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Menses: A Mental Menace

There’s science backing up the widespread belief that your menstrual cycle influences your behavior. Feeling moody or irritable during your period has a biological basis that’s linked to hormone fluctuations in your body. While PMS is a widely recognized condition, most people don’t fully understand how the menstrual cycle actually affects behavior. The truth is that hormones can affect a woman’s mood the entire month—not just right before and during her period. And contrary to popular belief, not all of those changes are negative.

The menstrual cycle is regulated by the complex interaction of hormones: luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Tender breasts, tears, excessive tiredness, cravings for something sweet, anger, weird bowel movements, sleeplessness, an unexplained wave of depression, more tears—sound familiar?

These are some of the typical symptoms that accompany the hormonal changes of our menstrual cycles, particularly right before our period occurs. More often than not, most of us have felt variations of these emotional and physical happenings in our own bodies before our time of the month.

One might feel extremely happy when they’re in their follicular phase as it is when estradiol begins to rise. Then comes the ovulatory phase when it’s believed that one has a higher pain tolerance and one might feel attractive as the luteinizing hormone, which will eventually induce ovulation, begins to rise. Next is the luteal phase when one might feel excessively moodier and more stressed due to a rise in the progesterone.

Besides the general physical, mental, and emotional changes you feel throughout the month, existing health conditions can also be affected by your menstrual cycle’s fluctuating hormones. The following issues can further be exacerbated by hormonal changes:

  • Depression: PMS can make depression symptoms worse. Additionally, women with a history of depression are more likely to experience PMS or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS.

  • Anemia: If you have heavy bleeding during your period, you may develop iron-deficiency anemia. Those who are already anemic may become pale, tired, or weak due to period-related blood loss.

  • Asthma: Your asthma symptoms may worsen during certain phases of their cycle.

At the end of the day, the emotions and the hormones in the female body wax and wane like the cycle of the moon. They can seem messy in the moment, but they are probably more cyclical than you think. One can combat this by adhering to several tips most of which revolve around maintaining a healthy lifestyle Getting a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, exercises, more water, and much lesser alcohol/caffeine can help you deal with the wave of emotions you experience.

In sum, if your mood swings are affecting your work or personal relationships, it might be worth paying a visit to your doctor. If hormones are to blame you may be offered a hormonal contraceptive in an attempt to help balance your hormones, although beware of any side effects.

Written by: Devanshi Pandey

Graphics by: Rachel Alexander

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