The relationship between your menstrual cycle and mental health explained!

May is Mental Health Awareness month and we thought it would be useful to create a blog post on the relationship between mental health and menstruation. Although there isn’t much research available on the topic at the time of writing this it’s still quite insightful to have and understand this information.

Generally speaking most menstruators experience some form of PMS as their period draws closer. Whether it’s mood swings, body aches and pains, low energy or motivation to name just a few. The severity of these symptoms can depend on the state of your mental health and vice versa. There are also conditions like Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) which is a lot more severe compared to PMS and has been categorised as a mental illness. PMDD impacts menstruators emotionally, mentally and physically as their period approaches. Common symptoms of PMDD are suicidal thoughts, extreme anxiety, depression, hopelessness as well as severe pain and cramps. PMDD symptoms can be managed and treated after a diagnosis from a medical professional.

Premenstrual Exacerbation (PME) is another disorder that can directly impact mental health. If a menstruator has an existing mental illness like depression, PME worsens the condition in the days leading up to your period.

Hormones also play a huge role in the relationship between mental health and menstruation. Hormonal fluctuations are normal during the different phases of the menstrual cycle. However, sometimes unpredictable variables like stress can alter the impact or severity of these fluctuations which can take a toll on your mental health. On the day your period begins, the two key hormones progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest. Estrogen in particular is responsible for the release of serotonin, known as the happy chemical released by the brain. However, because estrogen is low so is serotonin which can have a negative impact on the menstruators’ mental health.

Besides hormones, stress can also play a large role in the menstrual cycle. Stress can shorten the cycle, cause irregular and shorter periods and it can increase the pain and symptoms of PMS, PMDD and PME. For more on the different ways stress impacts the menstrual cycle you can read our blog post on it here.