Bloating, headaches and moodiness are well known symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), likely because more than 90% of women experience at least one symptom before their monthly cycle. However, for some women these symptoms can go beyond minor discomfort and a feeling of ‘being off’. This could be as a result of severe PMS symptoms or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), a recognised and diagnosable condition similar to PMS but with more severe symptoms, including severe depression, irritability, and tension.
How can your period affect your mental health?
It’s all about your hormones. When they’re fluctuating (as they do before your period) they can affect how you think and feel mentally and physically. Even, amplifying things like anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions during your cycle that you may already be trying to manage.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel throughout the body coordinating complex processes. They influence things such as growth, metabolism, fertility and the immune system, and can even alter behaviour.
How can your period affect your mood?
In the days leading up to your period, you might notice a subtle (or not so subtle) emotional shift.
As well as physical symptoms like cramps and headaches, PMS can include emotional symptoms like:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Teariness and emotional vulnerability
- Heightened anxiety
- Feeling generally unsettled
As well as the experiencing PMS symptoms women with PMDD usually experience at least one prominent emotional and behavioural symptom:
- Sadness or hopelessness including severe depression
- Anxiety or tension
- Extreme moodiness
- Marked irritability or anger
Is it important to understand the link between your period and your mental health?
Yes. Learning about what your hormones are up to during your cycle can help to understand why we might be feeling a certain way. You won’t suddenly have the power to control how you’re feeling all of the time but it can help us to make sense of why you’re feeling this way.
What can help with PMS/PMDD symptoms?
Diet – Eating a balanced diet throughout the month is one of the best and healthiest ways to curb symptoms. Although, you might find yourself craving those sweet, carb filled meals and snacks, overloading on sugar can also worsen symptoms.
Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals such Vitamin B6, Iron and Magnesium can also make symptoms worse.
Exercise – Exercise can help alleviate symptoms. Especially aerobic exercises. If you’re not an avid exerciser, don’t be put off – you don’t have to join a gym or take up running. Experiment to find something that works for you.
Sleep – Our body clocks can be affected, making it more difficult to sleep even if we’re feeling tired. To counter this, try putting your phone away (staring at your phone before bed can make it harder to fall asleep), dimming the lights and doing something you find relaxing before shutting your eyes for the night. Essential oils like lavender can also help aid sleep, so popping a few drops on your pillowcase might help you drift off.
Stress – Stress has a habit of making any symptom worse. Some people find massage, yoga and meditation really helpful.
Treatment – As well as lifestyle and habit changes your doctor may suggest things such as hormonal medicines, cognitive behavioural therapy or antidepressants. So, remember that you can always speak to your doctor for help.