What Causes Depression During Menstruation

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The menstrual cycle is a delicate body function that is designed to cleanse the womb of cells and prepare a fresh, clean lining for a potential new fetus to use as a food and protection source. The body typically regenerates these cells every 28 days, and in addition to "cleaning house" for potential new children, the hormonal fluxes that accompany this are known to cause bloating and depression.

What is PMS and PMDD
The phenomenon of depression and anxiety just before your period begins is often called Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS. In severe cases, it is termed PMDD, or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This version is so extreme that it has been used as a murder defense in some cases. Though doctors cannot fully explain either one, they believe that the shifting proportions of estrogen and progesterone in the body creates moodiness. This is further supported by the elevated moods gained by women who use estrogen replacement during menopause.

Who is at Risk
Though any woman who is going through their menstrual years is at risk, there are certain factors that make you more likely to have depression problems tied to your cycle. These include being overweight, spending a lot of time indoors, and having little exercise. Also, thyroid issues are tied to these issues, as well as genetics (your mother and sister have similar problems), and substance abuse issues.

Treatments for Menstrual Depression
Though you can treat depression as a symptom with therapy and medication, there is a lot you can do to try and prevent it as well. Exercise, exposure to daylight/sunlight, vitamin D supplementation and sleeping outside have all been shown to reduce effects of menstrual moods. For some, it is tied to diet. Eliminating different foods from your diet and keeping a journal to try and discover "trigger foods" can also do a lot. Gluten and dairy are two of the most likely candidates. Many women find relief from depression from supplementation of hormones in the form of birth control.

Though many treatments for depression exist regarding menstruation, no specific cause and therefore no specific cure is known. Because this issue can range from nonexistent to extremely debilitating depending on the lifestyle and genetics of each individual woman, it is hard to create a one-size fits all cure. Instead, each woman should decide the level of problem caused by menstrual-related depression, and work on the individual treatments that work best for her. In many cases, a healthy diet and lifestyle seems to help many women reduce these effects significantly. If that is not enough, exploring hormonal and psychological treatments is always an option as well. However, when it comes to psychological drugs, they usually must be taken constantly, and not just during menstrual periods.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "What Causes Depression During Menstruation," in PsychologyDictionary.org, January 10, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/what-causes-depression-during-menstruation/ (accessed August 9, 2022).