a woman’s body is adjusting to functioning normally without the full complement of female hormones that it has become accustomed to. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, most women reach this stage between the ages of 45 and 55.

The hormonal shifts before, during and after menopause can be quite severe. As the production of the hormone estrogen slows and stops, the impact is felt in the ovaries, brain and uterus. Menopausal distress can be quite extreme, and in the past, some women took hormone replacement therapies in order to help them avoid some of the complications that come with menopause, including night sweats, hot flashes and a racing heart. According to the National Institutes of Health, many women are choosing to live with these symptoms instead of treating them, as research suggests that some forms of hormones can increase the risks of complications such as heart disease, blood clots and strokes.

What Is Hormonal Shift Awareness Therapy?

Hormonal shift awareness therapy is designed to help women better understand the hormonal stages they will experience throughout their lives and learn how to integrate that knowledge into their drug and alcohol addiction recovery. This treatment was created and based on the preliminary research of Donna Corrente, MS, CAS, CAP, to address the physical and emotional needs of women caused by the four hormonal stages while they undergo the process of addiction treatment and recovery.

The goal of hormonal shift awareness therapy is to help women understand each hormonal stage and learn how to mitigate the behavioral and emotional symptoms caused by these stages, without using drugs or alcohol. In addition, hormonal shift awareness therapy helps women learn how to identify and treat these issues naturally as they move into post-menopause, the last hormonal stage that is also characterized by physical and emotional changes.

The work is important, as too often, the turbulent emotions and physical symptoms that accompany natural hormonal shifts and changes cause women to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. For example, researchers conducted a study in 1993 of women who had generalized anxiety disorders. According to the results published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia, the women had even higher anxiety scores when they were going through PMS. Women who are already anxious, and who feel even more anxious on a monthly basis, might reasonably use drugs and alcohol to quell their symptoms. Education is the best way to break this cycle.

Women might also resort to using drugs and alcohol in order to help deal with the distress of the menopause cycle. Women might not know what is happening to their bodies, and they might resort to substances to calm their fears. Women might be in physical pain due to these changes, and use drugs and alcohol as a tonic. Women might also face embarrassment due to hot flashes and sweating, and they might use drugs and alcohol to clear the embarrassment away. Women might also face increases in mental illnesses such as depression during the menopause transition. For example, a study in the journal Annals of Epidemiology found that going through a long menopause transition was related to higher rates of depression, even in women who had never been diagnosed with depression earlier in life. Hormonal changes might be to blame for this change in mental state. Some women might also have an emotional reaction to the concept of menopause, worrying that they are no longer attractive and worthy, since they can no longer bear children. These thoughts, combined with changing hormone levels, might reasonably drive a woman to drink or take drugs. It seems like a fast way to help deal with pain.

Similarly, during detoxification and rehab, a woman’s body is learning to adjust to functioning normally without the presence of drugs. Many changes in chemicals are taking place, and it’s common for women to feel vulnerable one moment and angry the next, as chemical changes swing from one extreme to another. Overlaying these changes with the changes already taking place in a woman’s body due to her monthly, or her lifetime, cycle could be disastrous and lead to a significant amount of pain and distress. The combination of emotional needs created by hormones and through the process of detox can make addiction recovery an exhausting process. Education might, once again, help to alleviate pain. Without it, a woman might not understand what is happening to her, and she might certainly not understand how to take control. Instead, she might simply relapse into a life of addiction, no matter how much she might not want to do so. Her hormones have taken over her will here, but education can help stop that situation from taking place.

Through hormonal shift awareness therapy, women gain an objective perspective on the moods, feelings and behaviors that they experience as result of these hormonal shifts. They learn how to identify issues related to hormonal shifts, mitigate those issues naturally without drugs and alcohol, and create a plan for dealing with the hormonal stages that all women experience. It can be a powerful way in which women take charge once more, learning more about their bodies and how to care for them.

Hormonal Shift Awareness Therapy and Recovery

Emotional and psychological triggers are common causes for drug relapse for those in early recovery. For women, those triggers often originate or are exacerbated by hormonal shifting related to PMS, menstruation or peri-menopause. Studies on this topic are slightly hard to come by, but it’s easy to see how hormones influence cravings by looking at studies of women and chocolate. A study in the journal Appetite states that about half of American women crave chocolate, and about half of the women who do so feel cravings most acutely when menstruation begins. A portion of the brain, responsible for triggering cravings, is clearly in overdrive during the monthly cycle process. It’s likely women who are accustomed to drugs feel cravings in much the same way, due to the influence of hormones.

While at The Orchid, women are taught to identify and track those triggers, explore them and create a plan to deal with them without relapsing to drug use. Hormonal shift awareness therapy integrates the skills needed for relapse prevention and the awareness of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that present during hormonal shifts depending on a woman’s specific life stage. This helps each client create a unique treatment plan that will aid her throughout recovery. Women might be asked to keep track of their monthly cycles and keep accurate notes about the symptoms they feel and the cravings they sense. Then, they might develop techniques they can use when cravings strike. A woman who knows her cycle is about to begin might be able to reasonably handle a mood swing or a craving without resorting to drug use if she knows her hormones are at the core of the feelings she’s experiencing. She can use the power of her mind to overcome the cues her body is sending.

Benefits of Hormonal Shift Awareness Therapy

Hormonal shift awareness therapy provides women with the tools they need to successfully remain relapse-free as they experience the different hormonal shifts and changes in their lives. Women often learn how to treat the symptoms of PMS, peri-menopause, menopause, and post-menopause in a natural way, without resorting to drugs. Women might also be coached on foods and drinks they should avoid during different hormonal stages.

Many coaching sessions revolve around dealing with mood swings, caused both by hormones and by addiction recovery. According to the American Journal of Public Health, about 30 percent of women studied report mood swings during PMS. Studies have also suggested that mood swings are remarkably common in addiction rehab for women. Admitting that mood swings occur, and that they are distressing, can be difficult for women, but it can be incredibly important for women’s long-term sobriety. Women who are accustomed to using sedating drugs, so they won’t allow themselves to lash out with anger, will need to learn new methods to help them keep calm, cool and collected.

In order to help women to stay calm when their hormones are raging, some programs use alternative therapies, such as:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Deep breathing

Some women also find respite in art, poetry or some other form of creative expression. All of these solutions, and many more, are covered in hormone awareness therapy. The goal is to help women tap into their hidden power, and these methods can help women to do just that. They will have other techniques they can use to help them feel at ease, instead of reverting to drug and alcohol abuse.

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Is Hormonal Shift Awareness Therapy Right for You?

Addiction treatment programs are individualized, allowing different people to use different tools in their fight against addiction. Just as no two women are the same, no two treatment programs are the same, and what seems right for one woman might be completely wrong for the next women who need care. Some women who have intense difficulty, on a monthly basis, with hormone-related symptoms might benefit from shift awareness therapy, but there are some women who might find that the treatment doesn’t address their specific addiction history and their needs in recovery. For this reason, hormonal shift awareness therapy isn’t provided to all women who come to The Orchid. In fact, the treatment is only provided to women who would benefit from the program.

If you’d like more information, please contact us. We can put you in touch with a counselor to determine whether or not your recovery program will benefit from this form of therapy. You’ll also be given a chance to determine if understanding hormonal shifting and changes that all women experience in their lifetimes can be considered an important part of your recovery process. Call now to find out more.

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