Menstrual Cycles May Play Role in Suicide Risk

For patients with mental health disorders, symptoms increased at certain times, study suggests
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2024 9:31 AM CDT
Menstrual Cycles May Play Role in Suicide Risk
   (Getty / dragana991)

New data suggests that certain days in the menstrual cycle can take a serious toll on people who have a history of mental health disorders. The study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that symptoms of suicidal ideation and planning became more severe just before and during periods, which could potentially push the field to treat patients in new ways.

  • Making the connection: When a patient of University of Illinois psychologist Tory Eisenlohr-Moul said her mental health symptoms worsened before her period, Eisenlohr-Moul began asking patients to jot down how they were feeling. "I started having people track their mood symptoms against their menstrual cycle and it seemed, for a lot of my patients, this was a really important reason that their suicidal thoughts and depression were changing week to week," the associate professor of psychiatry tells the Chicago Tribune.
  • The research: This early practice kickstarted a longitudinal study involving 119 women, who tracked their mental health and instances of suicidal ideation daily over at least one menstrual cycle.
  • The results: The authors learned that suicidal ideation intensified the week before and during menses. Suicidal planning also increased during that period compared to other times.
  • Periods and mental health: Research in this field is just catching up. A Vox piece on the topic notes that the mental mood disorder PMDD was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders just 10 years ago, a condition that affects somewhere between 3 to 8% of the menstruating population. But a 2022 survey showed that about 40% of patients said their doctors didn't know about the condition.
  • What's next: Doctors may adopt these findings into their treatment plans, while Eisenlohr-Moul's lab already plans to expand on the work. They are looking into what behavioral and drug treatment could be effective in managing symptoms. "We're trying to come at this from all angles," Eisenlohr-Moul says.
(Women get exercise benefits in half the time as men.)

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