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  • Writer's pictureSara Soenen

PMS, Hormones and Mental Health

The dreaded period.

Aunt flo, surfing the crimson tide, Mother Nature’s Gift, or as I’d prefer to call it, EVE! I’m sure you’ve heard these names, ahh the wonderful names given to your period in your teen years, either by you and your girlfriends, or immature boys. As if being a teenager isn’t hard enough, let alone dealing with your period and “becoming a woman.” Unfortunately, after I had kids and as I’ve gotten older, and my body has changed, I really began to notice a difference in my PMS. My PMS seemed much more intense. Like everything else in life what worked before didn’t work anymore. I noticed drastic changes in my mood. I felt out of control and that’s never a feeling I like.

Can my period really effect my depression/anxiety?

So, I began to do some research about periods and moods. I needed to understand if what I was feeling was normal or a sign that I needed to be careful because maybe I was going to battle another bout of depression again. It’s crazy how quickly our minds can wonder to the worst-case scenarios isn’t it? Sometimes leading up to my period, I feel like I’ve completely lost control of my emotions. I’m always evaluating and making sure I understand where my mind and body are in order to combat another round of anxiety and depression. I wondered if I was just using PMS as an excuse to eat what I wanted and throw caution to the wind (which is partially true), but I also wondered how long PMS actually lasts and does it really effect my mood the way I perceive it does.

Needless to say I was blown away by the statistics surrounding PMS. They are fascinating, to say the least. They far surpassed what I expected and there were way more symptoms than I ever imagined

Here are some fascinating facts about PMS and your period.

Serotonin levels change during PMS PMS lasts 5-11 days BEFORE your period. PMS can cause mood swings, anxiety, and irritability.

Serotonin, Depression, and hormones.

I think the scariest one off of that list is the serotonin levels changing. For those of you who have ever been on an anti-depressant, most anti-depressants are used to level out serotonin because of a lack of serotonin in our brain. Basically, if you struggle with depression more than likely you have noticed a change in your mood preceding your period because of the change in your serotonin. Also, serotonin is a chemical in your brain but the majority of serotonin is produced in your gut and therefore one of the many reasons it’s so important to pay attention to what we put in our bodies. Serotonin affects your moods, emotions and your thoughts! I’d say serotonin is a pretty powerful chemical!

What exactly is PMS, and what causes it?

So how many women actually have PMS, I for one assumed that all women have PMS, but there's a lucky 20% who doesn't. Some of the factors for PMS are:

  1. a history of depression or mood disorders, such as postpartum depression or

  2. bipolar disorder

  3. a family history of PMS

  4. a family history of depression

  5. domestic violence

  6. substance abuse

  7. physical trauma

  8. emotional trauma

  9. abdominal bloating

What are the symptoms of PMS? I was surprised by some of my girlfriends responses when I asked them about their own symptoms and many of them didn’t associate moods, or anxiety with PMS. Here are some of the common symptoms of PMS:

  1. abdominal pain

  2. sore breasts

  3. acne

  4. food cravings, especially for sweets

  5. constipation

  6. diarrhea

  7. headaches

  8. sensitivity to light or sound

  9. fatigue

  10. irritability

  11. changes in sleep patterns

  12. anxiety

  13. depression

  14. sadness

  15. emotional outbursts

What now?
  • I was pretty blown away by these statistics, symptoms and just the overall effect that PMS actually has on our bodies, minds and spirits. It’s pretty powerful what hormones can do isn’t it? All too often we blame ourselves, and believe we are at the mercy of our symptoms, but the good news is awareness is half the battle so what are some things that we can do when we encounter PMS?

  • Recognize that what we are going through is normal, and is experienced by the majority of women

  • Recognize people who struggle with depression, anxiety or other mood disorders are at a greater risk for PMS

  • Women who struggle with PMS generally have more than one symptom.

  • We can talk to our doctor and track how we feel during our PMS, and make sure we aren’t part of the even smaller demographic who’s symptoms are so severe it affects their ability to cope with day to day life.

  • Be aware of how your mood and appetite are affected by it and recognize that things will be a little different during this time and plan accordingly.

No one should feel ashamed or frustrated by this, if anything I hope you will walk away feeling more equipped about what to expect the next time you are encountered with aunt flo and maybe just maybe you can have a little laugh about it just like I did gathering all these facts. Needless to say after all the talk about periods, and how they make us feel a little off our rocker, my girlfriends and I couldn’t stop thinking of this famous quote from Clueless:

Hopefully you know by know regardless of the weighty subjects we talk about, I have always end on a high note or with some laughter. Life's too short. In all seriousness does anyone else struggle with increased anxiety or depression leading up to or during their period? Or is it just me?


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