Your Serotonin Levels Are Diminished
Strangely enough, the hormonal changes you experience also influence how the chemicals in your brain function. “Neurotransmitters in the brain probably have something to do with PMS symptoms,” Dr. Dweck says. Research suggests that serotonin drops when your period starts, due to all the hormonal fluctuations. Low amounts of serotonin in the brain are associated with depression, irritability, and intense cravings for carbohydrates, which is pretty much PMSing in a nutshell. In her book Moody Bitches, psychiatrist Dr. Julie Holland explains,
Lower estrogen levels cause serotonin levels to drop precipitously a few days before menstruation, which may be the basis of many PMS symptoms. Low levels of serotonin are implicated in depression, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder … you’re even more physically sensitive to pain than usual, and more emotionally sensitive to criticism. You’re less resilient in the face of stresses and feel sadder, hungrier, and more scared, tearful, and angsty.
On top of all that, as levels of estrogen and serotonin rapidly fall, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid also start to disappear when your period arrives. These are two chemicals that boost your moods, put a pep in your step, and reduce anxiety. Without them, you don’t exactly have a recipe for calm, cool, and collected on your hands.
What Causes Anxiety Before Periods
If youre experiencing anxiety before your period only then it is most likely due to the shifts in hormones that occur during the luteal phase of your cycle. Before the onset of you period, progesterone levels drop, which can trigger anxiety in some women. For others, stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine can contribute to anxiety and a sense of overwhelm.
Progesterone: The Pms Culprit
Progesterone and estrogen, the primary female sex hormones, affect the parts of our brains which influence mood and behavior. So, as the progesterone in our body suddenly rises after ovulation, so do depressive feelings. One explanation for this could be that progesterone affects the amygdala . The amygdala is part of our fear-based response system, and since progesterone triggers the amygdala, we become hyper-reactive in the throes of PMS. Heightened amygdala reactivity also leads to increased anxiety, which can make us more depressed. If you experience severe cases of depression and hopelessness during this time, consider speaking to a doctor since you may be experiencing more extreme symptoms of PMS.
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Pms And How It Can Affect Your Mental Health
When do you start to feel sad?
Why do you feel sad?
How long does this last?
Does hormonal birth control help, or make it worse?
How can you manage PMS?
Alongside the monthly bleeding that we get to look forward to, another menstrual cycle side effect many often experience is PMS. For some, it only lasts a few days , and everyone experiences varying levels of PMS intensity. If the symptoms begin to negatively affect your mental health, there are steps you can take to better understand your body, and to improve it each month. Lets talk PMS
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Pmdd Gives Me Severe Depression Every Time I Get My Period
Before I was diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, I spent a lot of time in medical offices, exam table paper crinkling under my butt, crying about my period.
I wasnt in physical pain, but I was severely depressed and having thoughts about harming myself even though I felt fine just days before. A few doctors suggested talk therapy, my therapist suggested I see a doctor, and the antidepressants my psychiatrist prescribed didnt help. Every month, I knew what was coming, but I could never fully prepare myself for the sadness, the uncontrollable sobbing, and the flood of disturbing thoughts that came without warning. My period was ruining my life, and it was embarrassing. As an adult woman, I felt that I should be able to get through the day without dissolving into tears because my period was making me sad.
But for me and an estimated 5% of other people who have periods, its not that simple.
Living with PMDD can feel like a constant struggle against depression, anxiety, and pain, with few options for long-term relief. Theres no month where Im ready for it. Theres no month where its easier, said 27-year-old Morgan Coffey, who was diagnosed with PMDD at 16, when she started experiencing severe depression during her period. It never gets easier, is the worst part, Coffey said.
*Name has been changed
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Anxiety With Perimenopause Cycles
As we enter into perimenopause we stop ovulating as frequently and low progesterone coupled with estrogen dominance is common. Once in menopause, we no longer have the circulating levels of progesterone that we once did.
Along with the other changes menopause brings, anxiety can be another unwelcome symptom. By some estimates, 3 out of 10 women experience anxiety, lethargy, and irritability during menopause. Researchers have also reported that up to 51% of women aged 40-55 complain of occasional nervousness or tension.
Even women who do not have a history of anxiety may be at increased risk for developing it during the menopausal years.
Fluctuating levels of progesterone and estrogen are to blame here as weve seen, both hormones play a crucial role in the presence of anxiety.
For some women, menopausal changes that take place in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis affect their GABA as well and again, its a major player in the development of anxiety.
You Can Play A Role In Research By Joining A Clinical Trial
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions. The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.
In addition to volunteer research opportunities for the patient groups listed above, research opportunities for healthy volunteers are also available. Healthy volunteers play a critical role in our studies.
For more information about clinical research and how to find clinical trials being conducted around the country, visit NIMH’s clinical trials webpage.
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Keep Track Of Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms
Whether you use an app or paper and pencil, use data to your advantage. Instead of just keeping track of your cycles start and end dates, keep a detailed calendar or journal that includes what type of premenstrual syndrome symptoms youre dealing with through several cycles. You can keep track of your energy and motivation levels, physical feelings, emotions, food cravings, and so on.
Allow Yourself Extra Time For Rest
Dont Try To Take On Things That Will Frustrate You Its Not Worth It
Focus on Symptom Management
Many anger management strategies can also help when youre dealing with premenstrual syndrome, such as making sure that you are practicing good self-care habits. Premenstrual syndrome self-care includes steps like getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, and making time for physical activity. Exercise is also a great way to increase serotonin levels and boost your mood.
You also may find journaling helpful. Writing out your feelings and emotions and the things that youre experiencing can help you process emotions and situations. If something is making you angry, journaling about it can help you to see the situation more clearly and find a solution.
Seek Professional Help
Can You Prevent Or Cure Pms Depression
Not every woman suffers from PMS Depression, but those that do suffer miserably. What causes this kind of depression before, during and sometimes post menstrual cycle? With so many women suffering from this what is the medical community doing and are there any home remedies that work without using drugs? Is the woman suffering from true depression or pms? How can you know if it is pms rather than freestanding depression? Lets look at these issues.
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Getting Help For Your Anxiety During Your Menstrual Cycle
Are you experiencing PMS or PMDD? Nillni says you should ask yourself how distressing or impairing the symptoms are: Is it interfering with your ability to work or go to school, engage in your hobbies, interact with your family and friends, or socialize? Those are signs that something unusual is going on and you should seek help.
When It Feels Like Depression But Isnt
If youre experiencing depression symptoms that come and go, have fewer than five symptoms from the list above, or your symptoms are only present for a few days and not 2 full weeks, you might be experiencing depression-like PMS symptoms but not PMDD or PME.
Another possible cause of menstrual depression symptoms may have something to do with your hormonal birth control.
- symptoms often fading a couple of days after the period starts
Diagnosis of PMDD is by experiencing a combination of five or more depression symptoms and PMS symptoms in the week before your period, instead of the full 2 weeks for clinical depression.
In most cases, symptoms will go away or lessen around the start of your period.
For a doctor to diagnose PMDD, they must rule out depression symptoms resulting from an underlying clinical depression or anxiety disorder.
You might want to talk with a healthcare professional if you feel like PMS symptoms are intensifying, mirroring depression symptoms, and interfering with your quality of life.
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription pain meds to manage physical pain.
A mental health professional might prescribe antidepressants for PMDD. If you have PME, a mental health professional may adjust your antidepressant dosage if youre treating other mental health conditions that PME intensifies.
In the meantime, you can try some best practices at home.
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Is Depression The Problem
Amenorrhea caused by chronic stress and depression is called hypothalamic amenorrhea. If you tend to eat more or less than usual when you’re depressed and have gained or lost weight, that also could play a part in your menstrual irregularities.
If your doctor has determined that depression is behind your late or missed periods, getting back on track will be a matter of finding an effective way to reduce your stress and treat your depression.
Can Birth Control Make You Anxious
Did you know that theres been a well-documented relationship between hormonal birth control use and anxiety? I have a whole article on birth control and mood swings that goes deeper on this topic.
The pill specifically depletes the body of nutrients, notably B vitamins that are required to produce serotonin and GABA, which again is critical for preventing anxiety and panic attacks. Its one of the reasons experts think that many women on hormonal contraception experience an increase in anxiety and depression.
In fact, mood disorders are one of the most common unpleasant side effects women cite for discontinuing the use of the pill.
In addition, birth control can shift the gut microbiome, lead to inflammation, and provides synthetic hormones that dont appear to offer the same benefits as the ones we make when it comes to brain health. This is an area where we need a lot more research to understand the correlation between birth control and mood symptoms.
In my best selling book, Beyond the Pill, I talk about ways to reverse these side effects and support your body on birth control. I also teach you all about your hormones and how to optimize them so you can live both anxiety and symptom free.
If you’re on birth control now, looking to transition off, or have already stopped then grab my free support guide to help you on your journey.
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Pinpointing The Cause Of A Missed Period
Of course, the first thing you should do if your period is late is to take a pregnancy test, which can be accurate as early as the first day of your missed period. If it’s negative and you don’t get your period in a few days or you completely skip it that cycle, or if you’re having chronic problems with menstruation, make an appointment to see your gynecologist.
She’ll likely do a repeat pregnancy test. If it’s negative, she’ll move on to some basic evaluations such as asking you about your medical history, doing a pelvic exam, and taking blood samples to check your hormone levels.
Signs Of Severe Depression During Period
You may experience severe depression before and during periods due to premenstrual dysphoric disorder . PMDD is similar to PMS, but its severe and sometimes disabling. PMDD can cause extreme mood shifts, which can interfere with your daily life, relationships, and work. Symptoms usually start a week before menstruation and continue a few days after your period begins. Apart from severe depression before and during periods, other symptoms and signs of PMDD are:
- Tension or anxiety
- Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
- Extreme moodiness
- Hopelessness with extremely negative thoughts
- Trouble concentrating
- Binge eating or food cravings
- Lack of interest in relationships and daily activities
- Loss of interest in sex
You may manage depression during your period by making certain lifestyle changes and taking specific medications.
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Hormonal Birth Control Forms
Use of certain hormonal birth control methods is a possible way to treat PMDD symptoms. Hormonal birth control pills release a steady dose of reproductive hormones in the body throughout the cycle, which makes your hormone levels more predictable and less prone to the fluctuations that trigger PMDD symptoms. It is advisable to consult your doctor before deciding whether to and which hormonal birth control to use for treatment.
What Are The Causes Of Pmdd
The exact causes are still not fully understood but researchers believe that PMMD is caused by being very sensitive to changes in hormone levels. Recent research suggests that PMDD is associated with increased sensitivity to the normal hormonal changes that occur during your monthly menstrual cycle.
See the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders website for further information on hormones and PMDD.
There is research to suggest other possible causes for PMDD, as well as things that may make your PMDD worse. Some of these possible factors are:
- Genetics. Some research suggests that increased sensitivity to changes in hormone levels may be caused by genetic variations.
- Smoking. Some research suggests that smoking can have an impact on your hormone sensitivity.
- Trauma and stress. Other research has shown that in some cases PMDD may be linked to stressful and traumatic past events, such as emotional or physical abuse. Stress may also make your PMDD symptoms worse.
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