Does PMS affect our mental health?

It makes me livid when a woman is upset or crying and someone asks, "Is it your time of month?" As if her feelings are invalid. As if hormones can just explain away a woman's emotions.

If a man is upset or crying, I would never respond, "Oh, it must be because you have excess or a lack of testosterone." No, like a normal human being with a heart, I would ask, "What's wrong? How can I help?"

It makes me even more upset when people act like this natural thing makes women less competent than men. Like when Cheryl Rios, CEO of Go Ape Marketing, said, "I don't support a woman being president. ... With the hormones we have there is no way we should be able to start a war."

That's simply not true. Our periods and hormones don't make us any less qualified to be president than testosterone does for a man (although *ahem* a 2015 study by the Imperial College London found that excess testosterone can make men act irresponsibly and impulsively).

So, now that you know my opinion, don't judge me for what I'm about to say...

Here it is: I've been crying on and off all day. Then, I found out that —SURPRISE! —I started my period a week early. And then I did exactly what pisses me off — I blamed my period on my emotions. I told my boyfriend, "Now I know why I've been acting so crazy the last couple days..."

I wanted to slap myself. Am I perpetuating something I hate so much? And, even worse, is it actually true what these people are saying?

The thing is, my period doesn't affect my ability to be a bad-ass business bitch; I'm still just as competent, capable, productive and communicative, even when I'm in the midst of losing 10 to 80 mL of blood. I'm still just as able to be president as I was when I wasn't on my period (I mean, I'm not qualified to be president, but that fact has nothing to do with my uterus).

But, if I'm being honest, I have noticed that, when my period is about to start, that, yes, my anxiety is almost always worse.

So, of course, I had to do my research. Does PMS affect our mental health?

Actually, there is a specific mental disorder that is directly caused by PMS — premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). During PMS, this disorder mimics serious depression with symptoms such as hopelessness, anxiety/tension, extreme moodiness and marked irritability. This is connected to a decrease in levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps transmit nerve signals.

PMDD affects only three to five percent of menstruating women. For others with a mood disorder, like depression or anxiety, PMS can also worsen the symptoms you already have, known as "premenstrual exacerbation."

Sara Shah, founder of Mother Yin, wrote on Blood + Milk, "As the progesterone in our body suddenly rises after ovulation, so do depressive feelings. One explanation for this could be that progesterone affects the amygdala."

"The amygdala is part of our fear-based response system, and since progesterone triggers the amygdala, we become hyper-reactive in the throes of PMS. Heightened amygdala reactivity also leads to increased anxiety, which can make us more depressed."

If you are experiencing a change in mood, start tracking your symptoms before and during your period and go see a doctor. Your doctor can help treat these symptoms, maybe through a calcium supplement, hormonal birth control or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

So, what have we learned? We've learned that the answer is yes, PMS can cause an existing mental illness to temporarily worsen and can even cause its own mental disorder. But it can be treated.

We've also learned that no, both periods and mental health conditions do not affect our ability to pursue and accomplish our dreams —which includes the dream to become president (side note: James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Franklin Pierce, Abraham Lincoln and Calvin Coolidge all met the diagnostic criteria for depression; Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, Coolidge and Woodrow Wilson had symptoms of anxiety disorder; and Lyndon Johnson and Theodore Roosevelt showed signs of bipolar).

"To assume that women are the only ones who are at times subject to hormonal shifts is simply untrue. Hormones are powerful, all humans have them, and yet somehow we manage. Let’s not penalize one gender for something everyone experiences," wrote Lara Rutherford-Morrison in Bustle.

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