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Why Am I So Emotional on My Period?

The premenstrual and menstrual phase often comes with less than desirable emotional effects. Discussing emotions and the menstrual cycle can be tricky, as women continue to be shamed and dismissed for expressing our feelings, making it easier to ignore or downplay women’s lived experiences. Experiencing emotional changes over the course of your menstrual cycle is completely normal — up to a certain point — so let's explore what exactly happens during PMS and the other phases of your cycle.

Emotional Changes on My Period - Visual guide acknowledging and normalizing emotional fluctuations during the menstrual cycle.

From puberty through menopause, hormonal fluctuations cause cyclical mood changes for women worldwide. Nevertheless, we are different individuals, and all of us experience different emotions as life confronts us with its challenges. Being emotional is not a weakness, but you should also not simply accept low moods as fact if it interferes with your daily life.

Why Do I Get So Emotional on My Period?

Is it the hormones? Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

Hormones certainly play a big part in the mental and physical changes you feel during your cycle, most noticeably on the days leading up to and during your period. The two hormones most responsible for your emotions and mood changes, as well as the PMS symptoms are estrogen and progesterone.


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Estrogen is a hormone that increases during the first half of the cycle, peaking rapidly and dropping sharply just before ovulation: when you are feeling at your best. Progesterone levels rise and fall in more of a bell curve over the course of the second half of the cycle. As these two hormones rise and fall to regulate the reproductive cycle, a woman’s emotional response to the world around her may fluctuate.

Higher estrogen levels, especially during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, may be associated with increased energy and a generally positive mood. When estrogen levels are at their peak (around ovulation), you might feel ready to socialize, have a heightened mental resilience and find it easier to face difficult things.

Progesterone is considered a primary “pregnancy hormone” because it promotes gestation by conditioning the uterine lining to receive an egg and by facilitating implantation. Progesterone tends to have a calming effect and can promote feelings of relaxation. This is more prominent during the luteal phase (second half) of the menstrual cycle before PMS and your period begins.

If pregnancy does not occur the uterine lining is discarded, and progesterone levels drop. If a fertilized egg does implant successfully, progesterone levels continue to rise to support the pregnancy.

Fluctuations in progesterone levels, particularly if they drop suddenly, may contribute to irritability in some individuals. Most women certainly notice the difference between the phases of the menstrual cycle, either through PMS symptoms or the general feeling these changes bring. It is especially challenging for those of us who experience severe PMS symptoms either due to premenstrual exacerbation, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or other conditions.

Seasons of the year

The changes in hormone levels between the different phases of your cycle can be likened to seasons of the year in nature with your period being Winter when everything happens more slowly and you require extra rest and ovulation being likened to Summer: this is when you are at your most optimistic and resilient.

It is important to understand how each phase feels in your specific body, as then you will know what might happen on given days of your cycle.

Is it the physical discomfort?

In addition to these hormonal changes, the physical discomfort of menstrual cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, food cravings and headaches among other similar symptoms also contribute to a woman’s emotional load during menstruation.

Who can be at their best when dealing with abdominal pain, fatigue, and potential blood seepage? It is perfectly possible to have a great day even if you are on your period, but you should not feel guilty about occasionally feeling low on these days. It doesn't make you less capable, but these symptoms are good reasons for going easier on yourself.

Is it the social aspects?

Our emotions are also directly affected by how we interact with others. Do you engage in social activities and have trusted friends to confide in? Do you feel safe? Managing social interactions, especially when period and PMS symptoms are severe, can sometimes be isolating and stress-inducing. Why did I wear these pants? Can I go swimming on my period? Who can I ask to loan me a tampon?

Women who lack safe, affordable access to period products experience what is now known as period poverty. This makes dealing with menstruation very difficult and even dehumanizing. If getting your period means missing work or school, you are bound to feel stressed, anxious, and unhappy. Likewise, if you already feel depressed due to other factors, PMS symptoms may further interfere with your mental well-being.

Is it the neurotransmitters?

It turns out that our sex hormones also influence our “happiness hormones”—neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite, dopamine, which gives us feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as a reward for achievement, endorphins, which alleviate pain and boost pleasure, and GABA, which relaxes nerve activity and regulates mood. Your serotonin levels can also be affected by the fluctuating female hormones and other PMS symptoms.

Is It Normal To Cry on My Period?: Exploring emotions during menstruation


Is It Normal To Cry on My Period?

To a certain extent — yes, it is completely normal. Crying is a common and natural response to various stimuli and life experiences and an important aspect of self-regulation. Emotional tears contain high levels of stress hormones, so by crying we can regulate how we feel and relieve a little stress. Like swearing, crying can also help with pain management.

There is absolutely nothing wrong if you feel emotional at any time, as it is a part of a normal functioning of the human body; however, if you experience severe depression and uncontrollable mood swings it might indicate more serious health issues at hand.

Try not to ruminate on unpleasant topics to not make yourself more upset than would be healthy; however, remember that in general your emotions are still valid, even if they may get overblown at times. Yes, your anxiety and brain may lie and make things look way worse than they really are, but you are still allowed to process the things around you.

Feeling upset and emotional is one of your body's ways of telling you that something may be wrong and sometimes there are perfectly legitimate reasons for this.

Crying and mood swings

We know, for example, that estrogen levels vary widely for each woman over the course of her menstrual cycle, but there are also significant variations between women at the same points in their cycles. We can measure hormone levels precisely at a given moment, however this information does not help predict emotional sensitivity even though hormones are clearly involved.

Many women with PMS or PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) have “normal” estrogen levels, so the problem may lie in how the hormone interacts with other processes in the body. Some women experience mood swings and powerful emotions when they have high levels of estrogen, but many find their emotions stabilize in menopause when estrogen levels are low.

Some women experience depression, irritability, anger or anxiety as progesterone levels rise, while others feel more unstable as they experience “progesterone withdrawal”. Postpartum, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal depression are all conditions that affect women only, indicating that sex hormones play a significant role.

Talk to your doctor if your mood symptoms are especially severe.

Other Factors

Other physical and emotional symptoms

Hormonal changes are not the only thing affecting your body and brain when you are on your menstrual period. The physical symptoms such as cramps and bloating have a very real impact on your body and can therefore result in low mood. It is never nice to have pain anywhere in your body and there is no reason why you should suddenly be OK with headaches, feeling bloated and other symptoms just because you are on your period.


There is nothing wrong with taking the occasional painkiller to reduce the physical symptoms of PMS and your period, as this will have a very real impact on your mood and well-being.

Stress, lifestyle and dietary factors

Life does not stop when you are on your period and the stressors of daily life are still there. The low hormone levels on the days when you already feel low can exacerbate the situation and make it harder to manage symptoms.

Sometimes the birth control you take may also explain mood swings or the lack thereof (which is not always that great either). Consult with your healthcare provider about the possible doses or changes to make birth control more effective for you.

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Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that affects a small percentage of women. PMDD is characterized by intense mood disturbances and physical symptoms that occur in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, typically in the week or two before menstruation begins. Unlike PMS, PMDD symptoms are more severe and can significantly impact daily functioning and they should not be taken lightly.

PMDD affects around 3–8% of women worldwide, roughly 1 in 20. That is not a high percentage, but it is still a relatively common condition. Symptoms usually appear when a woman is in her mid-twenties and sometimes grow even more severe as she approaches menopause.

Managing Emotional Changes

Emotional changes associated with menstruation do not necessarily indicate a problem. Many women experience some moodiness or emotional sensitivity that does not significantly impact their lives. Even so, our emotions reflect our overall health, so anything we do to support a healthy lifestyle will also make us feel better emotionally.

Start by attending to your needs and adapting to the reality of where you are in your cycle as much as life allows. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you exercise, stretch your body, drink plenty of water and spend some time outside on a regular basis? Are you eating a balanced diet?

Self-care is extremely important in this time of the moth. Avoid salty foods to reduce bloating, use gentle exercise and adequate sleep schedules to relieve symptoms and take the best care of yourself in this time, you deserve it!

Consider self-care strategies, such as:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Use heating pads for menstrual cramps and other pain and stiffness
  • Eat nutritious and balanced foods
  • Get enough rest
  • Do gentle exercises without overexerting your body
  • Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Learn to recognize your mood swings and low mood and have remedies at hand: from your favorite music to comfort shows, walking gear or anything else that helps you stay happy and healthy.

If none of the basic self-care activities do enough to relieve your symptoms, or if your symptoms are interfering with your ability to practice basic acts of self-care, there is probably something more going on.

Conclusion

In the past, women suffering from severe emotional dysregulation were diagnosed with hysteria and could be locked away because no one understood the cause of their suffering. Even today, healthcare providers sometimes dismiss women’s complaints when they could be addressed. Although PMS symptoms can present in many ways, distress is not normal or acceptable.

If you experience emotional and behavioral changes in association with your menstrual cycle that affect your quality of life, seek out the help you need to feel better. No one deserves to suffer. Experiencing the occasional emotional lows; however, is more than normal. There are plenty of strategies to try out to make yourself feel better.

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https://www.womanlog.com/cycle/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-understanding-pmdd
https://www.womanlog.com/cycle/what-is-premenstrual-exacerbation-and-how-can-it-affect-your-mental-health
https://www.womanlog.com/cycle/how-do-hormones-affect-you-during-your-cycle
https://www.med.unc.edu/psych/wmd/resources/mood-disorders/menstrually-related/
https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/period-blues.html
https://www.in-mind.org/article/how-much-does-the-menstrual-cycle-affect-emotional-life
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2014.00380/full
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0959353519836445
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319631
http://e.hormone.tulane.edu/learning/types-of-hormones.html
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pre-menstrual-syndrome/
https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/estrogen-and-womens-emotions
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