PMS And Premenstrual Depression
PMS, also called premenstrual syndrome, is a collection of symptoms that occurs one to two weeks before a woman gets her period. Almost 90% of women experience some form of PMS, but the kind and severity of the symptoms can vary widely from person to person. PMS can have both physical and emotional components and is thought to be a result of the natural fluctuations in hormone levels that occur between ovulation and menstruation.
Perhaps you have wondered at some time if you or someone you know is experiencing depression that may be connected to PMS. After all, fluctuations in hormone levels can be connected to changes in mood. Ahead, we’ll discuss the symptoms of PMS in addition to treatment methods that can potentially alleviate depressive symptoms connected to it.
What Are The Symptoms Of PMS?
While symptoms of PMS can vary widely between individuals, there are a few common symptoms. Some people may experience most of these symptoms, while some might experience only a few. The severity of the symptoms can also vary. Symptoms of PMS may change throughout a person's lifetime, especially after adolescence, after childbirth, and when approaching menopause.
Physical symptoms may include swollen, tender breasts, cramps, bloating, appetite changes, headache, backache, fatigue, and lowered libido. These symptoms can range from mild to debilitating, depending on the individual. Emotional symptoms may include irritability, mood swings, and feelings of sadness or depression. While PMS is often stereotypically associated with irrational emotional outbursts, it can manifest in a variety of different ways.
What Is Premenstrual Depression?
Premenstrual depression, also called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), is similar to PMS but much more severe. Studies suggest that PMDD affects about five percent of women, and can often exacerbate underlying mental health issues, whether an individual is aware of them or not.
PMDD includes many of the symptoms associated with PMS, as well as symptoms of depression, including irritability, mood swings, feelings of sadness, withdrawal from friends and family, fatigue, and anxiety. The emotional symptoms associated with PMDD are generally much more severe and can significantly negatively affect a person's life during the two-week span in which they occur. In especially severe cases, people can even experience suicidal ideation and other very serious mental health issues.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.
While PMDD differs from PMS mostly in the intensity of the symptoms, PMDD differs from depression in that it only occurs at a particular time in a woman's monthly reproductive cycle. Symptoms of PMDD usually go away during or after menstruation and do not return for several weeks. For those who already have depression and other mental health issues, PMDD can exacerbate and intensify existing mental illness.
How To Treat PMS
Anyone who's ever had a period prescribedy familiar with strategies for treating PMS, from herbal medicine to medications proscribed by a doctor. PMS treatment can include a variety of methods, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
While exercise might be the last thing on your mind when you're feeling under the weather, it can do a great job of fighting many of the typical symptoms of PMS. Exercise helps soothe physical symptoms like cramps and muscle aches. Physical activity can also have a positive impact on mental health and can even help stave off feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercise is a good idea at any time of the month, but it's an especially good idea when you start to feel symptoms of PMS.
When you're about to get your period, it can be tempting to satisfy your cravings for junk and comfort food. But while it's okay to indulge a little, foods high in fat and sugar can make your PMS symptoms worse. Eating healthy, whole foods can help to combat PMS, especially just before your symptoms start to kick in. Foods high in calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 have also been shown to help reduce PMS symptoms. Try incorporating foods like dairy, fruit, nuts, fish, and leafy greens into your diet to reap these positive benefits.
Apply Heat To Sore Areas
For relief from physical symptoms, try applying heat and pressure to places where you're experiencing cramps or aches and pains. A hot water bottle is an easy, affordable option that does a great job of soothing PMS symptoms. You can also use a microwaveable hot pad or heated blanket. As an added measure, a hot cup of tea can warm you from the inside out and help promote calm and relaxation.
Get Enough Rest
Rest is important at any time of the month but is especially so when you're about to get your period. Lack of sleep can exacerbate any mental and emotional symptoms of PMS you might be experiencing, so it's a good idea to get a full night's sleep. If you're feeling especially under the weather, an afternoon nap can also help you rest and recuperate.
Use Over-The-Counter Pain Relief
Over-the-counter pain relief can help ease physical symptoms like headache, backache, and cramps. If your physical symptoms are severe, prescription pain medications are also available to help mitigate the effects of PMS.
Take Birth Control Pills
Some hormonal birth control methods can help prevent or lessen both physical and emotional PMS symptoms. The symptoms of PMS and the effects of various methods of birth control can vary widely from person to person, and some birth control methods can even intensify symptoms, so it's best to consult with a doctor and find the method that works best for you.
Ask A Psychiatrist About Antidepressants
For emotional symptoms of PMS, doctors can proscribe antidepressants to be used while symptoms persist. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhbitors, are one of the more common antidepressants used to treat PMS. As with birth control, different people respond differently to different medications, so some trial and error may be necessary to find a strategy that works best for you.
The good news about PMS symptoms is that they usually go away on their own within a few days after the start of menstruation. While treatment strategies are often unique to each, there are many ways to manage the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS.
How To Treat PMDD
While most people who get periods experience some form of PMS, far fewer experience the intense emotional symptoms that constitute PMDD. While it's unclear why only certain people experience PMDD, it may be linked to different levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. PMDD symptoms are usually debilitating enough to cause significant impairment to daily functioning during the period in which they occur. Treatment options for PMDD include those for PMS but may also feature additional measures.
If you think you might be experiencing PMDD, it's important to get a medical diagnosis to gain the widest possible range of treatment options. Doctors can evaluate whether you might have PMDD based on the number, severity, and duration of your symptoms. If you're not sure whether you have PMDD or depression, a doctor can also help determine whether your menstrual cycle is exacerbating underlying mental health issues.
Just like for PMS, hormonal birth control can be an effective way of managing the symptoms of PMDD. Research is still ongoing concerning the effects of various hormones on PMDD, and it's still not clear the extent to which different methods of birth control might be effective in treating symptoms. Depending on the individual, hormonal birth control methods that feature progesterone, estrogen, and GnRH agonists can all affect hormone levels in ways that might mitigate the symptoms of PMDD. Hormonal birth control methods often include various combinations of these hormones, with different brands having varying amounts.
Antidepressants called SSRIs have been shown to have a positive effect on symptoms of PMDD. While the causes of PMDD are still unclear, researchers theorize that it may be connected to serotonin levels in the brain, making SSRIs uniquely effective at combatting the emotional symptoms of PMDD. People can often take antidepressants intermittently depending on the severity of their symptoms and the length of their cycle.
Just as with PMS, PMDD is usually only temporary, lasting one to two weeks at the end of the menstrual cycle. PMDD symptoms can be much more severe, and even life-threatening in some cases, so they should be taken seriously and treated medically when necessary.
The Benefits Of Online Therapy
If you are experiencing concerning symptoms related to PMS, PMDD, or depression, then therapy may be a helpful place to explore solutions. Online therapy is a particularly appealing option for many people who have busy schedules and may benefit from the flexibility in appointment scheduling that platforms like BetterHelp affords. Additionally, users can schedule appointments from a preferred location, as long as there is a safe internet connection. Whether you’re experiencing cramps, mood swings, or other symptoms, there’s no need to leave the comfort of your own bed, should that be the ideal place to attend a therapeutic session.
It's true that studies have affirmed online therapy’s effectiveness in treating people who experience symptoms of PMDD. In one 2019 study, 174 women with PMDD were randomized to a treatment group or waitlist control group. Those in the treatment group participated in an eight-week therapist-guided treatment course if internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT). Researchers concluded that iCBT was highly effective in reducing the burden of PMDD and useful in adding coping styles and stress management.
While PMS and PMDD tell many similarities and have an overlapping array of symptoms, there are important differences between the two. PMS is relatively common and can include both physical and mental symptoms. PMDD is much rarer and includes physical symptoms but has particularly severe mental and emotional effects. If you find that your life is significantly impacted by mental and emotional changes surrounding your menstrual cycle, you might be experiencing PMDD.
If you're experiencing symptoms of PMS, PMDD, or depression, there are a wealth of resources available to you to help mitigate your symptoms and improve the way you feel on both a physical and mental level. BetterHelp offers a diverse selection of online therapy services that can provide you with the help you need to manage your mental health. Get in touch with us today to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why Do I Have PMS Before My Period?
Nearly 90% of individuals who identify as women experience some form of premestrual syndrome (PMS) in their lifetimes, however; an official diagnosis by a doctor will not happen unless it impairs some aspect of your life. PMS symptoms can range from mild to severe, with most experiencing mild discomfort.
If your PMS symptoms are so severe that they are impacting your quality of life seek medical advice. You may have a more serious condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
People will typically experience PMS and premenstrual ) symptoms between five to ten days before their period starts. PMS is believed to be caused by a fluctuation in sex hormones and serotonin levels that occurs before your period starts.
Unfortunately, doctors have still not located the exact reason for PMS, so there is no clear reason as to why some experience it more severely than others, although there are some risk factors that may be involved.
Can PMS Make You Depressed?
It is normal to feel sad before your period starts, as well as during menstruation. Symptoms including mood swings, weight gain, food cravings, bloating, breast tenderness, and tiredness are all common during menstrual cycles.
About 3-8% of women will experience a severe form of PMS and have significantly worse symptoms. This condition is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
PMDD symptoms include intense depression and anxiety, mood swings, irritable bowel syndrome. If you believe that you may have PMDD, it is important that you find a doctor that can help you manage your symptoms.
What Is The Difference Between PMS And PMT?
PMS symptoms are almost identical to PMT symptoms. To some, PMS refers to all the symptoms as a whole, while placing less emphasis on the mental and emotional aspects of the condition. The term premenstrual tension was therefore coined to target those aspects. For diagnostic and treatment purposes, they are the same.
Can PMS Symptoms Stop Before Your Period?
Typically, the symptoms of PMS and PMDD will continue well into a person’s menstrual cycle. They can begin anywhere from five to ten days before your period starts, and they will usually last until around three to four days after your period starts.
What Helps With Anxiety And PMS?
Relaxation techniques and gentle exercise like yoga or tai chi can help reduce the symptoms ofPMS. Some lifestyle changes may help as well such as:
Taking a daily walk
Getting 8 hours of sleep a night
Trying to limit stress in your life
Exercising for 30 minutes a day
Avoiding large amounts of sugar, fat, and salt
Eating healthy well-balanced meals full of fiber
If nothing seems to be working to alleviate your symptoms or anxiety, seek medical advice from your health care provider. They can help you form a treatment plan and if necessary, may prescribe SSRIs to help better manage your anxiety.
What Does PMS Feel Like?
PMS syndromes can be different for everyone. Some people only experience mild discomfort such as food cravings, fatigue, and some irritability. For others the symptoms are more severe and can include stomach pain (cramps), diarrhea, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms.
If you feel that your menstrual cycles are interfering with your life, find a doctor that specializes in women’s health and discuss your treatment options.
Is PMS A Mental Illness?
PMS is not a mental illness, although it can exacerbate any existing mental illnesses a patient may have. Speak to your therapist or women’s health doctor if the symptoms of your mental illness are getting worse during your menstrual cycle.
They will be able to help you with a plan for healthy living involving diet and exercise changes, or they may prescribe you medication such as SSRIs. Be sure to ask about any potential side effects or drug interactions they may have for you.
Does PMS Get Worse With Age?
Hormonal changes are the most likely culprit for your worsening PMS. It may be a combination of stress, lifestyle changes such as less healthy living (i.e., smoking, drinking, fast food), or your hormones being out of balance as you approach menopause.
If you feel your PMS symptoms are getting worse, speak to your women’s health care provider.
How Do You Beat PMS?
Doctors are not entirely sure what causes PMS, its symptoms, or side effects so it cannot be “beaten.” However, the symptoms can be managed through diet, exercise, and relaxation techniques. Some symptoms, such as food cravings, are easier to manage than others.
What Are The Worst PMS Symptoms?
There are many PMS symptoms that could be contenders for the “worst” such as:
Lack of interest
Severe mood swings
Dizziness or fainting spells
Severe stomach pain and bloating
Food cravings or food avoidance
There is nothing fun about PMS or it’s symptoms, and approximately 90% of women will experience one or a combination of symptoms during their lifetime.
Does Birth Control Help With PMS?
Birth control can help some women find relief from their PMS symptoms by helping to control their sex hormones. If you have severe symptoms or heavy periods, you may benefit from speaking to your doctor about birth control options. Make sure that you go over any potential side effects before you being a birth control regimen.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
Can PMS make you very depressed?
How do I cope with PMS depression?
What are the 11 symptoms of PMDD?
How can I increase my serotonin levels during PMS?
Does PMS get worse with age?
Why is PMS worse some months?
How do you get tested for PMDD?
What vitamins help PMDD?
Is PMDD considered a mental illness?
How can I lift my mood during PMS?
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