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Hormone levels may provide key to understanding psychological disorders in women
Women at a particular stage in their monthly menstrual cycle may be more vulnerable to some of the psychological side-effects associated with stressful experiences, according to a study from UCL.
The results suggest a monthly window of opportunity that could potentially be targeted in efforts to prevent common mental health problems developing in women. The research is the first to show a potential link between psychological vulnerability and the timing of a biological cycle, in this case ovulation.
A common symptom of mood and anxiety problems is the tendency to experience repetitive and unwanted thoughts. These ‘intrusive thoughts’ often occur in the days and weeks after a stressful experience.
In this study, the researchers examined whether the effects of a stressful event are linked to different stages of the menstrual cycle. The participants were 41 women aged between 18 and 35 who had regular menstrual cycles and were not using the pill as a form of contraception. Each woman watched a 14-minute stressful film containing death or injury and provided a saliva sample so that hormone levels could be assessed. They were then asked to record instances of unwanted thoughts about the video over the following days.
“We found that women in the ‘early luteal’ phase, which falls roughly 16 to 20 days after the start of their period, had more than three times as many intrusive thoughts as those who watched the video in other phases of their menstrual cycle,” explains author Dr Sunjeev Kamboj, Lecturer in UCL’s Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology.
“This indicates that there is actually a fairly narrow window within the menstrual cycle when women may be particularly vulnerable to experiencing distressing symptoms after a stressful event.”
The findings could have important implications for mental health problems and their treatment in women who have suffered trauma.
“Asking women who have experienced a traumatic event about the time since their last period might help identify those at greatest risk of developing recurring symptoms similar to those seen in psychological disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” said Dr Kamboj.
“This work might have identified a useful line of enquiry for doctors, helping them to identify potentially vulnerable women who could be offered preventative therapies,” continued Dr Kamboj.
“However, this is only a first step. Although we found large effects in healthy women after they experienced a relatively mild stressful event, we now need to see if the same pattern is found in women who have experienced a real traumatic event. We also need further research to investigate how using the contraceptive pill affects this whole process.”
“Anxiety uses imagination to picture something you don’t want. Vision uses imagination to picture something you DO want. Either way, you tend to get what you focus on. Imagine a future where you shine, others thrive, and the light of hope shines brighter in the world. If you can see it, you can be it. ”—Ian Lawton
Earlier this year I was having a rough time so I emailed one of my friends about it. His response was one of those times I think the universe reaches out and slaps you through another person. I was dealing with my eating issues, feeling frustrated with my career and just like, finding it impossible to clear my head.
Telling people to deny passion for profit is FEAR. Walk away from it.
I am developing all new skills, mostly being able to love and forgive in the moment and not need years to process emotions like i used to. That’s the gift. I am examining what I eat more and more everyday because I was incapable of looking at it for real before. When you take the power away from food it goes somewhere… where does it go? I don’t know, just don’t be afraid and it will do what it’s supposed to.
I got fired from my job, my career lost, my money flushed, my band ruined… and I am happier than I’ve ever been. My new job is this, it’s just being an awesome fearless person, and when you do that people will fall over themselves to work with you.
Work at being you, the ‘jobs’ and ‘money’ will find there way to you.
This was a beautiful email and I wanted to share it because it was super encouraging to me. You don’t really need anything to be happy. A lady I know told me the happiest time in her life is when she was on welfare because she knew she couldn’t lose anything else. It was already gone, and with it her anxiety about losing it. It’s so crazy how much fear I have about losing my security. Instead of making me happier, it’s a block to my happiness because I worry about it going away.
When I was an evangelical Christian I had guilt about having anxiety because in the Bible it says that you are supposed to trust god to provide and worry is like, insulting him or proof that you aren’t trusting enough. Listen, I would love to not worry about shit. I am mad jealous of those free spirit people who seem to just do things without a narrative. That’s not who I am, though.
Being fearless isn’t realistic and that’s okay. But it is refreshing to think about the things you are afraid of and try to make sure they aren’t standing in your way of being happy.