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How Periods & PMS Can Affect ADHD & Similar Disorders

How Periods & PMS Can Affect ADHD & Similar Disorders

Written by Yoppie

05 Feb 2021

What is ADHD?

How does estrogen affect people with ADHD? 

Who is most likely to experience these symptoms? 

What are the symptoms of low estrogen and ADHD?

What are the options?

How to cope with ADHD and PMS

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can be bad enough, but if you also happen to have ADHD, you may experience worse symptoms than most thanks to fluctuating estrogen levels. Let’s take a closer look at why ADHD and PMS don’t mix well, what the symptoms are, and how to manage them long-term. But first...

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often thought to only affect children, but in fact, many people continue to manage this throughout their lives. ADHD is a condition that affects people's behaviour, making them seem restless, have difficulty concentrating, act impulsively, and sometimes have trouble sleeping. Most people are diagnosed when they are between 6 and 12 years old, and symptoms tend to improve with age, however adults can still experience issues throughout their lives, and for people with a menstrual cycle who suffer from PMS, symptoms can worsen.

How does estrogen affect people with ADHD? 

The main reason people with ADHD can experience worse symptoms at certain times during their cycle, is because of the hormone estrogen. Research has found that estrogen can stimulate certain populations of dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. When estrogen levels drop in the weeks before your period (or on the lead up to menopause), so too do the levels of these chemicals in the brain. Symptoms of ADHD are affected by a lot of the same chemicals, so people with ADHD can be more sensitive to estrogen, and their symptoms can intensify as hormones fluctuate throughout the month.

If you are someone who unfortunately suffers with intense PMS symptoms, or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), as well as ADHD, this can cause a lot of extreme mood and behavioural symptoms that lead to stress, anxiety, irritability, dysphoria, and interferes with their functioning and relationships.

Who is most likely to experience these symptoms? 

Anyone who menstruates and has ADHD could find themselves at this cross-section of conditions and experiencing the aforementioned symptoms, however these can become worse at certain times due to life’s ever-changing hormones. Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause are key culprits, however many find that the biggest issues happen during puberty when hormones are constantly fluctuating. 

What are the symptoms of low estrogen and ADHD?

The mix of ADHD and low levels of estrogen can cause symptoms such as depression, anxiety, irritability and mood swings, confusion and memory issues, fatigue, and trouble sleeping. These may appear much the same as those found during PMS, however people with ADHD may find they experience a much more intense version of these symptoms, to a point where they find daily life difficult. 

Other more specific symptoms related to ADHD may intensify, such as feeling impulsive, or unable to concentrate and complete certain tasks.

What are the options?

If you are experiencing these issues, it’s important to remember that there are options, and your doctor can provide advice, rule out any other possible health concerns, and suggest possible treatments to help alleviate the symptoms of both conditions. This could include medications such as estrogen replacement, SSRIs, and more, so even if you feel that nothing can be done, this is often not the case. A doctor who is familiar with your ADHD diagnosis should be able to help you manage the symptoms. 

How to cope with ADHD and PMS

Coping with the symptoms of ADHD and PMS in daily life is no picnic, but as well as speaking to your doctor about therapies and medication options, there are things you can do day-to-day to help manage your symptoms. 

Here are a few things you can try:

  • Keep a diary of your ADHD and PMS symptoms to find out when they are at their worst through the month. This can enable your doctor to set up a treatment plan, but can also help you plan ahead to take it easy when you expect to feel at your worst 
  • Discuss your symptoms and how you feel about them with a counsellor or therapist, who may be able to offer management strategies 
  • Learn and practice techniques like breathwork, meditation and yoga, to help reduce your stress levels 
  • Take good care of your physical health alongside your mental health; get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and avoid possible stimulants like caffeine and alcohol

ADHD and PMS can be a match made in awful! But understanding both, monitoring and respecting your symptoms when they arise, and speaking to your doctor about options can help you manage long-term. Be sure to speak to loved ones about what you’re experiencing so they can help you, and your doctor, so they can provide advice on treatment options. 

Do you suffer from both ADHD and PMS? We’d love to know your experience and how you manage your symptoms! Chat to us over at our private Facebook group or drop us a note on Insta @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised period subscription box can get organic tampons, pads, liners (and more) delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox. That's one less thing to worry about each month.

Fact Checked By Menstrual Health Expert

References

1. Roberts B, Eisenlohr-Moul T, Martel MM. Reproductive steroids and ADHD symptoms across the menstrual cycle. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2018; 88: 105–114.

2. Walsh S, Ismaili E, Naheed B, et al. Diagnosis, pathophysiology and management of premenstrual syndrome. Obstet Gynaecol 2015; 17: 99–104.

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