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June 16, 2019  
UTERINE NEWS: Feature Story

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  • Psychological Distress and Menstrual Issues

    Psychological Distress Associated with Menstrual Problems – An Under-Funded Public Health Issue

    February 05, 2007

    By: Jean Johnson for Uterus1

    Part 2 |Part One

    Here’s the question: If the emotional roller coaster 19 percent of the women in a seminal study on menstruation reported experiencing is addressed early and identified for what it is, can society prevent this psychological distress from becoming chronic?
    Take Action
    The National Institute of Mental Health suggests the following as a path to healing:
  • Even though depressive illnesses make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless and hopeless, try not to give up.
  • In addition to therapy and professional services, self-help like mild exercise, a balanced diet, support groups, and yoga can ease symptoms.
  • The key is not expecting too much too soon: “Feeling better takes time.”

  • “That’s what happened to me, I think, now that I look back on it,” said Carol Francis, a grandmother in her early 50s in Seattle. “I didn’t realize it at the time, of course. I just thought I was moody. But now I see how powerfully my hormones played on my emotions.”

    Francis agrees that if her physician had made her fully cognizant of what was going on – and perhaps even offered treatment for the depression that eventually gripped her – that she might not have internalized the problems the way she did.

    “Yes. What happened to me – at least now that I’m hearing about this study, I think there’s a good chance that it happened to me – was that because no one talked to me about how much my menstruation cycle was yanking my moods around and turning me into an unhappy, shrieking, sad, mad person, that I got the idea it was just the way I was. That I was just a nasty human being without kindness and whatever,” Francis said, stopping to sigh for a moment.

    “All those years…that’s when it started to become a self-fulfilling prophecy I think. So like these researchers are saying, what might have been just a little, treatable blip in my life, turned into a regular routine year after year.

    “It really was not a very joyful way to live, and I can see that now that menopause has rescued me from the nightmare of a monthly hormonal merry-go-around. Too bad it wasn’t merry. It was more like a misery-go-round, I’m sorry to say. Also, I do think I’m permanently scarred by my experiences, even though I have considerably more clarity these days. If there was anything I could do to help other women not suffer a similar fate, I surely would.”

    In the first part of our coverage of seminal research associated with women, their menses, and their emotions, Uterus1.com outlined the results of research published in 2005 by a team from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here we are taking a closer look at lead author Tara W. Strine, MPH, Division of Adult and Community Health, CDC, and her colleagues’ conclusions in what they say is a public health issue that has not been sufficiently studied.

    Researchers drew on 11,648 women between the ages of 18 and 55 to participate in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) initiated in 2002. The NHIS is an ongoing assessment of the health and functioning of adults in the United States. What they found was that both premenstrual and menstrual effects produced emotional distress in 19 percent of those surveyed.

    “Previous research suggests that anxiety and depressive disorders are related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD),” the authors wrote in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Women’s Health. “Our findings suggest that indicators of these disorders may potentially occur across much of the menstrual cycle and manifest more than twice as often in women who experience symptoms and those who do not.”

    Strine and her colleagues also reported that “because of the absence of effective intervention, depressive disorders commonly assume a chronic course. The association between menstrual-related problems and affective disturbance may be particularly noteworthy.” That said, Strine reiterates her team’s conclusion that psychological distress related to menses needs further evaluation and that society will be improved should this take place.

    “Menstrual-related problems are associated with substantial psychological distress, a finding that corroborates results reported in clinical samples, and strongly supports the claim that menstrual-related problems pose an important public health dilemma.”

    Related Content
    If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in the following:
    Menopause and Depression – Jury Still Out on the Connection
    Got PMS, Get Milk
    PMS May Predict Symptoms Later in Life

    Education Center entry on menstruation

    Last updated: 05-Feb-07


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