Mental Health

Jan 20 2023

Does Menstruation Affect Women’s Mental Health?

Ifunanya Ukwuoma

Ifunanya Ukwuoma

Author

Do you always feel a high level of inconvenience in the days leading up to your menstruation and the first few days of bleeding? If yes, it’s easy to guess why you’re here.

A period is easily one of the most dreadful experiences that many women go through. Aside from the obvious discomfort – the body discarding blood through the vagina, menstruation can significantly impact a woman’s mental health.

“Women feel overwhelmed by the physical pain resulting from cramps and headaches. This can cause them to be mentally drained”, says Dedoyin Ajayi, licensed psychotherapist and emotional health expert. “Some women have more severe experiences and are identified with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). This could lead to depression, fatigue, panic attacks, and trouble carrying on with their daily activities”, she added.

Beyond the physical symptoms, it is clear that period also comes with a lot of emotional baggage. Hence, triggering PTSD symptoms in women.  

This post provides an understanding of PMS, its symptoms, and effective coping mechanisms you can apply.

Key Takeaways

  • Premenstrual Syndrome is a normal occurrence for every woman. 
  • PMS symptoms are broken down into two — emotional and physical symptoms.  
  • You can manage your PMS symptoms by living a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, and consulting a therapist.  
  • Speak with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing debilitating PMS symptoms. That’s because they may be related to a health condition that needs to be addressed by a medical professional.  

What is PMS? 

PMS, or Premenstrual Syndrome, is a collection of emotional and physical symptoms that occurs while you prepare to have your period. These symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, but common ones include cramps, bloating, headaches, mood swings, and fatigue.  

The cause of PMS is not fully understood, but we believe it is related to changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. While PMS can be uncomfortable and disruptive, it is a normal part of the menstrual cycle and can be managed with lifestyle changes and a few medications.  

It is important to remember that every woman experiences PMS differently; you don’t need to feel ashamed of yourself during this time.   

What are the Symptoms of PMS? 

PMS can be difficult to cope with, as it often comes with mild to severe symptoms that can affect your everyday life and overall well-being.  

Although these symptoms are not usually the same, you can expect to experience a few each month before your period. Let’s see what they are below: 

Emotional Symptoms 

Emotional symptoms of PMS are simply the psychological changes that some women experience during the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle. These changes may include the following: 

Physical Symptoms 

It doesn’t stop at emotional signs as you will most likely experience some physical symptoms of PMS like: 

  • Cramps 
  • Bloating 
  • Constipation 
  • Headache 
  • Swollen breasts 
  • Intolerance to noise 
  • Weight gain 
  • Swelling of legs 
  • Decreased libido 
  • Dizziness

Causes of PMS  

Certain factors play a role in making a woman prone to experiencing PMS symptoms more than others:  

Lifestyle Factors

Your lifestyle choices play a significant role in how PMS may affect your mental health. For example, stressing your body and not getting the required amount of rest when due may boost hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Thus, worsening the physical and emotional symptoms that come with PMS.  

Similarly, lack of exercise and poor dieting can even heighten the possibility of you experiencing signs associated with PMS.  

Genetics

In the journal Molecular Psychiatry, Dr. Peter Schmidt of the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and his colleagues mentioned a 56% chance that PMS can be inherited. i.e., If your family has a history of PMS, you may be more likely to experience the symptoms yourself. 

“I always feel nauseous and have migraines maybe a week or two to my period. I decided to talk to my mum about it. After listening to me, she made me understand that this was also the same case with her. It was shocking to learn that she was also the same age as me at the time”, says 20-year-old Mary.  

Hormonal Changes

Some fluctuations in the hormones can cause chemical changes to occur in the brain during your menstrual cycle. Note: these hormonal changes do not affect all women in the same way.  

When asked, 24-year-old Judith said, “I noticed that I always experience a massive appearance of acne on my skin. I was the only one with this experience among all the girls in my circle. I did a mini-survey and found other girls with the same symptoms. Later, I spoke with a student doctor in my school, who said my acne could result from hormonal changes”.  

You should consult a qualified therapist if you’re struggling to cope with the psychological and emotional aspects of your hormonal changes.  

Underlying health issues

Some examples of underlying health conditions that can cause PMS include: 

  • Thyroid disorders 

The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate metabolism. An imbalance in these hormones can lead to symptoms like mood swings, fatigue, and weight changes.  

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) 

PCOS is a hormonal condition that causes irregular periods, acne, and weight gain. It can also affect progesterone and estrogen levels, ultimately increasing the likelihood of severe PMS symptoms. 

  • Diabetes 

Women with diabetes may experience more severe cramps, sugar cravings, weight gain, etc., during their menstrual cycle. 

  • Autoimmune diseases 

Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation throughout the body, which may worsen PMS symptoms. 

You should speak with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing debilitating PMS symptoms. That’s because they may be related to a health condition that needs to be addressed by a medical professional.  

Psychological Factors 

Psychological factors can play a role in the development of PMS symptoms. Women who experience any of the following factors may likely suffer from PMS:  

  • Negative body image 
  • Anxiety and depression 
  • High-stress levels 
  • Trauma or past abuse 

As a woman going through any of these psychological issues, opting for the right therapy can help you gain insight into your thoughts and behaviors. It will also enable you to learn new ways of dealing with your challenges. 

Nutritional Factors

As you work to make your PMS symptoms less disruptive, you might want to consider re-evaluating your diet.  

For example, a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fat can contribute to hormonal imbalances. Do you know what that means? Right, exacerbated PMS symptoms. Lack of certain nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6, can also worsen your PMS symptoms.  

Other supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and chaste berries are also worth trying.   

Tschudin and her colleagues conducted a study in Switzerland on the Prevalence of PMS and Related Predisposing Risk Factors. It involved 3,913 women between the ages of 15 to 54 years.  

By the end of the study, it was revealed that PMS and PDD are both commonly associated with a deficiency in physical health and psychological distress. Also, up to 12 sociodemographic factors, including unemployment, lower education, and advanced reproductive age, are found to increase the risk of PMS. 

How to Cope with PMS 

Dealing with PMS can be pretty uncomfortable. But you can manage its symptoms and improve the quality of your life through these means:  

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can be beneficial. They help to minimize bloating and fatigue. It is also essential to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. 

Exercising

Including regular physical activity is a vital approach to eliminating stress and anxiety and improving mood and energy levels.  

You can start by engaging in moderate amounts of exercise, such as walking or yoga. 

  • Apply Stress Management Techniques 

Undoubtedly, stress can worsen PMS symptoms, so finding ways to relax and unwind is crucial. You can get started with these stress management techniques.  

  •  Track your Symptoms 

Keeping track of your symptoms enables you to identify patterns and triggers, which can aid in managing symptoms more effectively.  

Many women keep a symptom diary for this purpose; it is a great way to monitor their symptoms and see how different factors influence them. 

  •  Talk to a Therapist 

PMS symptoms can be incredibly difficult to deal with, especially alone. That’s why it’s advised that you have someone to talk to about them.  

With a therapist, you are guaranteed a safe and understanding space to discuss the physical and emotional symptoms you may be going through. 

That’s where we come in! At Mytherapist, you gain access to a licensed psychotherapist who will walk you through your symptoms and share some coping tools and strategies to help you manage them. We also offer support and validation for the challenges you may be facing.  

It’s important to remember that PMS symptoms are not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about; seeking help is a brave and proactive step toward feeling better. Ready to get started? Book a session with a licensed psychotherapist today!  

Bottom Line

Overall, PMS can be challenging to deal with. Nonetheless, there are ways to cope with and manage the symptoms effectively. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and incorporating exercises are great ways to begin.  

Remember that you are not alone and that many women experience similar symptoms as you. With the right strategies, you can take control of your PMS and feel better. 

 

 

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