Emotional Basket case at Period Time
December 31, 2012 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Menstruating women of Metafilter: Did/do you find that the older you get the more emotional you are around your periods?

After a lifetime of having relatively few side effects from getting my period (aside from horrible cramps as a teenager) now that I'm 37 I am finding myself being blown away by them.

It has just been over the last 4-5 months that I'm noticing I'm getting extremely emotional featuring sobbing, anger, and a major dip in mood. I thought it was just my depression rearing its head but every time it happens I've finally noticed that my period appears 3 days later. I'm also getting cravings for intense salt and having cramps that lay me in bed for the first day or so.

This never happened to me before and I am wondering if this is a result of aging. I'm on no birth control and sex free if that makes a difference.

Have you noticed this and can I expect more of the same? How do you handle the sobbing and depression? I've started tracking when my period comes but I'm still caught unawares every month. How can I get better at making the connection in my mind between sobbing at commercials and the fact that my period is coming up? Why would it get worse the older I get?
posted by kanata to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have not noticed that. I am 36. One thing I have noticed, however, is that the older I get, the easier I find it to draw parallels between external factors and physical symptoms of all sorts. It took me until the last several years to realize that my insane headaches were a PMS symptoms, for example, or that taking a B Complex vitamin late in the day will cause sleep issues. Part of it might just be that, as you are getting older, you're paying more attention to your body.
posted by something something at 8:17 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm 31, and over the past 3 years, my PMS has gotten worse and worse. I didn't really believe in PMS before, because I never experienced it, but oh my gosh do I believe in it now. I get really angry and sad and ready to cry over very little in the week before my period. I don't really have any way of dealing with it other than having some perspective on it. Like, it will be gone in a week and then I'll feel totally different.
posted by lagreen at 8:20 AM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

Whenever someone has a significant change in their periods after age 35, it's probably worth an extra trip to the GYN just to rule out an early perimenopause. Not to be all Captain Buzzkill, because what you're experiencing might well be just the way your body does the whole period thing in the later 30s.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:21 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I haven't experienced this, but several friends of similar ages have. Some have been diagnosed (and helped by treatment for) PMDD.
posted by ldthomps at 8:22 AM on December 31, 2012

I was just complaining about this. At 39, I apparently now have PMS. Huh? Yeah. Tracking helps. I set a reminder for both when my period will probably start and for a few days earlier to alert me to possible mood weirdness. For me, it helps to know that my moodiness manifests as insecure crankiness and that "hey, don't take everything so personally" is going to be good advice for a few days.
posted by desuetude at 8:24 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have any advice for you, but I can say that YES, I have totally noticed the same thing as I get older. I'm only 34 now, and just since my period came back after giving birth it has become SO much worse. I never had PMS in my life, but now I do get it a few days before my period.
posted by barnoley at 8:24 AM on December 31, 2012

Oh, and i meant to add that it's not really that sudden...in hindsight, this crept on me slowly, but a medical issue that made me pay a lot more attention to my cycle made it much more obvious. So a vote for also just being more aware of our bodies as we get older, too.
posted by desuetude at 8:28 AM on December 31, 2012

I get extra exhausted, both physically and mentally, and it can sometimes manifest itself as wild moody madness if I don't get enough sleep, especially when the lack of sleep is due to external factors like my shithead neighbors who should die asap.


As mentioned above, more than a few people I know in this age cohort have been diagnosed with PMDD. There's not much that can be done for it if you're not open to taking either HBC or anitdepressents, though, I think.
posted by elizardbits at 8:29 AM on December 31, 2012

42; haven't noticed this.

But I'm wondering if maybe, rather than the depth of your moodiness, that you own self-awareness may have been what's changed. Meaning - maybe you're getting just as moody as you always did, but when you were younger you hadn't had as much experience and awareness of your own cycle to realize "oh, right, it's right before my period" and just thought that your moodiness was coming from something else. It took me a good while to remember that every month, and sometimes I STILL remember only after the fact that "oh, wait, THAT'S why I was so upset about that stuff a few days ago."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:36 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

100% normal. My gyno reminds me of it every time I see him, as if he had to. I try not to take this as an indication that I am Old. Like you, I had trouble-free periods when I was young.

Insomnia the first day or so of your period is also normal as you get older, or so my gyno tells me. Your gyno can tell you more about whether hormonal birth control might help you (I hate the stuff but if the PMS really is unmanageable you might want to look into it).
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:38 AM on December 31, 2012

Late thirties here. It's getting WORSE. That Mariah Carey/Jimmy Fallon version of All I Want for Christmas Is You sent me into racking sobs alternated by tears of laughter and the need to watch it 40 times a row.

I've been tested for any abnormalities but everything's fine. So I give in to it: I have started drinking wine out of a giant sippy cup, which has Miraculous Results. I keep my social visits short and sweet so I don't have time to get introspective and moony around otherwise normally functioning adults. I let myself take naps on sunny afternoons because I am freaking exhausted four days a month.

It's really helped me to be more mindful of which week it is and realize that the symptoms happen pretty regularly, then adapt my schedule accordingly. Can you track your cycle on a calendar and highlight the week where things'll start to go corkscrewy?
posted by mochapickle at 8:38 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

So maybe the Katy Perry movie my daughter received for Christmas is indeed really sad, and my weeping over a girl realizing her dream and her failed marriage and lots of kids being uplifted by "Firework" was not PMS - but yes, I have noticed this.

I am no longer on birth control, and have grown sensitive enough to my body during these times that I can feel myself ovulate, and cramps are worse too, and my period is now very different - awful for a day or two, but minimal otherwise. This started a few years ago, and I'm 43 now. For a while I attributed it to finally being in tune with what my body is like without birth control hormones.

I've always had some wacky mood swings with PMS, but after I gave birth they leveled out for a while. And now they're ba-aack. I talked with my doctor, and while yes, I'm of an age where anything can be happening, she's not worried and would like me to take a daily multivitamin at least; and I'm doing well enough with tracking on the calendar (somehow visits with my mother don't go as well on certain weekends), OTC painkillers, a glass of wine or the odd Ativan and an understanding family. And I'll remember to stay away from dream come true superstars singing to their grandmas or beautiful shining talented singing children and oh dear I have to go now because my screen is all blurry anyway.
posted by peagood at 8:46 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah. 45 here, and in the last couple of years, mood swings, free-ranging worry/anxiety are all like clockwork around my period. Not fun, but it helps to keep track and know what's contributing.
posted by lemniskate at 8:46 AM on December 31, 2012

I'll add another yes to all of it: angry, bitingly critical of others, exhausted, craving bad foods, migraines, dx of PMDD --started around 40.

The treatment is a few days of an SSRI each month. I am not interested in that. (Birth control pills give me daily migraines).

I tell Mr. Vitabellosi that its like someone is standing behind me all day for several days, with their hand on my back, pushing pushing pushing me, as if to propel me through a crowd.

(It was sporadic before -- but it's monthly now).
posted by vitabellosi at 8:48 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm 32 and have definitely experienced this. I never, EVER had these moments of crying, suicidal thoughts, and anger before I reached 28-ish and then suddenly it started happening and it was always around my period. This happened even though I am on hormonal birth control and SSRIs. I am going to ask my doctor about it at my upcoming annual.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:05 AM on December 31, 2012

I have noticed as I hit my 40's that not only do I cry at things that wouldn't have bothered me. I also get poor impulse control, and have quit jobs and stopped talking to family members because it ties in with that time of the month. Not that I've regretted any of it, the job sucked and my family are idiots. Oh and I also get much much hornier a day or 2 before my periods and will try crazier things. Well actually I didn't notice this my husband did.
posted by wwax at 9:18 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yep. 39 here. The increase in cramps and a heavier period turned out to be fibroids, which are extremely common in your late thirties and forties.

If you're interested in how to assuage some of your symptoms, please me-mail me.
posted by Specklet at 9:29 AM on December 31, 2012

Neither my mom or aunt had this happen.

But what I've noticed (late 20s) is that my periods change based on vitamin deficiencies/health level. I used to get very bad cramps. When I started exercising regularly, they went away (especially if I did "light exercise" as soon as I noticed them). Before this, I started taking a calcium and magnesium supplement, and this helped my cramps tremendously. When I've been eating crap food or I'm already under stress, my PMS symptoms are terrible (got my first menstrual migraine this year :/) but when I'm eating a healthier diet (fewer processed foods, more veggies and protein), and drinking plenty of water, my symptoms are minimal.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:36 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

About to be 31, and I definitely did not have PMDD until the last couple of years. I got my period when I was 12, and besides the occasional menstrual atypical migraine (not painful, just aura), my cycle was pretty much a nonevent until I was about 28. I mean, I would complain about it, but I know now that I was whining about nothing.

And it's not as if I'm just noticing it more now, due to becoming a more observant person, or becoming more in-tune with my body. The before-and-after difference is pretty stark. I started using a period tracker just so I could have a good idea of 1) when I was about to ovulate, and 2) when my period is about to start. Because at both of those times, I lose my shit. Having a handy reminder helps me keep my shit together. My period tracker is on my phone, and actively notifies me when the time draws near.

Judging from how menstruation has gone for women in my family, my PMDD is probably going to keep getting worse until menopause, if I avoid having it treated. I have no intention on letting my mental health degrade the way some of my family members let theirs, as far as PMDD goes.

posted by Coatlicue at 9:37 AM on December 31, 2012

Yes. I thought I was one of those people who never has period issues, and frankly was quite uncharitable in my mind toward those other people, until my late twenties, when holy heck, what on earth is happening started up. Not a fan at all.

HBC basically resolved it for me. Until I was on it, Advil and mindful hydration were useful but insufficient.

I was told this was pretty normal, along with decreased healing powers and other aging crap like that. I've been told that it's discussed in books like Our Bodies, Ourselves, but I still don't own it.
posted by SMPA at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2012

Yes. I had a tubal ligation at 36, but it started in my early 30's. Past history of periods were trouble and emotional free. So no hormonal birth control. I would get weepy and cranky about two days before my period. It would get progressively worse until a few days into my period. I would get very depressed, sure that I wanted a divorce, my life was miserable. Few days later, thought my husband was the best man on the planet and envisioned us celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. My Dr prescribed prozac, which helped some.

What really helped was a full hysterectomy at the age of 43. Mood swings and crankiness completely stopped. Life is good!

I have no advice for you, but can reassure you that this is typical of most women I know as we age.
posted by JujuB at 9:54 AM on December 31, 2012

I have experienced this, absolutely. It's pretty shocking to go from basically not even thinking twice about your period to suddenly being controlled by it at age 40. I get horrible mood swings and seriously painful cramping, which I'd never had before. I'm on the pill (the same one I've been on for 6 years) so at least I know it's coming. I've considered going back to taking it non-stop to see if that cuts it out because it sucks to feel like a walking cartoon cliche 5 days a month.
posted by marylynn at 9:58 AM on December 31, 2012

Wow, thanks for asking this - I thought it was because after years of not really having a period (Depo then an IUD) it was just my 'normal' PMS ramping up as my period finally settled in to a rhythm. But it is exactly as people are explaining - complete and utter pissed-offedness with the whole world for about three days combined with complete pessimism about everything, followed by a day or two or horrid cramps and the beginnings of my period, then everything is fine again.
posted by Megami at 10:07 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in my mid-twenties but I have been talking to my gynecologist about my awful period mood-swings, and she told me that it will get worse rather than better as I get older. She also suggested that going on antidepressants (for a month to start, but then only a few days a month) would likely be quite effective for both the mood symptoms and the pain of cramps. I haven't tried it yet because I wanted to play around with different birth control options first, but Yaz isn't really helping and antidepressants will be the next step. This option has gotten a few somewhat-dismissive mentions here, but I think it deserves serious consideration. I mean, if someone came in here describing their mood in general as characterized by sobbing and anger and depression and poor impulse control and suicidal thoughts, there would be a chorus of "Wow serious depression! Must treat it! Therapist! Psychiatrist! Don't be scared of antidepressants!" Sometimes I think we feel like we have to suffer through all the miseries of our periods because periods are natural so there's nothing wrong so it would be frivolous or overkill or maybe even somehow unfeminine to treat them medically. I'm struggling with this myself a bit as I'm considering the Prozac option, but, in the words of my gynecologist: "We can fix this. You deserve to not have to live like this."
posted by ootandaboot at 10:42 AM on December 31, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yes, sometimes my emotions were really out of control and headaches were terrible. The thing that really kept everything at bay was B vitamins- if I was drinking kombucha regularly the emotional issues were extremely minimized.

I'm taking other medication now that pretty much eliminates the emo stuff altogether, as a convenient side effect.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:42 AM on December 31, 2012

Yep, I'm 30 now, and for me this started to get noticeably worse in the last year. It took me a few months to catch onto the fact that it's period related. I don't cry much, but in the days leading up to my period I become anxious and distrustful and angry at weird things. My head feels all swimmy, thoughts swirling around chaotically - this is the primary sensation that reminds me the time is coming. This lasts for a few days. Then, after period starts and I get my day of increasingly unbearable cramps over with, I return to normal.

I rather hate it, but at least I recognize what it feels like now and know to watch what I say and do during this time, so nothing comes out that I might regret once the feelings past. I have to remind myself that what is making me feel angry and distrustful at that time would normally not bother me and I am jumping to weird conclusions about things.

I've always hated the idea of my behavior being blamed on PMS, and, like others here, I was always skeptical of it until I started experiencing it myself. So I try to be very aware of when I feel more sensitive and crazy, so I don't actually go ahead and act crazy.
posted by wondermouse at 10:43 AM on December 31, 2012

Were you on birth control when you were younger and PMS free? Either way, terrible PMS + severe cramps I think justify a visit to the ob/gyn.

I use an app on my phone to track my period that also allows me to track moods. Maybe something like that would be helpful as well, since when you note your mood you could check your calendar and see that it fits within the pattern.

Some types of birth control give me terrible anxiety and depression before my period starts. Recognizing that it was part of a pattern, and that I was feeling this way because of PMS, was a big step in dealing with it better. I try to take good care of myself and drink lots of water, take my vitamins, get plenty of sleep, and be a little self-indulgent and eat pizza and watch trashy TV (and maybe once I watched about an hour's worth of youtube videos of dogs greeting their owners who were returning from military service and maybe cried a little. okay, a lot). Basically, giving myself permission to do these things and reminding myself that it will be better tomorrow is helpful.
posted by inertia at 11:01 AM on December 31, 2012

I'm 29, and I've been getting visits from Aunt Flo since I was 11. I've always had really bad cramps but the moodiness, cravings, and cramps got much worse around mid-twenties. I don't know why, actually, because I've never had a doctor who could really articulate a reason, but I, too, was told it would just get worse over time.

I've taken antidepressants and mood stabilisers for other issues without luck... the only thing that has helped me is continuously cycling BCPs/having an IUD so that I don't have a period. Although every once in a while I experience a "hormonal hiccup" where I have spotting and PMS/PMDD symptoms, it's to a much lesser severity.

Talk to your gyno. My period was really limiting my life in ways that I didn't fully realise until I stopped being a prisoner to it.
posted by sm1tten at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2012

Speaking as a husband, yes, PMS can get worse over time as the years go on.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:31 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm 44 and I had pretty unremarkable periods until a few years ago. In the past couple (?) years I've definitely felt like moodiness is creeping in on a predictable cycle, along with more often experiencing cramps/headaches and slightly longer/heavier periods. I went off HBC 7 years ago and experienced a lot of negative fallout from that but the specifically cyclical changes have been more recent.
posted by drlith at 11:53 AM on December 31, 2012

I'm in my mid 40's and this is a big problem. I am not in menopause but I am completely cranky when I'm within a few days of my period. It helps to keep this in mind when I think I might want to run over my husband or move into a yurt in desert. I never had much/any PMS prior to the last 5 years or so. You really need to keep track of when you are expecting your period. I notice I get achy so it's kind of a giveaway to what's ahead.
posted by lasamana at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2012

It was the reverse for me. Less PMS, less emotionality, less cramping... fwiw.

Seconding going for a doctor's visit if its a significant change you're experiencing.
posted by infini at 12:58 PM on December 31, 2012

Well, I'm glad that it isn't just me but yes PERIODDS ARE STUUUUUUPID! I am already on anti-depressants and leery of adding hormonal birth control to the mix as I've finally found a working balance of meds are 20 years of trying.

I will bring it up the next time I go into the doctor. We never really discussed it last pap test just that everything was normal sexually.

The anger is new to me (Heck, my therapist has been trying to get me to be in touch with my anger) as it seems out of whack and is over the littlest thing (How dare that stupid coat arm not come out of the coat - WHY CAN'T I PUT THIS COAT ON! LIFE SUCKS ! DESTROY ALL COAT MAKERS!).

2012 is the first year of normal periods for awhile for me (went away due to psych meds) so I wasn't sure if this was just from getting back into the swing of things or PMS that I've never experienced before.

I do track on google calendar but I think I will add in a reminder a week before just so I know why I suddenly want to kill people who are chewing food loudly three rooms over.
posted by kanata at 1:33 PM on December 31, 2012

I am an old lady (55). Only thing that ever worked was a hysterectomy. Not a great option. But WOW, I felt great after it. (I didn't have the hysterectomy because of mood swings, but because my uterus was trying to kill me.)
posted by fifilaru at 1:37 PM on December 31, 2012

I got less emotional and had less pain as I got older, but then it all got worse for a little while when I went through menopause. But that didn't last long, and now it's all over! I'm an old lady, too (59), and no longer having periods is a great and wonderful thing.

Every woman is different, though. You can't really generalize, and I think going to check things out with a doctor you trust is a good idea.
posted by merrill at 1:48 PM on December 31, 2012

I notice just the opposite, that the "Day before" blues are replaced with very long, physically painful periods.
posted by R2WeTwo at 1:54 PM on December 31, 2012

+1 "painkillers, a glass of wine or the odd Ativan" (and knowing when it's coming)
posted by kmennie at 1:54 PM on December 31, 2012

Right around 37-38 is when things started getting difficult after a lifetime of "oh... wow, I got my period" surprises. I'm now approaching 43 and it continues to be several days of anger, frustration, tears, back aches and abdominal pain/tenderness.

Oh the joy.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:44 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know if it's getting older or having a baby that did it, but yeah. If I start to tear up at an incredibly stupid country song that usually makes me laugh...the PMS fairy is gearing up to visit. Yay!

My mom's periods got worse as she got older, so I'm not entirely surprised. I'm just glad I'm not yet as desperate as she was at my age, when she had a hysterectomy. She always had more problems than I did, though.

Booze does help, and I can't use hormonal b/c, so booze it is for me.

In my more Zen moments, I use it as an excuse to indulge; watch horrible cheesy movies and cry, eat comfort food, what have you. Sometimes what comes out of it is good, in terms of Not Putting Up With Shit, which is a thing we all need to learn. If you have something you have been afraid to do/not angry enough about, well, you can try to harness the power of raging hormones to not give a single fuck about what others think.

This attitude is not always best when on the Internets, though, I delete a LOT of comments when I'm having a bad go, because they are too far over the top. :)

I assume the fun will only get moreso when I hit The Change, but I have decided not to worry about that till I have to.
posted by emjaybee at 3:00 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

At 47, I can verify that this does happen. And it sucks.
posted by litlnemo at 1:41 AM on January 1, 2013

I'm 47 and never had major cramps or issues during my period. A few years ago, the heavy periods with large clots started. Had me confined to bed during the first couple days of each period. Then I started having periods every two weeks. The doctor ruled peri-menopausal. That went on for about eight months. Then all went back to normal for a couple of years. Over a year ago, my period stopped - for six months. Then came back with a vengeance for four months. Then off for a few months the back on for a few. Even when I don't have a monthly cycle, I have phantom periods - no flow but with cramps, cravings, getting over emotional. Every time my cycle goes missing, I cross my fingers and hope I can make I to that one year period!
posted by chicatlatroit at 2:49 AM on January 1, 2013

Other thing I forgot to add: all my other minor ailments/aches & pains are markedly worse during PMS week, to an alarming extent. My asthma acts up, my migraines are 10x worse (of course), my bad knee and bad hip are surly and unpleasant, my fucking GUMS BLEED for no goddamn reason, my allergies are more sensitive. It's like my entire body sees the influx of useless fucking hormones and says FUCK IT FIRE EVERYTHING.
posted by elizardbits at 9:03 AM on January 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

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