As women, we know when our period is coming because we feel bloated, nauseous, moody and anxious. But for many, anxiety gets worse during the week before your period, thanks to your hormonal changes.
As your hormones change, the receptors in your brain that carry the mood-boosting hormone become overloaded, meaning you feel extra anxious, nervous and angry. So, it’s normal to feel anxious before your period.
Read on to find out more about the causes of pre-period anxiety, what to do if you feel incredibly anxious and how to manage feelings of anxiety before your period.
Why does my period make me anxious?
During the week before your period, your hormones change, causing a change in your body’s normal functions. The rollercoaster of PMS hormones causes lots of mood swings leaving you feeling anxious and on edge.
Your body’s main focus in the run-up to your menstrual cycle is fertility, so it tends to forget to regulate your mood. This is why we blame PMS for making us feel irritable, stressed and worried.
During the luteal phase of your cycle, your body has to cope with significant hormonal changes. The changing hormones literally cause a shift in your brain. When the neurotransmitters in your brain can’t keep track of everything that happens, you may feel overwhelmed and anxious.
However, scientists don’t fully understand PMS and period anxiety.
There is lots of ongoing research to learn exactly why the week before your period makes you feel anxious. Still, studies show that it’s widespread, so you shouldn’t worry too much if you feel this emotion before your period.
Is depression normal before my period?
As depression is closely related to anxiety, it’s normal for some women to feel depressed before menstruation. Anxiety isn’t the only thing you might feel in the week before your period. You could also feel sad, angry, overwhelmed or depressed, and your emotions can change fast.
Although we don’t really know what causes period anxiety, scientists think it is the changing hormone levels during the luteal phase that trick your brain into feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Most women feel anxiety before their period, and some may also experience depression.
PMDD makes period anxiety worse
Anxiety linked to your period and menstrual cycle is pretty common, but some women suffer from extreme anxiety, which is linked to a condition called PMDD.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) can worsen pre-period anxiety and is linked to additional feelings of depression and stress.
What is PMDD?
PMDD or premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a highly intense form of Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Sometimes, doctors call it “severe PMS”. It amplifies traditional physical and emotional PMS symptoms.
The cause of PMDD isn’t really known, but it’s thought to be caused by a hormonal imbalance.
A change in oestrogen and progesterone the week before your period can cause your body to have an extreme reaction, resulting in PMDD. Most doctors also think the hormone serotonin could be why PMDD causes intense feelings of anxiety.
Read more here:
PMDD only happens during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, after you ovulate and before your period. It could last for two weeks but usually only lasts one week just before your period. During this time, you could experience PMDD-based anxiety every day.
How to tell if I have PMDD?
The best way to decide if you have PMDD or regular PMS is to speak to a medical professional. You can track your symptoms from month to month to see if you have any symptoms of PMDD and discuss these with a doctor.
Symptoms of PMDD and PMS can be very similar, making it hard to tell if you suffer from chronic PMS anxiety or if you have the more extreme condition of PMDD anxiety.
Lots of symptoms of PMS and PMDD overlap. Unlike PMS, PMDD doesn’t usually come with:
- Back pain
During regular PMS, your mood may swing from feeling anxious to happy very quickly. PMDD anxiety often comes with more intense feelings, including suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness.
We’ve made this list of the signs and symptoms of PMDD vs PMS so you can evaluate if you have PMDD:
|Feeling Out of Control||Y||N|
|No Interest in Hobbies||Y||N|
|Feeling Constantly Tired||Y||Y|
|Headaches and Backaches||N||Y|
A recent study found that most women that suffer from PMDD can correlate their suicidal thoughts to their PMDD.
If you are experiencing thoughts around ending your life or harming yourself, please reach out to Lifeline, who can provide immediate support.
If life is in danger call 000
Crisis Support 13 11 14
For free resources and support dealing with and diagnosing PMS and PMDD, you should check out:
- The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders
- Women’s Health & Research Institute of Australia
PMDD is a condition that makes classic PMD symptoms worse, including extreme anxiety and depression that can cause suicidal feelings. It’s thought to be caused by a hormonal imbalance and can last for up to two weeks before your period.
How to naturally reduce anxiety before my period
Since period anxiety is natural, there are many natural ways to reduce pre-period anxiety, such as:
- Manage your stress
- Get more sleep
- Use a PMS journal
Relying on medication can help lessen symptoms and minimise pain, but they may not treat the cause or prevent PMS anxiety.
Natural remedies to reduce anxiety can help stop the impact your period anxiety has on your life. Easy changes such as increased exercise, more sleep, and stress management combined with herbal remedies such as ashwagandha can naturally help you control your period anxiety.
Check out some of the best ways to naturally reduce anxiety before your period.
1. Exercise more to boost serotonin and counteract anxiety
Period anxiety usually means you don’t have enough serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is the natural happy hormone, so increasing your serotonin can help combat anxiety and depression.
An excellent way to naturally boost serotonin is to exercise. When you work out, your brain releases serotonin making you feel good and helps to stop you from feeling anxious.
During exercise, your body produces serotonin to trick you into thinking you enjoyed the exercise. It’s sometimes called the athlete’s high because your brain makes you feel so good in the hope you might exercise more frequently.
A study carried out in 2013 on girls that didn’t usually exercise found that almost all PMS symptoms, including anxiety, were reduced with regular exercise.
With more serotonin in your body, you naturally feel better about everything. Making sure you work out at least three times during the week before your period can boost your serotonin levels enough to counteract anxiety.
2. Manage your stress levels to reduce anxiety naturally
Anxiety caused by your period is made much worse by additional forms of stress. Try to manage your stress to reduce possible feelings of anxiety.
Anxiety is cumulative, so you’ll feel even more anxious if you are stressed and worried about other things in your life. One study found that managing stress at work contributes to better overall mental health and can help with both anxiety and depression.
Your body is flooded with cortisol when you feel stressed, worried or anxious. This hormone blocks receptors in your brain and stops your other hormones from functioning correctly. To help balance your hormones, minimise PMS and eliminate period anxiety, you need to reduce your cortisol.
When you are stressed, the amount of cortisol rises, so managing your stress and finding ways to relax will naturally lower cortisol levels, reduce anxiety and allow your body to rebalance your hormones for a more manageable period.
Some great ways to naturally reduce your stress include:
- Taking a warm bath
- Less time on social media
- Going for a walk
- Stop drinking alcohol
Can herbal teas help us manage stress levels?
Yes, they can. Another effective way to naturally manage your stress levels is to drink herbal teas. Some plants and herbs contain natural properties that can help you to relax.
Check out which teas are the best to help with stress here:
3. Get more sleep to reset your body and balance your hormones
When you sleep, your body uses the time to relax, reset and rebalance. Making sure you get enough sleep during the week before your period can help rebalance your hormones to prevent stress and help with anxiety.
While you sleep, your body releases Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which helps balance your fertility hormones, reduce hormonal imbalance and help manage PMS and anxiety.
Research shows your HGH levels help contribute to your overall hormone levels and balance your oestrogen and progesterone levels. With more stable hormones, you’ll have fewer PMS symptoms and are less likely to suffer from PMDD.
How many hours of sleep should we get a night during menstruation?
You should try to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night but if you feel you need more, try to get up to nine hours during the week of your PMS. This is enough time for your body to reset, rebalance, and stop period anxiety.
If you have problems sleeping at night and want to find ways to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper for longer, check out:
4. Use a PMS journal to track symptoms and control your period
If you suffer from anxiety every month, especially if you think you have PMDD, it’s a good idea to track your anxiety. Start a journal documenting when you suffer from anxiety, how frequent it is and how intense your feelings are.
By writing down your anxiety in a journal and tracking your PMS symptoms, you can better identify patterns. You might find certain situations make your anxiety worse and can find ways to avoid these situations during the week during your pre-period week.
Writing about your anxiety also forces you to identify and describe how you feel, which can help you overcome these feelings. When you write it down, you are forced to confront and process your anxiety which is the first step to feeling better.
Furthermore, if you keep a detailed log of your anxiety and PMS, you can take it to your doctor if you want additional help.
You can use your PMS journal to give your healthcare professional all the information they need to make an accurate diagnosis and give you any further treatment you might need.
There are several ways to help relieve period anxiety naturally. Try balancing your hormones by exercising, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress. If you want to identify sources of PMS anxiety, you can also keep a PMS journal which can be helpful if you seek additional advice from a doctor.
Period anxiety is very typical in women and usually occurs during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. This happens during the week before your period.
During the run-up to your period, you may experience a range of PMS symptoms, including anxiety and depression caused by the hormonal imbalance. Some women may also have a more severe condition called PMDD which causes more intense feelings of anxiety and depression, including thoughts around suicide. If you think you suffer from PMDD, you should seek professional help.
You can help treat period anxiety by balancing your hormones with exercise, herbal remedies, managing your stress or speaking to a professional. If you don’t know where to start, we recommend checking out this article to learn how Lemon Balm could help your anxiety: