How can I reduce my PMS mood swings?
February 19, 2007 12:36 PM   Subscribe

PMSfilter: Help me get off the emotional rollercoaster!

Every month I seem to go through the emotional wringer. I have several days of increasing irritability, followed by one day of anger, and then a day or two of depression and guilt over the way I've treated people. What I hate is that while I can avoid my friends and family during the worst of it, I can't avoid my husband and he bears the brunt of my bad mood. He's pretty tolerant, but I know it's not fun for him (come to think of it, it's not fun for me either).

I'm on birth control pills already, and diet (more fruit, less salt and caffiene) and exercise seem to help with the physical cramps but not the emotionality. I've read about supplements such as evening primrose oil, calcium, and chaste tree berry, but I haven't found many studies, or testemonials that weren't from websites selling the stuff.

So now I'm asking you, do you have any ways to cope with PMS-related emotionality? Does anyone have any personal experience with supplements or other dietary changes?

posted by christinetheslp to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
For a while, my PMS got so bad that my ob/gyn put me on Lexapro for 2 weeks out of every month. That helped a lot; to the point, in fact, where I decided I didn't need it anymore. I'm not sure what happened; the PMS just slacked off some, although it's still around. I've been taking PMS capsules from the health food store, which seem to help, and 6000 mg of fish oil every day for generalized depression and anxiety and all in all my PMS is somewhat better than before. Not gone, mind you, just better, as in bearable.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:51 PM on February 19, 2007

The new Yaz birth control pills are also approved for PMS treatment. There are only 4 blank pills, instead of a whole week, so you don't get as much off-time. So maybe a switching of the BC is in order?
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:00 PM on February 19, 2007

Full disclosure:I'm a woman and I've worked in a female -dominated profession for years.

I'm going to try to be gentle, but I suspect what I say will sound harsh. Over the years I have observed that often (but not always) woman use PMS as an excuse to "let out" their anger at their significant others in a socially acceptable way. It's used as an excuse to be short-tempered over things that they usually let slide, but have obviously been bothering them.

Basically, we're free-thinking human beings and because I woke up cranky is no reason to take that out on my siginificant other.
posted by TorontoSandy at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Spell-check - significant
posted by TorontoSandy at 1:05 PM on February 19, 2007

You mentioned that you are on birth control pills. I have noticed in my 17 year (yikes) career with different birth control polls that some effect me differently then others.

I am currently on a low estrogin type now, and I have been way more emotional (If I recall I am on Loestrin, but I can't remember)

Anyway, what I recommend is to talk to your GYN about your symptoms and see if there is another pill that works for your chemistry. That might just do the trick.
posted by brinkzilla at 1:12 PM on February 19, 2007

TorontoSandy, I do agree with you, to an extent. In my case, the depression and crying spells make me think that it really is hormones. It's not just anger and irritibility, it's more. Plus, it's not that I just get irritable at my's just that he's the one person I can't avoid at this time of the month. If I had roommates, they'd be the ones to notice it.

Thanks for the input, though.
posted by christinetheslp at 1:15 PM on February 19, 2007

TorontoSandy: I don't doubt that this explains at least some people's PMS, but do you think that it can be subconscious, too? I rarely even realize that my period is coming up, or remember that something called PMS exists. Only afterwards, one or two days after the bleeding starts, do I realize that the past few days can be explained away after all, and that I'm not necessarily starting down a 6-month path of gloom.
posted by scission at 1:17 PM on February 19, 2007

I also have to add that me switching from one pill to another definitely brough on different chemically induced results. I knew emotionally who I was before I started taking these pills that caused stronger PMS and saw this person, who would go into a very emotional swing that I became.

I noticed physical differences from the pills as well, like very, very swollen (don't you dare touch them or they will pop) boobs, breaking out, awful migraine headaches. This would happen like 2 weeks into my cycle. I seems to be continually going in or out of a PMS cycle.

Although, I do think that people can use PMS to their advantage, the chemical imbalances that happen are very valid, and the term "PMS" I personally think discredits the awful things that your body and mind can go through.
posted by brinkzilla at 1:24 PM on February 19, 2007

i've heard that vitamin B supplements (taken in the few days before your redweek) can help, and i seem to recall that they've worked for me in the past- but i'm too lazy/irregular to keep track of my own cycle so i always forget to take them. worth a try, maybe, though, no?
posted by twistofrhyme at 1:36 PM on February 19, 2007

I've notice that taking a vitamin B complex helps me.
Since you seem to be interested in peer-reviewed evidence, rather than anecdotes, I'll point you to the following review:
Rapkin A. "A review of treatment of premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder." Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2003 Aug;28 Suppl 3:39-53.

"Nonpharmacologic management with some evidence for efficacy include cognitive behavioral relaxation therapy, aerobic exercise, as well as calcium, magnesium, vitamin B(6) L-tryptophan supplementation or a complex carbohydrate drink."
I have a feeling that complex carbohydrate drink tastes really bad.
posted by nprigoda at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2007

The Handbook of Nonprescription Medications (pharmacy reference book on OTCs and herbals) lists these as potentially effective for the emotional symptoms of PMS: calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, pyridoxine, and chasteberry. These are the ones whose effectiveness has been verified in studies. I can dig up citations if you need them or check google scholar.

Magnesium (chewable Mag-Ox tablets) is what I'd try if I were you - it seems most effective on the emotional symptoms of PMS and many people have a magnesium deficiency and don't realize it.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:48 PM on February 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

Also - try googling PMDD instead of PMS because it sounds more like what you are describing.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:51 PM on February 19, 2007

Women are all different. Some get PMS, some (lucky ones) don't. And of those who get PMS, we all get different symptoms. Some physical, some emotional, some both. And some women are able to recognise it at the time (my best friend will call me in tears thinking that her husband is about to leave her and at the same time say "I'm probably just being irrational, I'm due on so it's probably just PMS but I still feel this way") and some like me and scission won't be able to recognise it until afterwards because it all seems so real at the time.

For me, regular exercise has helped, a healthy diet has helped, an understanding SO has helped and now I'm single again, I find myself avoiding social interaction around the time I'm feeling most sensitive so that has helped too (but not possible if you're living with other people!). All of which you're already doing.

I've also been taking Agnus Castus for about 6 months which is supposedly good for the emotional aspects of PMS and I've found it has reduced the symptoms and I'm much calmer just before my period. Anecdotal evidence (and recommendation of health food shop sales assistant) only...

It might be worthwhile speaking to your GP - there are so many types of birth control pills and sometimes it's about finding the right one for you.
posted by finding.perdita at 2:09 PM on February 19, 2007

Nthing the try different BC. Everyone reacts differently to the various pills/etc.

For me, Ortho Tri-cyclen made me absolutely evil (bad mood swings, etc). I tried a few other things before settling on NuvaRing, and I'm much less emotionally unstable. (Plus I don't have to take a pill, big plus for me).

Be honest about the moodiness with your GP, and they'll be able to help find you a different one. It can take some time though, a few months, before the kinks work out-- and it may take a few different pills before you find one that affects your personality less and doesn't have other side effects you can't handle.
posted by nat at 2:53 PM on February 19, 2007

I felt crazy on Depo, and my gyno switched me to Yasmin. It has mostly progesterone, and it helps to keep your mood more stable. I rarely have PMS, and have been on Yasmin for 6 years.
posted by Elaisa at 2:54 PM on February 19, 2007

Another data point - I had a significant other whose PMS got way way way worse on BCP. She basically turned into a weeping wreck for several days and it took as little as a laundry detergent commercial to trigger it. Really.
posted by plinth at 3:10 PM on February 19, 2007

I'm on birth control pills already
Agreeing with the posters above who recommend trying a different pill. (Personally, I've tried more different pills than I can even remember and never found one that did not make me loony.)
posted by jrossi4r at 3:11 PM on February 19, 2007

If you're on the type of pill that has weekly variations (several different colours of pill in the packet, usually) then consider switching to something that doesn't vary as much.

Otherwise, if your problems are BEFORE you switch each month from hormone pill to sugar pill then, er, it probably is all in your head and you need to get that looked at.

And if it's after you switch to sugar pills that you have problems, consider skipping your "period" altogether.

**You should talk to your doctor about this of course, because you should always consult with your doctor...however, I'm not saying to keep listening to your doctor if he/she says "it can't be done" with no reason.**

There's a pill out there that's FDA approved specifically for skipping (Seasonale). You can also do it with normal pills, if you're willing to pay for (and can get) them every three weeks instead of four. You can do it with hormonal-non-pill methods, I really recommend NuvaRing, again if you can cope with the cost (stupid insurance wouldn't cover anything but pill for me, due to it being cheapest).

There's plenty of other information out there, but imho the most important part: You probably will get breakthrough bleeding, that is random bleeding in small amounts, which is the reason why most people give up--but it doesn't last forever! Generally it is only a "nuisance" and goes away within a couple of months of no-periods, as long as you stay to a steady plan. Most people freak out and go back to cycling before their body settles down, which also resets the counter on getting past breakthrough bleeding.... In your case, it sounds like you have the incentive to stick with it. *Usual disclaimer, if it's not really light or it goes on for too long or you feel pain then talk to your doctor...

Also remember that while you're using pills (as opposed to patch, ring, shot), you need to take your pill at the same exact time every day. Not taking it at the same time will make your body unhappy and increase your risk of accidental pregnancy to boot.

Rant: It's not really a "period". It has nothing to do with normal hormonal fluctuations. It's got nothing to do with "needing" to bleed. In fact it's only some idiot idea that the man who invented birth control came up with in order to make (BC) more palatable to his bloody church, and that didn't even work out anyway, so fat lot of good it did us.
posted by anaelith at 3:14 PM on February 19, 2007

I had a complete reversal of PMS when I kept my calcium and magnesium levels high at least the week before my period, if not longer. Supplements are okay, but profound change occurs for me when I ate dark leafy greens (dandelion! so good!) and gomasio (sesame seeds and seaweed are high in calcium and important minerals). I also took a B-complex and sprinkled nutritional yeast on many meals. Thorough change took about three months.

I'm on the Ring, if that matters. I also write in a journal, and let myself off the hook from obligations and usual patterns the few days I feel like turtling.
posted by Riverine at 3:54 PM on February 19, 2007 [4 favorites]

Due to irregularity, I was put on depoprovera for years. It completely took away all of my PMS, etc. It was GREAT. I stopped relating to my friends complaints... my moods remained totally stable. I've been off it for about 5 months, and I'm probably going to go back in a few weeks. It made my life a lot easier & less stressful.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:20 PM on February 19, 2007

I agree with the suggestion of checking into PMDD as a possibility.

Other things I have noticed personally:

Get your thyroid checked. Thyroid disease can cause mood swings, even mimicking mood disorders. Also it can affect most systems in your body, including your reproductive system.

Have yourself checked for fibroids or ovarian cysts. These can sometimes affect your PMS symptoms.

Don't count out the pill. When I was on the pill, it made me quite depressed and irritable, and I didn't notice the extent until I had to stop taking it for other reasons. It's true that the pill can help PMS for some people, but it can also make things worse for others.

Something that may help: start a mood journal. You may be able to predict your moods each month after journaling for a while, and that could help. An odd confession of mine: I once lived in an apartment with 6 guys. I knew which days were bad mood days for me due to my cycle. I put up a calendar in the hallway, and put big red X's on those days each month (no joke). It worked out well for everyone, because we didn't have to talk about it (since a lot of guys don't like to talk about such things) but they had an easy way to tell which days to avoid me or take things less seriously. If you journal, you might be able to come up with a plan on how to best deal with those known days with those close to you.
posted by veronitron at 4:45 PM on February 19, 2007

B-complex vitamins helped me.
Just before I realized my weird emotionality was hormonally related, I noticed that I'd have a 2-3 day portion of my life where I would cry at the drop of a hat. If I didn't cry about something during the day, I'd wake up in the middle of the night, crying from some sad dream. Took me a bit of time to realized it happened every month like clockwork. What a pain.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:48 PM on February 19, 2007

I'm on birth control pills already

How often do you menstrate? Because of pretty much the exact same problem, I worked with my doctor to get on a birth control regimen where I skip most of my periods.

I'd highly recommend looking into doing something similar.
posted by lastyearsfad at 7:20 AM on February 20, 2007

gottabefunky - not all women have regular periods.

Recognising PMS without the benefit of hindsight is like someone giving you directions along the lines of "it's the second street before the traffic lights". It's only when you get to the traffic lights that you realise where you were supposed to have turned.

The feelings that women have when they're PMSing are real at the time. We cry because we're actually upset. The fact that we're upset because we have PMS doesn't stop us feeling the way we feel at the time, even though afterwards we don't feel the same way. That's life. If you're a heterosexual male, you will most likely at some point be in a relationship with a women who suffers from PMS. Suffer is the right word, it's not something that we choose! We do everything we can to prevent / minimise the effects of it (for us as well as our SOs) - hence the poster's question and the plethora of answers.
posted by finding.perdita at 4:54 PM on February 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

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