Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are a tough combination. Many women with ADHD also suffer from PMS, which can be severe enough to resemble premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), an extreme form of PMS. PMS impacts women’s mental health and I find that my ADHD symptoms worsen right before my period. There is actually a scientific reason for this as hormones play a major role in ADHD.
Symptoms of Both ADHD and PMS
It can be hard to distinguish the symptoms of PMS from those of ADHD. However, the line between the two conditions is not so thin. These are a few ADHD problems that plague me more before my period:
- I have a hard time sleeping. Ideas race through my head in the middle of the night.
- I become more irritable and reactive.
- My energy levels shoot up, but I find myself more distracted and less productive than usual.
- Emotions go a little bit haywire. Those with ADHD are often sensitive and emotional, and PMS sometimes makes me depressed, anxious, sad, or excited within a few hours.
- As our bodies undergo a change during menstruation, it makes sense that our food cravings and appetites also change. This is quite difficult since many with ADHD already struggle with over- or undereating.
ADHD Symptoms Fluctuate During Hormonal Changes
Doctors eventually noticed that ADHD symptoms fluctuate in women during adolescence, pregnancy, and menopause. Hormonal changes and estrogen depletion appear to increase ADHD symptoms. Estrogen generally has a positive effect on neurotransmitters that make you feel good, such as serotonin and dopamine, so when estrogen drops, so does the efficacy of those neurotransmitters.
To make matters worse, ADHD brains have a hard time utilizing beneficial neurotransmitters like dopamine on a good day. In short, your hormones directly affect the parts of your brain that cause ADHD. It is, unfortunately, not too surprising that women with ADHD report higher than average PMS symptoms.
Do You See a Pattern in Your Symptoms of ADHD and PMS?
As I mentioned, the symptoms of ADHD and PMS often overlap. On top of that, sometimes symptoms are triggered by outside circumstances, such as medication or stressful events. Because of this, I have begun to keep better track of my PMS symptoms. I used to just mark the days of my period on a calendar. Now I use a phone app to track my period. I write down frustrations or stray thoughts in my journal and more thoroughly note PMS symptoms and medication dosages. I take these notes to my doctor to discuss possible medication changes.
How about you? Do you suffer from ADHD and PMS, and do you have any tips for others? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.