One of my favorite psychology instructors strongly denied the existence of PMS. She openly proclaimed that a woman’s menstrual cycle couldn’t affect her relationships, her emotional well-being, or even her physical symptoms. When one of my classmates disagreed, this professor heatedly responded with her concerns that studies of PMS and PMDD (which is now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, by the way) would undermine women’s liberation efforts.
I’m a feminist. I truly believe that men and women are equal and should be treated as such. However, I also firmly believe that women and men have some very distinct strengths, emotions, and experiences. That’s why I’ve chosen to write today about a challenge unique to women: PMS.
6 Sneaky Ways Your Period Could Be Affecting Your Life
- Appetite Disturbances. Research shows that in the days before a woman’s period starts and during the period itself, a number of gastrointestinal symptoms can occur. Cravings, loss of appetite, indigestion, diarrhea, and uncomfortable bloated feelings can all affect a woman’s daily routines.
- Gas lighting. This one isn’t necessarily about how your period changes you, but how it may change the way others perceive you. Yashar Ali wrote about a phenomenon termed “gaslighting,” derived from the 1944 film, Gaslight. This describes a situation in which a woman’s legitimate reactions are dismissed as ridiculous or crazy by another party. Ali, a man, asserts that gaslighting occurs when a woman is accused of being overemotional or oversensitive even in cases when she is reacting perfectly logically. I personally have heard from many of my clients that partners, employers or others may respond dismissively with, “It must be your time of the month” when these women make reasonable requests or actions.
- Sleep disturbances. Fatigue is a premenstrual symptom experienced by many women that makes going about the normal daily tasks seem slightly overwhelming. However, repeated wakings or lying awake for hours are also reported by women as premenstrual symptoms.
- Anxiety/worry. One client of mine who suffered regular debilitating anxiety about relationships noticed that charting her menstrual cycle revealed unexpected patterns. Call it stress, worry, anxiety, whatever you wish… these emotional symptoms can be worsened by your normal hormonal changes.
- Depressed mood/low energy. As previously mentioned, fatigue can be a symptom of PMS or simply a typical menstrual cycle. However, in addition to physical fatigue some women face depressed feelings that make it harder to get going during certain times of the month.
- Intimacy. Dr. Toni Weschler reveals in her studies of natural birth control that women are most likely to experience a higher sex drive when ovulating. By the same token, women who have passed ovulation for the month may experience a temporary drop in libido, whether this is due to psychological inhibitions or simple hormones. This low sex drive can affect intimacy with a romantic partner, especially when coupled with some of the other symptoms mentioned here, like anxiety or depressed mood.
While we’ve listed several experiences unique to menstruating women, this does not mean that women are to be dismissed as hysterical, overdramatic or somehow inferior. Instead, these are simply typical symptoms and experiences that may occur with varying degrees of intensity throughout the month and over the course of a lifetime.
If you feel that your menstrual cycle might be affecting your daily routines, I would suggest downloading an app like PeriodTrackerLite (Free, iTunes) to chart your moods and physical symptoms for 1-3 months. This may be enough to help you identify patterns and then make the needed changes to feel more comfortable during particularly stressful times. A good counselor or physician can also help you set up routines or behavior changes to make your PMS or PMDD symptoms more manageable, as well.
Our Anxiety Trigger Tracking Charts can help you determine if your period might be causing those sleepless nights, bouts of overthinking, and relationship stress. Check it out: