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Women's Hormonal PMS Anxiety
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Anxiety can take many different forms: it can be simply feeling anxious and nervous; it can manifest as depression or irritability; or it can force us to compulsively fill our lives with activity—any activity—to allay feelings of anxiousness and nervousness. Anxiety manifests as worry about health, about family, and often worries about things over which we have no control whatsoever, but also as physical symptoms of insomnia, tension, heart palpitations, mysterious aches and pains, irritable bowel syndrome: in short, almost any symptom you can imagine. For many women anxiety arises over the fact that so many situations feel out of one's own control.
Hormonal anxiety, PMS anxiety, and menstrual anxiety are, of course, specific to women, and are often an exacerbation of a more formal anxiety problem such as generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder. Just as PMS and PMDD can make depression, migraines, and other conditions worse, they can also make anxiety and panic attacks worse.
As you'll read later in this article, the stress hormone cortisol is elevated before a woman's period. Although women's hormonal PMS anxiety doesn't mean that anxiety only occurs premenstrually—worries and anxieties may exist at a more manageable intensity at other times—they tend to really flare up before your period. PMS anxiety refers specifically to menstrual anxiety or hormonal anxiety that is a significant problem before the period.
Are women more anxious than men? They are, and there are many possible reasons for this: the multitude of sometimes conflicting roles women are asked to fill in our culture (wife, mother, worker, caring friend); the way girls are raised, which often focuses on passive acceptance of problems rather than action-oriented problem-solving; women's greater sensitivity and responsiveness to others; and women's tendency to devote more time, energy, and attention to their own and others' emotions.
These social and cultural factors can interact with the monthly hormonal cycle to create PMS anxiety. One of these hormones, cortisol, that is ordinarily higher in men, increases to a level similar to that of men during the second half of the menstrual cycle. The cortisol-stress connection is well known and definitely plays a role in anxiety.
Balancing hormones and stress is key to the natural relief of anxiety—the holistic approach to anxiety focuses on balancing your whole life, body mind and spirit—rather than just using medication to treat only the symptoms.
Anxiety and PMS anxiety can easily be misidentified: anxiousness is often experienced as irritability or tension, depression or feeling on edge, or feeling overwhelmed. Often anxiety will arise suddenly as a frightening panic attack, but even low-level anxiety can keep you from functioning at your best.
Many of the symptoms of PMS and PMDD are related to anxiety and the different ways that anxiety manifests:
We offer five anti-anxiety hints to overcome anxiety and anxiousness issues (and anyone can benefit from them):
We know that anxiety from PMS, PMDD, or any cause is painful, and can have a huge impact on your ability to enjoy and participate fully in life and relationships. One thing you'll notice about all these natural anti-anxiety hints: they're things you can do on your own. As it says at the top of the page, we're all about education, empowerment, and natural relief. We hope you'll try applying some or all of these hints (and let us know how they work for you) and feel empowered to apply natural health in your own life.