Mental Health & Menstrual Cycles

Do you feel anxious or sad during the week before your period? Please know that you’re not alone.

It’s natural to feel as if the emotional breakdown during this period is too much—feelings of irritability, anxiety and low energy can feel overwhelming all at once. 

This happens because of the hormonal changes that your body is going through during this time. Studies have shown that because of this, there is a very close relationship between your periods and your mental health. 

This blog explores this relationship and gives you an understanding of why you feel the way you do on your period. 

How does PMS affect your mental health?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has gained a negative reputation and women often get asked questions like why do females get angry during their period?” 

PMS is actually just a normal part of your menstrual cycle. Its symptoms are actually experienced by 90% of menstruating women between the time an egg is released, up until the moment menstruation actually begins.

In addition to the physical experience, symptoms of mood disorders such as sadness, anxiety, irritability, and/or mood swings affect everyday mood during this time. 

Before your period, an abrupt change in levels of estrogen and progesterone lead to hormones such as serotonin and dopamine to respond and in turn affect your emotions. 

Low levels of estrogen are linked to low levels of serotonin. Your hormonal changes linked with the menstrual cycle during this time, result in changes in mood, energy, sleep, and appetite. 

When your period begins, hormones start to balance out, leaving the more “emotional” behavior to settle. 

However, existing anxiety or depression during period often become heightened due to the catalysis of hormonal changes which can leave you to deal with extra stressors on mental and emotional health

If you’re experiencing the severity of the emotions, you can seek various treatments and plans that are available upon consultation with your doctor regarding PMS symptoms.

However, there are also non-clinical options grounded in mindfulness and physical wellbeing that are useful in managing PMS as well. 

Read this blog for top 5 ways to manage your PMS symptoms

What is PMDD and how is it different from PMS?

While PMS is incredibly common, only about 10% of women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Occurring in the same time period as PMS, PMDD displays itself in a more intense manner. 

In addition to the regular PMS symptoms, PMDD symptoms may cause extreme irritability, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and potential depression and suicidal thoughts

But, in the weeks between menstruation and ovulation, symptoms often subside and the chaos of mood swings also disappears. 

PMDD must be diagnosed by a healthcare provider who examines and evaluates one’s medical history and symptoms during the time period. 

People facing PMDD often experience depression and anxiety at levels that may interfere with their daily life, and often find that it takes a toll on their relationship with themselves and those around them. 

How does your mental health affect your periods? 

Women who experience a variety of anxiety disorders or substance abuse often have shorter cycles and are more likely to experience an irregular period

One of the effects of having irregular menstrual cycles is that the PMS symptoms can feel more consistent and overwhelming, or too far apart and inconsistent to find a pattern in order to manage them. 

Periods’ effect on mental health can also change due to environmental and genetic risk factors. For example, a 2019 study titled “Tobacco consumption and premenstrual syndrome” found that women who smoke are more likely to develop PMS and PMDD than non-smokers. 

To learn more, read the blog, can your period affect your mental health? 

Tips for dealing with PMS

You may also be able to manage PMS through certain lifestyle modifications. 

1. Consistent exercise. Read this blog on working out and your menstrual cycle to understand what kind of exercises are best suited for the different phases of your menstrual cycle. 

2. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet including lots of fruits and vegetables. To understand what kind of foods you should be eating on your period, you can take a look at the blog on 6 foods to eat on your period

3. Sleep regularly - 8 hours or more can be a game-changer for reducing mood swings and increasing overall mood.

4. Meditation - especially in times of more extreme emotions

5. Relaxing practices such as yoga, massages, acupuncture, and journaling

Finally, it is just important to remember that your menstrual cycle is linked to your mental health so that you feel more aware and conscious of your body, and are able to find methods and develop wellness practices that work best for you.