The (Surprising!) Link Between PMS, Mood Swings And Depression

Blog Mind The (Surprising!) Link Between PMS, Mood Swings And Depression

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7.1.2021 0 comments

PMS brings with it a number of pretty unpleasant side effects.

You know exactly what we’re talking about: bloating, tummy pain, headaches, appetite changes, irritability, tiredness, sleep difficulties, and the list seems to go on and on!

Every month is different (annoyingly so), with a wide range of symptoms that can make life pretty miserable.

Among the “worst offenders”, however, is the mood swings brought on by PMS.

And these aren’t just little highs and lows in your mood every day. As one scientific paper described it, the emotional changes can be “recurrent and moderate-to-severe [1]”.

It’s estimated that PMS occurs in up to 40% of reproductive-age females, which can make that time of the month certainly unpleasant.

But there’s a greater, deeper problem that a lot of women don’t know about, and which they write off as nothing more than “bad PMS”.

That’s right, I’m talking about Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.

What is PMDD?

Of the 40% of women who experience PMS, around 3-8% of them experience a more intense version of PMS. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, can cause far more intense symptoms than PMS, to the extent that women may have trouble functioning at work or even at home.

Some of the symptoms include [2]:

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability/anger

  • Depression/depressed mood

  • Concentration difficulties

  • Lack of energy

  • Change in appetite (increase or decrease)

  • Breast tenderness, joint pain, weight gain, bloating, headaches

  • Changes in sleep (insomnia or hypersomnia)

For it to be PMDD, at least five of the symptoms listed above should be experienced during “most” cycles over the course of a year (12 consecutive months), with at least one of the bolded symptoms present each month.

PMDD can often be mistaken for other conditions—including anxiety disorders, depression, or even a thyroid condition—but typically only occurs during the luteal menstrual cycle. PMDD will typically disappear shortly, but its recurrent nature can be limiting or even debilitating.

People suffering from PMDD will often experience the mood-related symptoms most strongly. Depression is a very common side effect of both PMS and the more severe PMDD, to the point where doctors may even recommend antidepressants to counteract the low levels of serotonin brought on by the mood changes [3].

The good news is that there are certain things that you can do at home to help reduce the symptoms of both PMS and PMDD. Some of these things include [4]:

  • Exercising more. Exercise helps to balance out your hormones, increase serotonin production, and elevate your mood overall.

  • Eating better. This means cutting back on unhealthy foods like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and salt, and increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates and, most important of all, protein.

  • Taking supplements. Calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin B6 can all have positive effects on your mood and reduce the severity of PMS symptoms.

  • Manage stress. Meditation, mindfulness, Yoga, self-hypnosis, and a number of other stress management disciplines are a great option to help you keep the wildly fluctuating emotions in check.

  • Birth control pills. Oral contraceptives are known to improve the physical symptoms of PMS [5]. However, they can also make the mood swings worse [4]. Definitely consult a doctor before using birth control pills to manage PMS or PMDD.

Fair warning: In PMDD cases, it’s likely that only relying on these at-home treatments and lifestyle changes won’t be enough to deal with the problem. If the problem is serious enough that it’s no longer just PMS but has progressed to an actual mood disorder like PMDD, it’s time to see a doctor for help.

Doctors may prescribe serotonergic antidepressants or SSRIs that will balance out your levels of serotonin. Among sufferers of extreme PMS or PMDD, serotonin levels typically drop very low, so medications can help to bring the levels of this mood-boosting neurochemical back up to “normal” or “near-normal” levels—and thereby reduce the severity of the mood swings or depression.

If you experience depression before or during your period, it’s definitely a good idea to visit your doctor and get their expert advice on how best to deal with the problem. Depression brought on by PMDD has been known to lead to suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts—in fact, the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders estimates that 15% of women suffering from PMDD [6] may very well attempt suicide, with the risk being even higher among transgender people.

There are treatments available that can help you to combat the depression and mood swings brought on by your PMS and PMDD. It’s absolutely imperative that you seek help—this condition may be serious, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life!

PMS and PMDD are simply an abnormal reaction to the hormonal changes brought on by your menstrual cycle, which lead to a serotonin deficiency in your brain. You can still live a full, rich life, but the first step is getting professional help to combat the mood swings and depression brought on by these hormone changes.









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