Does My Period Affect My Mental Health?

TEAM KNIX / SEP 21, 2018

If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States or 1-833-456-4566 in Canada.

Period depression.

It’s a real thing.

And while it’s normal to feel the blues or a bit down during your period, it’s not totally normal to experience severe depression or anxiety in the week before your period. But if you do, you’re definitely not alone.

We did some digging to find out why we experience mood symptoms the week before and what to do if those symptoms interfere with our lives.

What’s the deal with PMS?

Thanks to cheesy sitcoms and women’s magazines, everyone recognizes the cliche symptoms of PMS: bloating, crying, uncontrollable cravings for chocolate bars and McDonald’s. But how accurate are they? And do these symptoms have a more serious effect on a woman’s mental health?

“While the media can paint a negative picture of how we react during our menstrual cycle, there is a biologic basis for why our mood can change prior to and during our period,” says Dr. Sheila Wijayasinghe, who is a family doctor and health expert on CTV’s The Social. “The change in mood can be caused by a shift in hormone levels, which is a biologic change, not a behavior choice.”

Dr. Susan Kornstein, who is a Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics & Gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University, agrees. She explains that many women experience some premenstrual mood symptoms like irritability, depressed mood, and anxiety, along with physical symptoms like bloating and breast tenderness. “About 5% of women have premenstrual mood symptoms that are severe enough that they interfere with the woman's ability to function in her daily life (at home, at work, socially); this is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.” So while it’s normal to feel a bit sluggish or blue, if you feel very depressed or anxious, there might be something more serious happening.

So what’s going on up there?

According to The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, “Your period is controlled and regulated by a complex orchestra of hormones, secreted by your pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and ovaries. These hormones also interact with the hormones that regulate mood in the brain, and can have effects on many of your bodily functions, contributing to the uncomfortable symptoms of PMS.”

Dr. Kornstein says that women with PMDD have an altered brain sensitivity to the normal fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone during their menstrual cycle. Women with PMDD may also have a previous history of depression, a family history of premenstrual mood problems, or be dealing with stress.

What do I do if think I have PMDD?

“We can normalize and avoid getting help for menstrual-related mood changes due to embarrassment, but it’s important to get help,” urges Dr. Wijayasinghe. “I suggest recording your symptoms over 2-3 cycles with specific attention to the relation of your mood symptoms to menstruation. There are many period tracking apps that can help you track these changes. If the symptoms specifically occur in the 2 weeks prior to your period, it is likely a premenstrual mood disorder. If your symptoms occur during other times of the month, they may be due to another mood disorder. If your symptoms are affecting your function, I strongly recommend seeing your doctor to discuss your mood.”

Dr. Kornstein agrees that if you experience premenstrual mood symptoms that interfere with your daily life, you should seek an evaluation and treatment. “There are a number of effective treatments for PMDD, including antidepressants (used either throughout the cycle or just in the second half of the cycle) as well as hormonal treatments such as oral contraceptives.”

If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States or 1-833-456-4566 in Canada.

Do you have a personal story you’d like to share? An essay draft saved in the cloud? An idea for an interview? Email us at to be featured on The Lift.
Follow Us
Want more?

Subscribe to The Lift for more interviews with inspiring women, info about fertility, periods, and breast health, and everything else Knix—straight to your inbox.

Unsubscribe anytime.

Follow Us