The Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, in Melbourne, Australia, has done research projects and treatment trials using estrogen to improve treatment outcomes and schizophrenia symptoms in female patients. Recently, however, Profressor Jayashri Kulkarni discussed a short trial in which male schizophrenia patients were given the female hormone for two weeks. Interestingly, they found that low doses of estrogen reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in the male schizophrenia patients.
The trial was a short one, and Professor Kulkarni pointed out that long-term use of estrogen by men is controversial, particularly because it leads to increased feminization (the development of female body traits such as breasts). Whether estrogen therapy for male schizophrenics holds significant promise as a treatment option is unknown and will require much more study. However, Professor Kulkarni called the results surprising, and noted that “in a lot of ways the estrogen is a brain steroid, not just a reproductive girl's hormone.”
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This study raises some interesting research questions and may point to some avenues for further schizophrenia treatment research in both men and women. As Professor Kulkarni noted, the importance of this study lies in the fact that ”it's a first."