Ah, your period. A monthly gift from mother nature that in all honesty, I’ve never got used to! Aside from the inconvenience of using tampons, pads or even eco-friendly menstrual cups, a period can really affect your mood. We all know about PMS and the struggle it can bring us, but does it go deeper than that?
In fact, having your period can affect your mental health more than you imagined. For me personally, the few days before my period starts are a huge source of anxiety. Not because of anything in particular, but my brain seems to panic and work overtime. Why is that?
According to TalkSpace: “…the hormonal changes that trigger a menstrual period can worsen the symptoms of mood disorders. Relationships can suffer from the emotional symptoms of depression, anxiety, and irritability, leading to additional stressors on mental and emotional health.”
Wow, not as simple as being grouchy and needing chocolate, is it?
Could I have PMDD?
PMDD (Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder) is an abnormal reaction to the hormonal changes around the beginning of your period. Studies have shown a connection between PMDD and low levels of serotonin, a chemical in your brain that helps transmit nerve signals. Certain brain cells that use serotonin also control mood, attention, sleep, and pain. Hormonal changes may cause a decrease in serotonin, leading to PMDD symptoms.
If you are experiencing the normal symptoms of PMS, it’s likely not a cause for concern. However, if you notice severe mood swings or feelings of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, feeling out of control, hot flashes and intense cramps, you may need to speak to your GP. A big warning sign is these symptoms beginning at least 5 – 7 days before your period even begins!
Don’t Suffer in Silence
Thankfully, there could be an end in sight if you’re struggling with these symptoms. Several common treatments include diet changes, regular exercise, vitamin supplements and stress management. More invasive treatments include hormone therapy and potentially starting on antidepressants to control symptoms.
In the meantime, make sure you’re tracking your cycles with a helpful app such as Flo to record all symptoms – it will make it easier to spot if there has been any change.
Luckily, the narrative around periods and menstruation is becoming much more open and positive, leading to so much more information, advice and practical help out there. You’re not alone.
If you’ve stumbled across this article because you’re wondering how you can help someone else who is menstruating, read our tips on ways to comfort women at that time of the month.