Periodic and clinical depression are characteristically different than the depression associated with a woman's menstrual cycle. However, statistics indicate that up to 70 percent of the women afflicted with the problem have also been diagnosed with clinical depression. The menstrual-related condition is considered a symptom of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome or Prementstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
Female reproductive specialists report that up to 75 percent of females suffer mild to moderate symptoms of Pre-Mentstrual Syndrome or PMS at some time during the monthly cycle. Approximately 10 percent of these women experience symptoms that become so severe that the condition is then diagnosed as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD. In these instances, the depression is accompanied by anger, anxiety, crying, fatigue, fear, mood swings and flu-like symptoms. Unlike PMS, PMDD emerges two weeks before a women begins menstruating. Once the flow begins, PMDD symptoms disappear.
Physicians and clinical researchers theorize that the depression occurs secondary to a sudden elevation of estrogen levels. During the time that the body is flooded with estrogen, serotonin levels become abnormal. Once ovulation occurs, progesterone reduces estrogen levels, which normalizes serotonin. It is also thought that monthly hormone levels in women vary from one individual to the next. As such, some women may be at a greater risk for developing menstruation-related depression. Some women might also be more sensitive to the ebb and flow of hormone levels. Other contributing factors include the possibility of a thyroid deficiency or having a genetic predisposition to developing the disorder. Research into the mysteries of the monthly process, hormonal changes, PMS and PMDD are ongoing.
Remedies or Treatments
Maintaining a diary of when the symptoms begin, duration and intensity often provide insight to the woman experiencing the depression in addition to giving helpful information to healthcare providers who then can diagnose the problem accurately and recommend a course of treatment.
Possible natural remedies include consuming foods high in B complex vitamins, which enhance magnesium absorption. Calcium rich foods are thought to reduce depression symptoms and minimize mood swings. Vitamin D must also be gotten by spending time in the sun or taken orally to ensure adequate calcium absorption. There is some evidence that the amino acid hydroxy-tryptophan or 6-HTP also normalizes mood, encourages sleep and improves appetite.
Nutritionists typically recommend that women avoid caffeine, salt, refined sugar and alcohol prior to the onset of menstrual cycles. Women might also experience relief from menstruation-related depression by getting 30 to 40 minutes of exercise three times a week along with indulging in periods of relaxation.
In severe cases, women may require prescription medications in the form of serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft are commonly used to alleviate depression symptoms. The hormones estradiol and danazol have also proven helpful in correcting hormone imbalances that lead to the depression symptoms.