It’s hardly breaking news that your menstrual cycle can affect your mood. For example, you may find yourself fluctuating between irritation, anxiety, and depression. Recent research, however, has explored a related link to trauma. Women with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are reporting variations in their PTSD symptoms throughout their menstrual cycle.
Generally speaking, more symptoms are reported during different phases of their cycle. This may be connected to a hormone called estradiol. Such information can be crucial for any woman working to recover from this disorder. It is also vital when it comes to diagnosing PTSD. So, let’s take a closer look.
What is PTSD?
Many people are exposed to horrific experiences and abuse. Examples include:
- Abandonment and neglect
- Loss of a loved one
- Sexual, physical, and emotional abuse
- Injury, illness, or disability
- Victimization via crime or act of terrorism
- Natural disaster
- Ongoing trauma like trafficking, kidnapping, or slavery
When a person endures any type of traumatic event, they may find themselves temporarily unable to resolve the experience. This is especially true if the experiences occur during childhood. The lingering outcomes can lead to an incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. People with PTSD display symptoms like:
- Flashbacks and nightmares
- Vivid memories
- Avoidance and social withdrawal
- Sleep disturbances
- Guilt and shame
- Emotional numbness
- Self-destructive behaviors
Fortunately, there are several effective treatment protocols. However, for women, it is particularly important to factor in the impact their menstrual cycle has on the disorder and its symptoms.
What is Estradiol and How Can it Impact Women With PTSD?
As the name may imply, estradiol is a form of estrogen. It plays a major role in sexual maturation. It regulates the female reproductive cycle. In the early phases of the menstrual cycle, estradiol rises to trigger ovulation. When estradiol is much lower in other parts of the cycle, it sets off chemical changes that could potentially increase the risk of mood disorders.
At this point, the limbic areas of the brain are activated. These areas relate to emotion. In addition, the prefrontal cortex becomes less activated. That region is responsible for cognitive control. This combination, caused by low estradiol, can increase anxiety, exacerbate fear responses, or raise stress levels.
When viewed through the lens of PTSD, these processes can make a huge difference in terms of symptoms. For example, when triggered, there is a much higher likelihood of intrusive thoughts. In addition, it is now believed that estradiol fluctuations can change the presentation of symptoms in conditions like Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Why Is This So Important?
If sex hormones can play a major role in how PTSD presents, this is essential information when it comes to treatment. After all, women develop PTSD at a rate twice as high as men. Meanwhile, there is a long history of women being neglected in the realm of medical research. Translation: This type of work is a breakthrough in the field of women’s mental health.
When a woman can better understand and explain what she is feeling, it has a powerful effect. For starters, it lends a much-needed sex-based perspective to the analysis of PTSD. This can be a significant factor for clinicians to consider.
What Does This Mean For You?
If you are a woman with PTSD, you obviously want to heal and recover. This process can feel daunting at times. When your symptoms flare, you may feel frustrated about your progress. If you could track such symptom flares to a biological cause, you may begin to see the healing journey differently.