Anxiety, depression and irritability are common symptoms for women experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The hormone progesterone inhibits the functioning of serotonin, a hormone responsible for regulation of moods. It also impacts the functioning of the amygdala, which is responsible for responding to environmental cues, controlling emotions, improving memory and imbibing survival instincts.
Though most women experience some form of PMS, such as bloating, severe pain and body ache, some may experience a more chronic form, known as "PMS on steroids" or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The symptoms are so severe that women living with it have contemplated ending their lives. Apart from the severe pain, PMDD is marked by depression, confusion, low self-esteem and self-loathing.
Though initially PMDD's existence was met with skepticism, it is now included in the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Many women have taken umbrage over this labeling as they consider that it would not benefit those with the condition, rather perpetuate the stigma associated with the disorder. For a correct diagnosis, the following three criteria should be met:
- The symptoms should be in accordance with the menstrual cycle for a minimum of two successive months.
- The severity should be such that it disrupts normal day-to-day activities.
- Depression, which is critical to this condition, should be reported in the days of ovulation leading to the first day of the period.
Suicide in women is more likely to happen during the second half of their menstrual cycle. However, according to Dr. Ulla Botha, a senior lecturer and psychiatrist at the department of psychiatry in University of Stellenbosch, the occurrence of suicidal thoughts is more in women who have had a prior instance of depression. She says, "It is true that patients who already suffer from depression and possibly already have suicidal thoughts can definitely experience a worsening of their symptoms as a result of mood fluctuation caused by PMS."
Natural means to relieve anxiety and depression
Though antidepressants are the most common way of treating depression, there are certain natural remedies to control the stress and discomfort. Some of these are listed below:
Emotional freedom technique (EFT): It includes acupuncture therapy, where one can release pain and discomfort by tapping sensitive areas of the body. Unlike traditional acupuncture therapy, this does not make use of needles. It focuses on tuning mind with emotions.
Nutritious diet: Eating fresh and organic foods generate positive emotions. A well-balanced diet comprising essential nutrients and minerals keeps the energy flowing. Dark chocolate is also a mood lifter but it should be eaten in moderation. Women should avoid caffeine, alcohol and white flour during those days.
Nature walk: Nature is the best healer. Taking a walk in the serenity amidst trees and streams is delightful to the mind and releases negative thoughts.
Art of letting go: PMS or PMDD symptoms might be indications that the body needs more care and love. Due to their multiple roles, women often feel the pressure of modern living more than men. At times, it is better to let go of certain things instead of striving to be perfect in all areas.
Sometimes, anxiety and low mood could be a result of thyroid malfunctioning. It is advisable to get the check-up done to correctly diagnose the underlying problem. Overweight women who are less active physically are also more likely to suffer from severe PMS.
Get treated for depression at the earliest
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that it is quite possible for 85 percent of menstruating women to exhibit at least one PMS symptom. However, PMDD is rare. In case a woman feels acutely depressed or has suicidal thoughts during the monthly cycle, it is essential to approach a therapist at the earliest. There are effective remedial measures to tackle the problem and help cope with the pain and mood swings.