Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Bloating, headaches, cramps — there are so many fun things that come with getting your period. But sarcasm aside, there really are a variety of symptoms you may experience when you get your period.
Side effects induced by your period aren’t just relegated to physical symptoms. Some women experience mood swings, while others report they feel a spike of anxiety before their period. But is period anxiety common? And why does it occur in the first place?
Menstruation is a process in which a woman’s body sheds the excess lining of the uterus. During this process, menstrual blood leaves the uterus and exits through the vagina. This process begins during what is called the luteal phase, when levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen naturally drop each month.
This hormone drop can cause some shifts in mood, which is sometimes referred to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It is thought that PMS affects millions of women during their reproductive years. But PMS isn't the only thing that affects your hormones and anxiety levels. While very controversial and with no evidence behind it, there are people who think that birth control can cause anxiety.
This condition is classified by experiencing recurrent symptoms — including headaches, breast tenderness, bloating and abdominal pain, joint pain and swelling — during the phase right before you start menstruating.
In addition to physical symptoms, you may also feel some psychological symptoms, like irritability, a depressed mood or mood swings and, yes, premenstrual anxiety.
In addition to PMS, there is a condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is essentially a more severe form of PMS that occurs during menstrual cycles. PMDD can cause depression or severe anxiety.
PMDD is less common than the less-severe PMS — about 10 percent of women who menstruate have PMDD.
Like with PMS, dropping levels of progesterone and estrogen can cause PMDD symptoms. It’s also thought that the fluctuating serotonin levels that occur during your period can play a role.
Depending on how severe your levels of anxiety are before your period, there are different approaches to treatment. If your anxiety is only an annoyance, lifestyle tweaks may do the trick. But if it’s severe enough to have a negative impact on your daily life, you may want to consider a few treatment options, including medication.
Here are some ways of treating premenstrual anxiety:
Exercise: A review of studies found that exercising can decrease stress and anxiety.Adults should aim for approximately 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week.
Meditation: A 2013 study suggests that just 20 minutes of mindful meditation can help to reduce anxiety by lowering overall brain activity. There are plenty of guided meditation apps that help make adopting a regular meditation practice easy.
Therapy: If anxiety from your period is affecting your daily life, consider therapy to help you figure out ways to cope. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that helps you do just this. In this type of therapy, you investigate patterns, thoughts and behaviors that may increase your anxiety and figure out ways to change them.
Medication:Anti-anxiety medication can also be used if you have issues keeping your anxiety under control. There are many different medications that can be prescribed for anxiety, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), beta blockers and benzodiazepines.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found that fluoxetine and sertraline can also help treat PMDD.
While not every woman who menstruates gets anxiety before their period, some definitely notice anxious thoughts as one of their premenstrual symptoms.
This time before menstruation starts is referred to as the luteal phase. It is a time when reproductive hormone levels drop, which leads to the shedding of your uterine wall. These hormone fluctuations can affect your mental health and may cause premenstrual anxiety.
If you find that you are dealing with a spike in anxiety levels or exacerbation of an anxiety disorder before or during your period, the best thing to do is get an online mental health consultation or speak with a therapist. He or she will be able to assess your feelings of anxiety and come up with a treatment plan that should improve your quality of life.
Start your mental wellness journey today.