4 Ways Your Period Can Affect Your Mental Health
Along with symptoms such as cramps and bloating, getting your period can impact your mental health, whether this is due to hormonal changes or environmental factors. While it might not be possible to eliminate the mental health effects your period can present completely, it is possible to treat them. By being aware of the factors that cause those situational feelings of anxiety, depression and moodiness, you’ll be better equipped to deal with those unwanted feelings when they arrive.
1. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Mental Health
For so long, the go-to joke concerning an angry or frustrated woman has been that she must be “hormonal” or “PMSing.” However, PMS is more than just a punchline: it is a medically recognized condition that’s thought to affect between 20-40% of women.1 It takes place about two weeks before a woman’s period.
Though the precise causes and triggers of PMS are still unknown, it is thought that constant fluctuations in estrogen levels around this time could be to blame for the feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability and moodiness that so many women are used to feeling.
If your mental health is off in the days leading up to your period, it’s important to be kind to yourself, and remind both yourself and those around you that these symptoms are perfectly natural.
2. Physical Symptoms of PMS and Mental Health
Symptoms of PMS are not limited to mood swings, however. There are many physical symptoms associated with these hormonal changes that can greatly impact upon a woman’s mental health.
In the weeks and days leading up to a period, women may experience a whole range of changes such as greasy hair and skin (which can lead to acne), as well as changes to their sex drive and sleeping difficulties. Any one of these symptoms can have a direct impact on a woman’s mental health -- especially her self-esteem.
Even during menstruation itself, symptoms such as migraines, nausea or dysmenorrhea (period pain) can cause stress, as they can drastically disrupt a woman’s day and routine, particularly if they are very severe.
By listening to your body and being prepared for these symptoms in advance, you can help to relieve some of the stress of being caught unaware with unbearable cramps in the middle of your workday. Even if you cannot immediately jump into a hot bath or grab a hot water bottle, something as simple as keeping painkillers with you can help to ease your mind.
3. Period Cravings and Your Mental Health
When it comes to physical symptoms, there is one thing that many women can agree is both a blessing and a curse, and that is period cravings and their effect on mental health. We’re told over and over that our bodies are a temple, but what about the effects our diet has on our minds?
Over the years, numerous studies2 have confirmed that a bad diet may be just as harmful to our mental health as our physical health, and sugary foods are a particular issue. Over time, strong correlations have been found between high sugar intakes and conditions such as anxiety and depression -- bad news for menstruating women, whose hormones are often doing their very best to prevent them from eating foods that are good for them.
Though these cravings are perfectly natural, it is important to remember that higher levels of sugar intake during your period may actually worsen any fatigue and moodiness that you could already be feeling. Sometimes being kind to ourselves during our period may mean reaching for some fresh vegetables rather than a chocolate bar.
4. Mental Health and Period Stigma
Of all the ways that women can change their lifestyle and their habits to help make their periods as smooth as possible, stigma is a problem that does not have an easy solution. It’s only through open conversation and spreading awareness that women can begin to feel supported, and menstruate without fear of embarrassment or judgment -- whatever their period and mental health symptoms may be.
This article was written by:
Roxanne Phillips is a women's health and wellness writer, primarily interested in reproductive health. She writes often about issues surrounding mensural stigma, period poverty and the effects \these issues can have on women's everyday lives and mental health. Find her on Instagram.
- Mental Health Foundation. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.
- Sack, David, MD. 4 Ways Sugar Could Be Harming Your Mental Health. Psychology Today. Sep. 2, 2013.
Author, G. (2019, January 30). 4 Ways Your Period Can Affect Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/yourmentalhealth/2019/1/4-ways-your-period-can-affect-your-mental-health