How Your Mental Health & Menstrual Cycle Are Linked

About your mental health

5 min read

October 20, 2021

It's not a surprise that the menstrual cycle can affect your mood. With everything from cramps and headaches to terrible bloating, getting your period is often no ray of sunshine in your life. For some women, however, the mental health changes around their cycles are more severe and pronounced.

PMS and PMDD and Your Mental Health

Most women have heard of, if not experienced, PMS, otherwise known as Premenstrual Syndrome. This can start about a week before the onset of a period and cause symptoms like moodiness, anxiety, feelings of depression, weepiness, and sometimes feelings of anger or agitation. PMDD, in contrast, stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and is an extension or worsening of PMS that affects around 1 in 25 people who get periods.

PMDD can cause problems including:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Bursts of anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety with tension in the body
  • Sleep problems
  • A deep depression or lack of motivation

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How Hormones Affect Mental Health

Though women’s health experts aren't sure of the exact causes behind PMS and PMDD, most believe it is linked to hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle. For example, women who regularly suffer PMDD symptoms have been found to have lower levels of serotonin in the brain. Low levels of this hormone lead to changes in mood, sleep, and even pain. Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can trigger problems with hormones like serotonin and can cause weepiness and other issues that negatively impact relationships and mental health.

Many women who suffer PMDD symptoms have an underlying mental health condition they may or may not be aware of. Those who suffer from clinical depression are more likely to suffer from this severe form of PMS.

Risk Factors

Women’s health experts agree that there are certain risk factors that make women more likely to suffer these symptoms. PMS has a genetic component to it, meaning if your mother or grandmother had it, you're at a much greater risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Stress
  • Underlying mood disorders
  • Seasonal changes
  • A history of trauma

Getting Help For Your Menstrual Cycle and Mental Health

You don't have to suffer in silence. Talk with your doctor about certain lifestyle changes that may help manage symptoms. These include cutting back on sugar and caffeine, reducing alcohol intake, managing sleep quality, and taking certain supplements like magnesium. In certain cases, medication may also be recommended. With proper management, PMDD can be managed and a good life can be lived.

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