Why does the issue need to be addressed?
The biological process of menstruation begins at an average age of 13 and continues roughly till the age of 51. So, for people who menstruate, that’s more than half their lifetime spent having menstruation and dealing with other menstrual symptoms.
There is a lack of general awareness about menstruation and its effects on mental health. Menstruation is still a very taboo and stigmatized topic and people don’t generally talk about it. There is a lack of information and a lot of misconceptions. So, for someone who is experiencing menstruation for the first time, this could be a scary and lonely journey.
During menstruation, the levels of various hormones change which leads to symptoms like abdominal cramps, breakouts, troubled sleep and mood swings. Not only this, people who menstruate might experience PMS and PMDD. Severe symptoms include depression, hopelessness, anxiety, extreme irritability and anger. Some also suffer from disorders like PCOS or endometriosis.
Mental disorders have an effect on menstrual health. People suffering from mental disorders like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use and bipolar disorders have irregular menstruation. Even disorders like PCOS and endometriosis become a cause of the same.
Due to lack of awareness, people who menstruate are often teased or labelled as ‘overreacting’ because of the problems they face during menstruation. Mostly men and few women are not very supportive or even considerate about this issue.
Menstruation is not just confined to women. The topic of queer menstruation is not discussed. Transgender men, intersex, non-binary and gender queer people also experience menstrual symptoms. Getting your menstruation as a person who doesn’t identify as a woman can cause discomfort and anxiety, especially when many people equate menstruation with femininity. Not all women menstruate, and not all people who menstruate identify as women.
How does it affect people’s mental health?
● Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Most people show some symptoms of PMS in the week or 2 before their menstruation. PMS can cause bloating, headaches, and moodiness. People with depression or anxiety disorders may experience worse symptoms of PMS. Also, many people seeking treatment for PMS have depression or anxiety. Symptoms of these mental health conditions are similar to symptoms of PMS and may get worse before or during menstruation.
● Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): PMDD is a condition similar to PMS but with severe symptoms, including severe depression, irritability, and tension. Symptoms of PMDD can be so difficult to manage that your daily life is disrupted. PMDD is more common in women with anxiety or depression.
● Irregular menstruation: Studies show that women with anxiety disorder or substance use disorder are more likely to have shorter menstrual cycles (shorter than 24 days). Irregular cycles are also linked to eating disorders and depression. Women with bipolar disorder are also twice as likely to have irregular menstruation.
● Work: Menstruation and its symptoms cause major discomfort and adds on more tension and stress at work.
● Family and relationships: In most families, especially conservative families, menstruation is not a topic which is openly discussed. Girls and women are just supposed to bear with it without expressing any discomfort. Because of the stigma attached to it, they face many restrictions related to menstruation. They are not supposed to enter the kitchen or the temple during this time. This might make them feel unwanted, unheard and unloved. In relationships, your partner not being able to understand or not being supportive could be lonely and distressing.
● Queer menstruation: Many trans men, intersex, non-binary and gender queer people also menstruate. They feel alienated, isolated and ignored because people still associate menstruation to females and whatever resources are available, they only cater/represent the female demographic. Many queer people have said that they experience gender dysphoria when they menstruated for the first time.
The subject of menstruation should not be enclosed within walls of orthodox ideology. It’s high time to break these walls and start a healthy discussion for the progress of the society.