Bipolar disorder is a mental health issue that causes extreme shifts in mood and behavior.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than two million Americans have a bipolar disorder diagnosis, though they believe the number is potentially much greater.
It is also a mental health condition that is almost equally prevalent in women as it is in men. And while bipolar disorder is a chronic, lifelong issue that requires continual treatment, one thing sets it apart between the genders: PMS.
Women have premenstrual syndrome in the days leading up to their monthly period. And similar to bipolar disorder, PMS is characterized by mood shifts and physical behavior.
In this article, we will discuss how PMS can make bipolar disorder worse and what to do to cope.
The Relationship Between Bipolar Disorder and PMS
When women have PMS symptoms, they often feel emotional, exhaust easier than usual, and may have physical pain, like headaches, migraines, and stomach cramps.
This is because PMS is the manifestation of hormonal imbalances the body undergoes as it prepares for the menstrual cycle.
Hormonal changes are also directly related to bipolar disorder. Though doctors do not know for sure if hormonal imbalance is a cause of bipolar disorder yet, they do know that it plays a role in its symptoms.
The two hallmark events of bipolar disorder are manic and depressive episodes. Manic episodes are typically characterized by having an increase in energy, less of a need for sleep, and a loss of reality.
Depressive episodes are the opposite in many senses, making the person feel a loss of energy and causing a lack of interest in their usual lifestyle activities.
PMS is similar to the depressive episodes someone with bipolar disorder may feel, particularly when it comes to a lack of energy and motivation. Obviously, the significant difference between the two is that PMS comes and goes, while bipolar disorder is lifelong.
How PMS Makes Bipolar Disorder Worse
Researchers believe that an uptick in female reproductive hormones during PMS makes bipolar disorder symptoms worse.
Estrogen levels rise during PMS, before dropping steeply after menstruation.
Studies show that these fluctuating estrogen levels can cause a high incidence rate in women with bipolar disorder, particularly with depressive and manic episodes.
Researchers also believe that women with bipolar disorder are more likely to have more frequent and severe episodes.
It’s not all bad news, though! There are ways to deal with PMS when it worsens your bipolar disorder symptoms. We’ll discuss these next.
How to Cope: Medical Cannabis
Did you know that medicinal cannabis can relieve symptoms of both bipolar disorder and PMS?
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and learn more about obtaining a medical marijuana card here.
How to Cope: Self-Care
One of the best things you can do when coping with PMS and worsening bipolar disorder symptoms is to take better care of yourself.
Understandably, you may not have hours each day to devote to self-care and you may feel less inclined to do so if you’re in a depressive state.
However, everyone should have the time and make the effort to try the following simple self-care tips:
- Take a walk with a loved one. It’s easier to open up and share what you’re going through with someone you trust in the outdoors. Plus, moderate exercise is itself a wonderful self-care technique.
- Practice meditation every day. Meditation helps center you and teaches you how to eliminate unnecessary distractions and enjoy the moment.
- Have a spa day. This is one you can do solo or with friends. Put on a sheet mask, paint your nails, take a bubble bath, and just unwind. It will help you feel (and look!) amazing.
- Prioritize nutrition and sleep. It’s not always easy, especially with PMS and bipolar disorder, but do your best to sleep well, eat nutritiously, and stay hydrated.
These are just a few straightforward self-care ideas that anyone can try. They are surefire ways to make coping with bad days just that much easier.
How to Cope: Take Your Medications
When you go through a manic episode, it’s tempting to neglect your medications. You probably have tons of energy you want to utilize, and your meds may slow you down.
But taking your medication is a lifelong commitment you must make. It helps improve your daily life, even during times when it doesn’t seem like it.
Stick with it and know it’s part of your best coping strategy.
When you’re a female with bipolar disorder, there may be times when PMS compounds your symptoms.
Always remember that you’re not alone and that there are effective ways to make coping more manageable.