Depression during periods, the causes and cure


There are many uncomfortable symptoms associated with menstruation. Individual symptoms differ from person to person, but they often include more than just physical discomfort, such as cramps, fatigue, or headaches. You are likely to experience emotional distress during your period, including depression.

You may notice:

  • Intolerance
  • Stress
  • Lack of concentration
  • Unhappy mood
  • Crying frequently
  • Sad feelings

Mood changes and depression tend to appear in the days before your period starts. Still, they won’t necessarily disappear once it starts. These symptoms can persist for a few days or even longer – many women also experience depression after their periods have ended.

You might already be aware that mood symptoms can affect your daily life. The question is, what causes depression during, before, and possibly even after the periods?

Find out how to cope and find support below, along with helpful tips.

The hormones that affect your mood

While experts are not entirely sure about Source what causes mood changes during the menstrual cycle, they believe hormones are responsible for this.

During your cycle, hormones fluctuate naturally. They can, however, affect other hormones in your body, such as dopamine and serotonin. Both hormones are related to depression.

Is it truly ‘just’ PMS?

In some cases, PMS may not involve anything more than mild symptoms, such as light cramping, bloating, or tiredness. However, this isn’t true for everyone. Some PMS sufferers experience more severe symptoms, such as intense cramps, fatigue and trouble sleeping

depression symptoms (including major mood changes). These symptoms can easily interfere with your daily activities. In other words, there’s no “just” about it.

While PMS can feel uncomfortable, it’s not the only cause of depression during your period. Check out these other factors.

PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder):

PMDD is often referred to as a severe form of PMS. Symptoms of this condition are similar to PMS, but they are much more distressing. Furthermore, unlike PMS, PMDD usually requires medical treatment. When you notice at least five of the following symptoms during most of your periods, for at least one year, then you are likely to be diagnosed:

  • depression
  • irritability and unusual anger
  • mood changes
  • concentration problems
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • a sense of overwhelm or loss of control
  • a lack of sleep or excessive sleep
  • hunger or cravings

physical symptoms, including:

  • headache
  • cramps
  • stomach discomfort
  • swollen breasts

These are some other serious signs of PMDD:

  • stress
  • panic attacks
  • suicidal thoughts

PMDD symptoms aren’t just intense and frustrating. They can also interfere with daily life:

  • Making it difficult to work or go to school
  • Causing conflict in relationships
  • Making it difficult to focus on work or school
  • Affecting your performance

These symptoms generally begin a week or two before your period and improve a few days after it begins.

If you have PMDD, you generally won’t experience mood symptoms between your period and ovulation — unless you have an existing mental health condition.

PME (premenstrual exacerbation).

How would you feel if your depression gets worse just before your period starts and do not improve during the period? Or do they appear throughout your cycle, not only in the week leading up to your period? If so, you might have PME.

Although PME is similar to PMDD, both conditions are different. A woman with PME may experience symptoms of existing conditions worsened by hormonal fluctuations throughout her cycle.

In addition to depression, there are numerous physical and mental health conditions, including:

  • an acne-prone skin
  • asthma
  • epilepsy
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • chronic headaches
  • depression
  • mental illness
  • schizophrenia
  • disordered eating

Due to limited research on the cause and symptoms of PME, it remains largely unrecognized and untreated. It’s important to recognize any patterns in your symptoms, such as when they get worse or improve so that you can get the right diagnosis and treatment.

Here’s how to deal with it


Even if depression symptoms only appear during your period, therapy can make a big difference in how you handle them.

Therapists can:

  • Provide skills and coping strategies
  • Help manage anxiety and stress 
  • Identify depression’s root causes; assist in treating depression
  • Supplements and medications

You can ask your therapist or another healthcare professional to refer you to a psychiatrist who can prescribe antidepressants.

Based on 2011 research trusted Source, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are suggested in treating PMDD.

Medication effectiveness is generally determined by several factors, including your health history and the cause of depression.

Medical professionals can inform you about medication options, such as combination birth control pills or other treatments. They can also provide information on alternative therapies, such as:

  • vitamin supplements, such as vitamin B6, Calcium and magnesium
  • Few herbal supplements, such as evening primrose oil, black cohosh, and St. John’s wort.

Tips for coping

The use of home remedies and other self-care strategies can sometimes help ease mild depression symptoms – but taking a good look after yourself won’t always lessen depression. However, self-care can help you feel better and cope better. Try these suggestions.

Engaging in physical activity

Physical activity can help improve your mood, even if you’re experiencing both physical and emotional PMS symptoms. Try doing a low-key activity instead of a full workout, like a 30-minute walk. Both important foundations of self-care, exercise and sleep, can help you overcome depression over time.


Taking time to relax can sometimes help you recover from stress.

Try these strategies:

  • visualization
  • Relax your muscles.
  • Take deep breaths
  • meditating
  • Massage
  • writing journal
  • aromatherapy

Emotional support

No matter the cause of your depression, sharing your feelings with someone you trust is often helpful.

Family and friends can:

  • listen to what’s on your mind
  • during lonely times; be there for you
  • distract when you’re struggling
  • help you find a therapist

Additionally, talking to family members and loved ones about depression can help you see how serious these symptoms are. Many people believe that depression caused by the menstrual cycle is just a temporary condition.

In summary

It’s not always “just PMS” that causes depression when you’re on your period.

Almost all mood symptoms associated with PMS can also appear as depression symptoms independently. Contact a therapist or doctor as soon as possible if depression persists after your period.

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